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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Adventures in Missing the Point

While I generally am a supporter of Pope Francis, his latest announcement regarding "a new path" to Sainthood is, in my opinion, indicative of how far removed religious hierarchy is from the lives of average, everyday people. Here is the new pathway:
According to Vatican Radio, the new category has five criteria:
  1. Candidates must have freely and voluntarily offered their lives in the face of “a certain and soon-to-come death.”
  2. There must be a “close relation” between the candidate’s offering their life and his or her “premature death.”
  3. The person must have lived closely in alignment with “Christian virtues” before and up until their death.
  4. They must have a “reputation for holiness,” especially after their death.
  5. The candidate must have a miracle attributed to their intercession.
I wonder if anyone outside the hierarchy really gives a rat's behind about this. It raises the question of whether a person becomes a true Saint because a religious institution recognizes them as such, or whether such recognition is largely an after the fact recognition - more of a formality than anything else. Does God sit in an office somewhere, rather frustrated because some people are named Saints that God knows were really schmucks, but now God has no choice because the Church makes decisions God is obligated to follow?
Are you as excited as I am? No? What if I told you this? According to Catholic News Service:

Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said the new category aims “to promote heroic Christian testimony, up to now without a specific process, precisely because it did not completely fit within the case of martyrdom or heroic virtues,”

I don't want to rain on anybody's parade. We all need examples to emulate, whether we are religious people, amateur athletes, or research scientists. On the other hand, I don't believe that this news that the Church has, in layman's terms, opened the doors to its Hall of Fame a bit wider will matter much to the poor, the hungry, the destitute, or the victims of oppression and/or violence. Nor do I believe anybody is going to read this news and decide that they really should lead a virtuous life and sacrifice it for another because there's a better chance they will get into the Hall of Fame for doing so now. It's just that I would like to see institutional religion stop wasting time and resources on decisions that really aren't impactful and concentrate instead on this it claims it exists to serve.

Besides, everybody knows that the Hall of Fame is a political institution. If it wasn't, Pete Rose would be in there.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Boycotts and Other Bad Ideas

Boycott Chinese businesses! Boycott countries with sweat shops! Don't eat at this restaurant because their political views aren't what I think they should be! Don't eat this or that because I don't!

Enough, already.

The truth is that when a nation imposes economic sanctions on another nation, only the poor are hurt. Rulers continue their same opulent lifestyle despite sanctions. Remember the years of economic sanctions on Iraq? Saddam Hussein didn't sell his palace to cut corners, he just made sure even less flowed to the average citizen. Similarly, Fidel Castro didn't go without during all the years of the U.S. trade embargo. Similarly, when we decide as a nation not to send medicine to other nations as some kind of punishment, the leader still gets antibiotics - but the poor people donxt.

The same is true of individual decisions we make. I fully support a free Tibet, but I recognize that it isn't going to happen because people decide not to buy Chinese goods (even if it was possible). I say that because Chinese leadership would not be effected by such a move, no matter how successful it was.

Here's the kicker: the fact the Chick-fil-a isn't on board with LGBT issues is (in America at least) within their rights. If I decide not to eat there because of that (and I don't eat there), I need to be aware that the person I am hurting the most is the minimum wage worker who, no matter how many showers she takes, smells like chicken. Why? That minimum wage worker who can't look a piece of chicken in the beak will be the first to lose her job. How many of those people will have to get hurt before the CEO feels an impact? I'm afraid a lot of them will become unemployed before the shareholders feel a pinch.

I'm not saying boycotts are always wrong. Boycotting Rush Limbaugh and similar idiots doesn't cause a lot of collateral damage. What I am saying is that we all need to make our own decisions to participate in boycotts or support economic sanctions. Choosing to opt out doesn't mean we don't care about the issues. It means that we have evaluated the broader impact of the suggested action and decided the ends don't justify the means in that particular case.

Many if not most of us are far too eager to attempt to compel others to do things rather than take the time needed to  convince them to do the same things. Force is alnost always faster, but it tends not to have a lasting effect and to create enemies in its wake. That more than offsets the gains made.