Wednesday, November 03, 2010

My Favourite Saint

Nov 1st is All Saints Day, and it would probably be forgotten by our culture if it didn't follow free candy and dress up like a hooker night. Could the two be any more polarized? All Saints Day is a celebration to honor all saints, known and unknown. The following day, Nov 2nd, is All Souls Day, the day when we commemorate all those that are still in purgatory being purified sufficiently to enter heaven. A fitting day for me to be writing an assignment that is due tomorrow, for a contemplative wisdom school which spirit seems to deem my being in dire need of.

For background information read the Wikipedia on Saints which starts out with the concise definition. "Saints are individuals of exceptional holiness who are important in many religions, particularly Christianity. In some usages, the word saint is used more generally to refer to anyone who is a Christian, or anyone who is in Heaven." The Catholics are the most exclusive when it comes to saints, having only a few thousand, and it is God that makes the saint and the Church merely recognizes and canonizes them. The Eastern Orthodox considers all that make it into heaven as saints. The Anglicans recognize as a saint people that have been elevated by popular opinion as a pious and holy person. The Protestants are even more inclusive where merely being a Christian is sufficient; and this corresponds to how Paul thought with his use of the Greek word hagioi as Bruce mentioned in his latest sermon.

However, to raise the bar on what it actually means to be a Christian/saint the wikipedia lists the following characteristics:
1. exemplary model;
2. extraordinary teacher;
3. wonder worker or source of benevolent power;
4. intercessor;
5. selfless, ascetic behavior; and
6. possessor of a special and revelatory relation to the holy.

The Wisdom Circle assignment was to select a Saint, and it could be one that has had a profound influence on our life, or it could be somebody that we personally know. Since none of the "celebrity" saints have had much impact on me I looked at people I knew that were doing good things and in general put others ahead of themselves. Conrad Schmidt, who gave up a lucrative computer programming career to be a community organizer and founder of the Work Less Party and The World Naked Bike Ride was definitely a contender, but it would be too irreverent. Bruce Sanguin, our minister was another possibility, but that's his job. Same reason I ruled out Cynthia Bourgeault. There were many many others and I didn't want to pick one above the other.

My favourite saint is St. Pelagius, even though I don't know much about him, or haven't known about him for that long. Pelagius isn't even a saint, which to me is one of the most significant factors seeing as how he should have been. In the same way that there are a few that never should have been saints in the first place, namely Augustine of Hippo and Jerome the Misogynist. Most of what is known about Pelagius has to be deduced from the hateful reaction that Augustine and Jerome conducted against Pelagius in an attempt to expunge his existence from the evolution of our spiritual education. They did not succeed and the best they could manage was to have him branded as a heretic. This was an unjust charge since Pelagius was more in line with the thinking of Jesus Christ, the Apostles and the early church fathers, than was Augustine and the dysfunctional novelties that he introduced to corrupt the Christian theology.

This criticism of Augustine arises out of material from a few dozen books I've been reading over the last few years. It is a story of how religion has been created and used by a powerful elite to dominate and exploit the masses primarily through a fear of hell and a hopelessness induced by Manichean predestination. The real tragedy is that this precludes a religion with soul that could be used to achieve heaven on earth. I have material to support this position but I feel like I am taking on fifteen hundred years of apologetics and ideological defense mechanisms and I just don't have the energy for it tonight. So I'll break this down into manageable chunks and save it for future blog posts.


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