Sunday, August 30, 2015

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

We tend to think of corporate religion as the province of traditionalists and conservatives; modern day Pharisees who value rules over love. But it is also the domain of practitioners of the cult of tolerance; modern day Pharisees who value rules ahead of truth. And like their ancient counterparts, both groups are obsessed with avoiding certain external threats that they believe will defile their hearts and souls, while simultaneously ignoring "the things that come out from within" that do the real damage.

I first experienced the latter sort of corporate religion my freshman year at Berkeley. The professor for Introduction to Religious Studies banned the use of the abbreviations BC or AD for dates. Instead, we were expected to use BCE and CE, because the term "Common Era" was more sensitive to diversity than references to Jesus. Of course, the dates themselves did not change. They continued to revolve around the life of Jesus. But as long as we ignored that reality, no one would get offended.

And that is the point of this brand of corporate religion: to avoid offending believers' sensibilities, even at the cost of offending truth. In just a few decades, it has taken us from my rather minor example to the land of microaggressions and trigger warnings. Where will it take us next? Yes, language matters. But let us not delude ourselves into thinking that hashtags and politeness can ever stand in for justice or love. The cult of tolerance honors our family with its lips, but its heart is far, far away.