Sunday, July 18, 2010

Catholics believe in three gods?

Yesterday I was surprised to learn, at an introductory discussion at the South Bay Unitarian Church in Chula Vista, that Catholics believe in three gods. This was told to me by a "recovering Catholic" who says she is a pagan.

I'm afraid the "three gods" idea is a misinterpretation of Catholic belief. A woman sitting next to me at the discussion leaned toward me and asked, "Who are the three gods?" She herself had been raised Catholic, but without the benefit of Catholic religious instruction, so she was sincerely confused and curious.

I offered to this woman the explanation that my Irish parents gave regarding Catholic belief about the Trinity: just as each leaf of the shamrock has three sections, so God has three persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. (Protestants also believe in the Trinity, so why did the leader of the discussion limit her remarks to Catholics? Perhaps she has issues?)

I told the woman that Catholics do not believe in three gods, and she got so mad at me that she withdrew her offer of membership. She was shaking with anger, and said I'd have to talk to the minister. She said the nuns in Evanston, Illinois taught her when she was a child that there are three gods. I think she may be either misremembering or misreporting that story.

Another woman at the meeting said "I'm sorry" when I mentioned that I had been raised Catholic. I said I still considered myself a Catholic, just not a very good one, and I understood that Unitarians weren't required to reject their original religions. Clearly the women running the show at South Bay UU disagree with that notion--at least if the original religion is Catholic.

Ironically, these same women are planning a trip to Arizona on July 28-29, 2010 with the specific purpose of committing civil disobedience.

Apparently the hope is that Arizonans will back down if the Unitarians are unpleasant enough. It seems to me that there is a bit of a contradiction here. These women don't want anyone in their church that disagrees with them about the number of gods worshipped by Catholics, and yet they think that somehow the people of Arizona will listen respectfully to folks who disagree with them about the number of immigrants that should live in Arizona.

It's a lost cause. Registering a protest only gathers sympathy when people accept that the protester is in the right. Polls show this not to be the case in the current situation. The public supports the Arizona law, and, in fact, support is increasing. Obviously the Arizona law is unconstitutional, but the majority of the population seems to see the law itself as a protest against the federal government's failure to deal with the problem of illegal immigration. The immigrants themselves would like to be legal; the law, however, makes that logistically close to impossible.

Most people on this planet--including many of the supporters of the Arizona law-- are just like the Unitarian women I talked to on Sunday: they have little use for others' opinions. My guess is that the Zonies will be just as headstrong as the Unitarians. The protests won't turn any hearts or minds. The protests might actually be counterproductive. They might have the same effect as similar protests that occurred the night before the vote on California's Proposition 187: the protests seemed to have triggered a landslide in favor of the proposition.

I agree that the law is bad, but the Unitarians need to think a bit more clearly about how one goes about changing the world. The attitude of the South Bay UU women seems to be that they can simply demand compliance from just about anyone. I would recommend that they think this through. How can you change the world when you're so obviously working from the same rule book as your opponents? I suggest open, free-flowing discussion that includes lots of different opinions.

Some possibilities:

1. Work to obtain better drug treatments for Americans so we won't be funding the narco-traffickers who are destroying the economy of Mexico, sending refugees north.

2. Better media coverage and social integration of immigrants in the US, so Arizonans and others won't be so afraid of them.

3. Pressure on Mexico to share the wealth among its citizens. Mexico has the richest man in the world (Carlos Slim). Simply by reducing his profits by a reasonable amount he could stop the transfer of funds from poor Mexicans to himself. Mexico could become just as comfortable a place to live as the US if the laws were more egalitarian.

A difference in approach is needed, not just constant posturing to prove who is stronger.

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