As scheduled I attended that pre-baptism seminar Tuesday night at Mary the Queen church. We arrived quite late so I didn't get the names of the husband and wife team who headed the catechesis. Minor correction: I arrived on time, while my sis and brother-in-law came 30 minutes late! As instructed I dutifully waited for them by the entrance of the admin building. In retrospect, given the BS we were treated to, I should've gone ahead and entered the conference room at 8pm sharp. I bet I missed a thing or two to nitpick and complain about.
In the first hour the two talked about their life as a Christian couple and as Christian parents. The last half hour was a crash course in the history and rite of baptism. I actually wanted to throw some questions at the speakers, particularly about what exactly they meant by "faith" as they used it. Strangely, the audience (some twenty to thirty of us) was never given the opportunity to ask anything. Or maybe we were expected to just butt in anytime.
In lieu of a blow by blow narrative, I'll just jump right to the points that either made me go ballistic or brought me to the edge of bursting out in laughter. Having talked on the phone (the day after) with someone in the know I have some idea of the names of the speakers. But since I'm not a hundred percent certain I'll just call them Mr. and Mrs. K. (Yeah, stupid of me not to have asked the other attendees that night.)
* One of the things that really knocked me over was Mr. K's call to go forth and multiply. In telling their story Mr. K recounted how he and his wife wanted to have some half dozen(!) children because having a big brood fulfills God's plan. When Mrs. K failed to get pregnant after their second child, they resorted to adopting one. Then five years later, she found herself on the way with their fourth kid (that must surely have been a miracle).
This "have as many kids as possible" is the very same mindset my Opus Dei guy tried to impress upon me years ago. Apparently, the Church is still blind to overpopulation, resource depletion, unsustainable development, and global warming problems. The Ks are either ignorant of the dilemma we as a species and a planet are facing or just so naive and egocentric not to realize how they're aggravating the problems instead of helping curtail them. What really got my goat was that they were telling the audience that it's God's will--implying it's a very good thing--for them to become baby factories. They were saying that it was their duty to have children. It totally escaped them that that's irresponsible. If there are still those who believe there's no harm in religious beliefs, they better open their eyes. Telling African nations saddled with an AIDS epidemic not to use condoms and telling overpopulated, poverty-stricken countries like the Philippines to keep cranking out humans is totally nuts! That causes real harm and suffering. It isn't the use of embryonic stem cells for research and medical applications that kills. Those are microscopic tissues for cripes sake! Those cells have no cortex, no consciousness. In fact, stem cell research will save lives and alleviate unnecessary suffering. As an obstacle to rationality and progress, the Church wins the gold.
* The K's 4th baby was a girl. And she turned out to be a feisty, sometimes conceited, certainly argumentative kid. I gather that this youngest of theirs is the oddball, the thorn in their neck. Oh but the Ks aren't complaining since according to Mr. K, "This is what God gave us." Since children are always God's gift, it isn't possible to say that God gave me a reject, that God is bad or mischievous. And herein is injected the classic "heads I win, tails you lose" argument. If I get a perfect child, praise the Lord! God has blessed me. And if I get a nasty, uncontrollable kid. Well, that's because God is testing my faith, or teaching me the virtue of patience, or calling me to push my parenting skills one notch higher, or whatnot. How peachy. Perfect nonfalsifiability. Every result obtained has a rationalization. So what happens when they get a gay kid? Well, whatever their rationalization may be that child is going to go through hell and will be racked with guilt for a very very long time. All thanks to his deluded parents.
* Which brings us to Mr. K's homophobia. Mr. Holier-Than-Thou had no qualms whatsoever in advertising his prejudice against, if not disdain for, homosexuals. What I'd really like him to do is to tell gay men and women, to their face, that homosexuality is wrong, that his deity does not approve of it. I don't think he's a Ted Haggard underneath since it appears he had a hell of a time screwing his wife in their bid to pass on their genes--they were doing it, as he bragged, "24/7." I think he's just a run-of-the-mill homophobe. (But who knows? We may yet find out he's bisexual.)
* Mr. K hogged the floor throughout most of the talk. When it came to the catechesis part, however, Mr. K turned the floor over to his wife. To help explain the sacrament of baptism Mrs. K drew a diagram on the whiteboard. On the left, she had this seven-step stairway leading down to a pit. On the other side of that baptism pool were seven steps leading back up to what I presume would be ground level. Back on the left stairs she drew a stick figure with a round torso. She said this person is fat because he hasn't been baptized yet and is full of sins. Being fat represents being chockful of sins.
What?! Does she have anything against obese people? What have fat people done to her to deserve being the metaphor/symbol for having a truckload of sins? Why at the expense of fat people? Apparently, she doesn't even have a sense of being PC. Why not portray these sinful blokes (like evil atheist me--who by the way is ectomorphic) with boulders or giant iron balls shackled to their necks and legs, for example?
* In the baptism rite itself there comes a point when the priest makes the sign of the cross on the child's forehead. The godparents follow suit (can't recall if the parents do so as well; they probably do). Mr. K explained that the sign of the cross on the child's forehead does not disappear. It's an indelible mark and stays with the child (for life I guess). And when Satan sees this (invisible) mark he recoils from it.
No, I didn't make that up. Mr. and Mrs. K are middle-aged adults. And yet they believe in a bogeyman. They might as well throw in Darth Vader and the Dementors too. I'm sorry but I just can't understand nor stand highly educated, 50-year olds, living in the 21st century still wrapped up in childish mythology. There's something very wrong here.
* Finally, on the table where the Ks were seated was a foot and a half tall cross with naked Jesus dangling. Mr. K pointed to it a couple of times when he was talking about Jesus. And secured to the wall behind them was a huge 5 or 6 foot version--a scantily clothed man impaled on two pieces of timber. I tell you, it was grotesque. Having attended a Catholic school I was treated to this artifact from kindergarten all the way to high school day in and day out. You 'd think I'd be inured to it. But that Tuesday night I found myself wincing at this exhibitionistic display of torture and physical suffering. It's like, isn't one life-sized depiction, there at the back, in the background enough?! Do you folks have some sadomasochistic fetish for nude men dying an excruciating death? What sane parent would bring a child up to become desensitized to something so gruesome and inhumane?
Christians are scandalized when they discover that Hindus venerate linga and yoni--stylized stone or metal sculptures depicting male and female genitalia and symbolizing the god Shiva. I think Hindus will return the compliment.