Have you read the segment on the baseball game in the first chapter of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen? It has nothing whatsoever to do with Catholicism but it captures the profound hate that for pious zealots of any creed provides the foundation of their religion. Thus we have ISIS brutally murdering Yazidis and Christians in Iraq; we have Christians and Muslims killing one another in Nigeria; we have Russian Orthodox and Greek Catholics locked in battle in the Ukraine, we endured decades of Catholics and Presbyterians in the most savage murders in Northern Ireland; we have Israeli Jews and Palestinians Christians and Muslims in a war with no end; we have Hindu terrorists killing Christians in India; and we have Buddhists killing Hindus in Burma. Amazingly all these people have become so deluded by their “religion” that they think that God has blessed their cause. There is no way that any such cult can authentically claim to be worshipping God. True religion—regardless of what doctrines one professes is only as true as are pure the hearts of its adherents. Hearts shriveled and putrefying with hatred cannot possibly be filled with the love of a deity, any deity, but are in the grasp of Satan.
One crucial example of religion-gone-rogue that is too often overlooked in today’s American media is the rabid conviction of the ultra-Orthodox in Israel that God has given the land of Eretz Yisrael exclusively to the Jewish People and that consequently the Israelis have a right—actually a duty—to drive all others out of this land which is uniquely Sacred to the Lord God. And so farmers whose ancestors lived in this land and on this land long before Joshua led the Children of Israel across the Jordan find their olive groves bulldozed, their houses leveled, their orchards and gardens seized and the land given to the “settlements” which are nothing less than a patchwork of thievery. And this robbery—and sometimes murder—is done in the Name of Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel. What sacrilege against the Holy Name! The Rabbis and the pious should shudder in a morbid fear at their blasphemy of the Holy Name.
Now, to be fair, the majority of Israelis, much less the majority of Jews around the world, do not subscribe to this violence. Far from it. This exclusionary Eretz Yisrael in which only Jews should be able to put their foot to the consecrated land is the doctrine of only a small group, undoubtedly less than 10%, of Israeli Jews. But given the peculiarities of parliamentary government, the party in power needs the support of the political parties of these extremists to maintain their voting majority in the Knesset (Parliament) and so hatred—hatred in the name of religion—is empowered to work its evil.
Christians should not be quick to join in the chorus condemning the sins perpetuated in God’s Name in Israel against the native population of that land. In many regards this precise blasphemy should be well known to Christians. When the Jews of Europe were driven from their homes and businesses in England (1290) and then from France (1306) and finally from Spain and Portugal (1492), was it any less offensive to Almighty God? For that matter, was the expulsion of the Muslims from Spain in 1492 any less evil in the Divine Sight? And what about the pogroms and riots in which, over the centuries, hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives were lost—was this true and authentic religion? Is God ever honored by hatred? Is he honored by hatred now in the death of a Muslim?
When I look at the Katholic Krazy sites, as much as they view the world beyond Catholicism with the contempt of a Hasid toward the goyim, they save a particularly bitter hate for those Catholics who disagree with them much as Danny Saunders viewed the apikorsim of the practicing but less orthodox Jews on Reuven Malther’s team. Somehow we cannot bear that Truth or, for us Christians, Grace, could be found beyond the limits of our own narrow religiosity and that God’s favor could shine as brightly, or even more brightly, on those who are different from us. A sign of religion-gone-bad is when our religion—be it Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, or pre-Conciliar Catholicism—makes us believe that we stand alone in God’s love. Such religion is rooted in the hatred of others and renders us with hearts far too impure to ever offer God the Sacrifice which is due him. Our Mass becomes a Black Mass, a Satanic perversion of the Eucharist and our Sacrifice becomes the sacrifice of Cain as our souls are stamped with the sign of his evil hatred of his brother.
One of my favorite spiritual writers, the Dalai Lama, says:
“the aim and purpose of religion is to cure the pains and unhappiness of the human mind. …. I would like to point out that the purpose of religion is not to build beautiful churches or temples; it is to cultivate positive human qualities such as tolerance, generosity, and love. Fundamental to Buddhism and Christianity, indeed to every major world religion, is the belief that we must reduce our selfishness and save others.”
Curing the pain and unhappiness of the human soul doesn’t mean, of course, that we can’t have beautiful churches or magnificent rituals inside them. No one appreciates Mozart’s Coronation Mass or the Fauré Requiem more than I, though a capella plain song is more beautiful still. When I am buying vestments as a gift for the parish or for a particular priest, I go to Barbaconi; Gamarelli’s vestments are far too effeminate and foppish. Gilles Beaugrand were long the best for sacred vessels, but I have heard that they are closing and would not know where to go for a chalice or monstrance now. I can’t stand sloppy liturgy and believe that worship calls for a gravity and a seemliness that keeps us mindful of God in whose presence we stand. All that being said, the true worship of God does not consist in the externals of rite much less of pomp, but of a conversion of the heart by which our hearts are conformed to the heart of Christ so that we can be the worthy sacrifice offered to God and transformed by his Holy Spirit into Christ for the sake of the world’s salvation. The Dalai Lama is spot on and totally in conformity with Catholic doctrine when he says true religion will reduce our selfishness and implant in us compassion for the salvation of the world. The person whose love is for doctrine and whose devotion is to ritual worships a false god.Ultimately the hatred of Danny Saunders for the apikoros, Reuven Malther, becomes a solid and transformative friendship in which their worlds merge in mutual understanding. It is the triumph of grace over the evils of hatred. At one point the narrow view of Danny and of his father, Reb Saunders, threatens that evil will overcome good and that separation will frustrate and win out over the friendship, indeed the love, they share. Hatred always seeks to destroy love. Fortunately grace prevails and the friendship liberates Danny from the life of fear and its consequent hatred that would have otherwise devoured his soul. We should pray for the soldiers of Isis, for the Israeli settlers, for the Buddhist monks who are killing Burmese Hindus, and not only for those katholic krazies who are driven by a hatred for Pope Francis or for the Church as it has emerged from Vatican II, but also for ourselves lest evil swallow up good, and hatred devour compassion.