By Jacob Vito
For hundreds of years, in the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church sold what it called “indulgences.” The church had grown hypocritical and began to sell purchasable and proactive sin forgiveness. However, it was an act that went profoundly against the tenets of the faith the Catholics were supposedly practicing. It is widely believed that such “indulgences” played a large role in the Protestant Reformation, which was the greatest threat to its integrity the church had ever seen.
Once again, the church has slipped into dishonesty.
According to the New York Times, on Wednesday night, an extremely controversial near-total abortion ban came into effect in Poland after a series of delays. The ban came on the back of the country’s ruling Law and Justice Party and has been a focus of Catholicism’s ire in Poland for years.
The Catholic Church has long held a stance against abortions, with Polish Catholic leaders also using faith as a weapon against many progressive policies in the country and Europe at large.
Gay marriage, acceptance of refugees, women’s rights and many other social issues have all been vehemently attacked and dismantled in Poland, in large part due to the Church’s reaching power and pre-existing beliefs.
And though these opinions may have been becoming less relevant as Poland democratized and liberalized, NPR notes that the governing far-right Law and Justice Party has aligned their political positions very closely to those of the church.
The Polish Church’s conservative positions are emblematic of many religious institutions’ hesitancy to social progress. In many Western countries, such positions have been seen as outdated. They have driven down Christianity’s popularity in America and Europe and in the minds of many who correlated Christianity with hate.
These assumptions and expectations created a conflict in historically Christian nations: the growing popularity of progressive politics versus a bastion of believers content on using the Bible as both cookbook and cudgel.
Perhaps they would do well to take a look at the text they eternally quote from.
You can scour all you like, but no parable commands xenophobia against immigrants. Nor is there a lesson from Jesus instructing homophobia, or Islamophobia, or any kind of hate. No such sentiments exist in Christianity’s most important text. And trust me, I’ve checked; because those sentiments hold personal importance for me.
I am a Christian. I have been my whole life, and as I’ve grown, my faith has grown with me. I’ve worked at Church camps, taught Sunday school, given Bible readings and worked on mission trips. To be honest, if there’s a church activity a young adult could do, I’ve probably done it.
I am also gay. Often, many on the Christian right would imagine some conflict between these two attributes of myself. They say that homosexuality is a sin and cite the same misread passages and misunderstood quotes in an attempt to preach me out of my own existence. They tell me that I ought to receive some “divine punishment” from God for my ultimate sin of being attracted to men.
There is a reason they respond to me in such an unnecessarily hostile way, and it is because their version of Jesus mandates it. Their faith requires a tearing-down of others as a symbolic flaunting of their piety. To them, God and the surrounding faith are no more than a series of terrifying offerings of piety to an untouchable deity that is, first and foremost, to be feared.
But their understanding of Jesus is profoundly wrong.
Who spoke parable after parable on acceptance and compassion towards neighbor and stranger alike? Who humbled himself by literally washing the feet of those he taught? Who declared that the only commandments that really mattered were simply to love God and love others?
The conservative Christian’s faith is flawed because it manufactures an absolutist and spiteful Jesus that never existed. This imagined Jesus and the real one are almost opposites in all their beliefs. In fact, the average Catholic or Baptist would probably hate Jesus if he were alive today.
From this, there is one conclusion: the Polish Catholic Church, or any church in any country that encourages division, bigotry and hate, is not Christian. They never were. Instead, they manufactured a falsified version of their faith in an attempt to justify their own bigoted worldviews religiously.
For many in Poland and abroad, the drastic differences in whom they worship and how they falsely imagine him, need to be rectified. And for organizations like the Polish Catholic Church that has, for years, maintained anti-Christian positions and allied with anti-Christian political parties, they must either reevaluate their faith’s positions or be usurped by a properly Christian organization that will.
Inevitably, things grow old and must be renewed. And though churches are slow to move, they are, to this day, an integral part of life for billions of people across the globe. So soon, it will come time for Christians to gain a better understanding of whom they’re worshiping and, now more than ever, why. I only pray that through it, a better church emerges.
Jacob Vito is a first-year Community and Regional Development major at UC Davis. He is from western Pennsylvania.
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