Lent (Day 34) — Jimmy Breslin, “The Church that Forgot Christ”

Breslin concludes Chapter 4 with a visit to Queens.  On his way, he thinks of his school days and of his aunt Harriet, whom he has already mentioned as one who looked on her religion as her support, but who did not equate the Church hierarchy with that religion.  His example here was of his aunt during WWII getting a telegram, but not buckling because she was sure that her husband had only been wounded, because of her belief.  Though a touching story, such a belief I find a bit troubling.  I recall someone saying to Abraham Lincoln about the North winning because God was on its side, and that Lincoln responded that those on the South must have believed the same thing.  Both sides could not be right.  And though I don’t begrudge people beliefs that help get them through the day.  Certainly Christian faith (and Islam too) did a lot to get African-Americans through the difficult years leading up to the Civil Rights movement.  But the idea of God taking a personal interest in our doings seems alien.  If God took personal interest, how is it that the monstrosity of the Nazis was not crushed before it took so many lives?  And what about Joseph Stalin, who killed more than Hitler, and who died of natural causes (maybe he was killed by Beria, but only after he had done so much damage)?  And what about cases where two people are praying to the same God?  And only one can get his/her prayer answered?  Who wins then and why?  But I think one can believe in humankind (generally) — Anne Frank did, even though she died in a Concentration Camp. Even though she was not saved by her own belief, I’m not sure that her death invalidates her belief, a belief in the goodness of humans.  It may be aspirational and not actual, but it is something that offers hope, and that hope can become reality, if we all believe it, at some level.  So, I don’t quite see where Aunt Harriet’s belief that God protected her husband affects Breslin’s love and affection and wonder at the faith of his aunt.  Her belief was strong, and her faith didn’t depend on the Church (a pretty radical idea, but not unique with her), and in that faith, there is some hope of change in the Church (though most of the SNAP groups spoke of getting very little help from the bishops in whose diocese they lived, which argues that the change in the Church is likely to be that the Church shrinks rather than it reforms).  

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