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Friday, February 10, 2012

The Phenotypic Expression Of Religion Matters More Than Its Dogmatic Genotype




Value System Genotype

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Value System Phenotypes
                                                                                        


                                                                                        


                                                                                     



The Sacrament of The Table

Dear Ralph,

I had an epiphany this week.

Catholic dogma-and-doctrine represent “the organism’s” genotype.  

Predominantly Catholic cultures -- France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica -- are phenotypic expressions of those “genes.”  

We witness the same heartwarming phenotypic expression in those American states that are most Catholics:

# 1   Rhode Island: 63% Catholic  
# 2   Massachusetts: 47%  
# 3   New Mexico: 41%  
# 4   New Jersey: 39%  
# 5   Vermont: 39%  
# 6   New York: 38%  
# 7   New Hampshire: 35%  
# 8   California: 34%  
# 9   Connecticut: 34%

I trust there is no need to draw correlations with the religious affiliation of The Bible Belt, but here are the six states tied for last place:

Oklahoma: 7%  
Tennessee: 7%  
Arkansas: 7%  
Alaska: 7%  
Utah: 7%  



Who knows how this “genetic” "translation" takes place? 

But there it is -- like everything else, "mostly mystery."  The Magnum Mysterium.

"The proof is in the pudding" more than in "theories" - more than in "script." 

Ultimately, the quality of life is about "incarnation" - even more so than scripture. 


Notably, rigid adherence to "literal" interpretation of scripture is a sure sign that a culture is informed by vindictiveness, vengefulness, retribution and retaliation. 

This is as true for fundamentalist Christians as it is for Islamic jihadists. 

As Jesuit friend Tom Weston S.J. puts it: “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Phelps)    

By way of contrast, here is a list of the world's countries without any Catholics: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Western Sahara, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Somalia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. 

And here is a list of countries with negligible numbers of Catholics: Israel, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Eritrea, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Bulgaria. 

My next hypothesis, Ralph, will generate enough heat so that the Scallion household needn't stoke its furnace this winter....  

The population of Canada is 44.3% Catholic whereas the United States is only 22.63%.  

I propose that the "spirit" of Catholic communitarianism in Canada -- and the  "spirit" of Protestant individualism in the United States -- are the chief factors which account for Canada being "civilized" while the United States remains the epicenter of Barbarism in the “developed” world.  

Of course, people are welcome to rail against Catholic doctrine, but vituperation tends to occur when people have no conscious dogma-and-doctrine of their own. 

That said, it is inescapable that everyone subscribe to dogma-and-doctrine. 

It’s just that many people, in their invincible ignorance, are not honest about it. 

Not that they're deliberately dishonest. Rather, they are unconscious of their core beliefs. 

For example...

Most people harbor the dogmatic belief that humankind should endure rather than be extinguished as a "blight on the biosphere." 

Why is that? 

Extinction is not only an option, it is an inevitability. 

Except for faith, why shouldn’t extinction come sooner rather than later? 

Or consider the ancient Roman belief in the propriety of infanticide, a practice so widespread that Roman sewers were actually clogged with the bones of newborn females. http://www.jknirp.com/stark.htm   

Instead of letting dogma-and-doctrine rest in the background - which is where they usually reside (rather like one's bones residing, unexamined, in the most remote parts of the body) - many non-Catholics (particularly those with Protestant backgrounds) are convinced that Catholicism's doctrine is The Most Important Thing.  

Although doctrine plays an important role in the formation of Catholic Culture, our primary political focus should remain The Real World -- in theological terms, The Incarnation -- which, for human beings, distills to The Primacy of Culture, not scriptural/dogmatic codifications. (By my lights, the Protestant Reformation was, at bottom, an attempt to replace Catholic “indulgence” with “strict biblical observance.” Therein, Biblical Literalism was born. Your Italian Catholic forebears on the other hand continued as before, gathering around the table, eating lots of good food, drinking lots of good wine, and participating in endless hours of convivial conversation.) 

In this regard, I find it notable that Protestants focus biblical literalism-and-legalism as the only pillar of faith (with little sense of Magisterium and informing Tradition). 


Benedictine Abbot Dom Aelred Graham relied so heavily on the nourishing traditions of Catholic culture  that he commented: "The bible is the most over-rated book in the world." http://www.studiesincomparativereligion.com/Public/articles/browse.aspx?ID=6 


"Bibliolatry... and how to live happily ever after"

"Biblical Literalism and The Cultivation of Hatred"

Unlike Canada, there just isn't enough communitarian sentiment in the United States to reach "critical mass."


And so, the ruggedly-individualist, socially Darwinistic, fundamentalist, anti-intellectual, back-woods "Christians" win out.  

Result? 

Barbarism and the Aggressive Ignorance that nourishes it.

Or, how about “this one?” (There will be no need for central heat next winter as well.) 

Catholicism's anti-abortionism -- while of dubious value from a democratically pluralistic point of view -- is, nevertheless, grounded in the admirable belief that fetuses (whether they are persons or not) are also part of the human community.  (On a late night walk in Berkeley, Ken Kesey said to me: "Abortion is the Achilles Heel of The Left.")

Imagine! Even fetuses are part of the human community. Such liberality! Such inclusiveness! Makes one wonder about the use of "scalpels" as “scimitars”... (I should poll my many liberal/progressive physician friends to determine how many would be willing, themselves, to perform abortions-on-demand. One way or another, the results would be revealing.) 

And now: The Main Event! 

Thirty years ago, I discovered a bound copy of a Berkeley doctoral candidate’s thesis in Moe’s (used) Book Store on Telegraph Avenue. 

The title was something like “Different Views of Community in Catholic and Lutheran Germany.” 

The author’s appendix contained the most interesting map I've ever seen. 

It portrayed a German valley comprised of roughly equal numbers of Lutheran and Catholic farm households. 


After the author identified each farm as Lutheran or Catholic, she drew a single black line between two farms representing each time they loaned tools to one another. 

The lines connecting Lutheran farms were, at best, spindly and sparse. 

Sometimes there were no lines at all. 


On the other hand, the lines connecting all Catholic farms were so impenetrably thick with broad, pitch-black “bands” that you immediately realized the need for a map “the size of a tennis court” to “tease out” each instance of communitarian interdependence. 

I will not offer any interpretive commentary on this. 

The facts
 speak for themselves - facts that are, by definition, a primary manifestation of Culture (i.e., "The Real Deal").

Religious "genotype" - like biological genotype - is critically important.


But genotype of any "kind" is mostly a matter for "the experts," not for "everyday people." 

In the end, the transcription of genotype-into-phenotype -- analogous to the translation undertaken by "The Word made Flesh" -- is what matters most to Humankind.

The Incarnation. 


The enfleshment.


The "meat" of the matter.

Pax on both houses

Alan


Addenda:


Sister Helen Prejean’s "death penalty" interview with NPR's Frank Stasio reveals Catholic Culture at its best:  http://wunc.org/tsot/archive/Sister_Helen_Prejean.mp3/view


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When The  Bible alone comprises the entire "genotype," those who live exclusively by Scripture are culturally degraded:  
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wl9y3SIPt7o  
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2056582/Judge-William-Adams-beats-disabled-daughter-Hillary-16-YouTube-video.html 

  


 



“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” 
Tom Weston S.J.  





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