Wednesday, October 04, 2017

How "Theologically Dense" Is It to "Love Thy Neighbor?"

Those of you, Dear Readers, who have been following my ruminations over the life of this blog, know that I have a fairly conflicted relationship with religion. I was baptized as a Byzantine Rite Catholic, raised in a Roman Catholic tradition, and now self-identify as a Seventh-Day Absenteeist.

Although I no longer adhere to any particular religious tradition, I follow the influence of religious belief on our lives and our politics with great interest, which is why this headline from CNN leaped out at me last week: Conservatives Accuse the Pope of Spreading Heresy. According to the report, more than 60 conservative Catholic scholars and clergy sent a 25-page letter to Pope Francis, accusing him of spreading seven specific heretical beliefs.

The letter is described in the article as being "theologically dense." This means, if you aren't steeped in the minutiae of complex theological argument, you can't follow it.

And this is my problem with most religions as they exist today. Numerous things, actions, and beliefs are "un-Islamic." Various actions and beliefs are "un-Christian." Arguments are "theologically dense." If you don't worship my way, you're a heretic, an apostate, or whatever.

How did we get here? Consider the words of Jesus in chapter 22 of Matthew, verses 35 through 39 ...

35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer*, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

How did we get from two laws - (1) Love God, and (2) Love your neighbor** - to a 25-page, theologically dense letter accusing Pope Francis of heresy for ... well ... daring to suggest we should love our less-than-perfect neighbors?

Those two great commandments expanded into the Ten Commandments, which eventually begat the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church, which is divided into seven books, containing 1,752 individual "canons." Consider also that Islam is wrapped around the theological axle of the Koran, the Hadith, and the millions of interpretations of them that Islamic scholars have generated over the years. And finally, consider that when we describe an argument as Talmudic, it implies that it is "characterized by or making extremely fine distinctions; overly detailed or subtle; hairsplitting."

Love your neighbor. Only three words.

Is that so hard?

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Well, he would be, wouldn't he?

** If you read the seven heretical beliefs with which Pope Francis is being charged, he is essentially charged with upholding the commandment to love one's neighbor. What kind of irreligious bum would do that?


eViL pOp TaRt said...

Lawyers are good at splitting hairs. Canon law is the outcome of theological hair-splitting.

John A Hill said...

Oh sure, loving your neighbor is easy to say.
It's overcoming all of the reasons that you'd rather not love them that's hard. It's actually easier to make excuses for not loving than to love. That's where religion comes in!

Mike said...

Is theological a self contradictory word?

allenwoodhaven said...

Very interesting. I think John makes a good point, it is easier to come up with reasons for not loving than to love. Pope Francis has helped the image of His Church immensely; it's unfortunate that some of his own clergy can't have enough faith to believe their own leader

Seventh-Day Absenteeist is a great phrase; I intend to appropriate it! BTW, I was baptized and confirmed as an Episcopalian, but haven't attended in years. I still consider myself a spiritual person.

Grand Crapaud said...

Love they neighbor is very straightforward.

UplayOnline said...

That's where religion comes in!