Monday 26 March 2012

A Tale of Two Rallies

By John O’Brien, S.J.

There were two large gatherings of people in the Western Hemisphere this past weekend. The first was Saturday’s self-billed “Reason Rally” at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where 20,000 atheists gathered as a show of political force. Comedians, activists, bloggers, and the evolutionist writer Richard Dawkins headlined the event, which was reported to be lively despite the drizzling rain.

Speakers called for “zero tolerance” for anyone who disagrees with atheism and urged the nonreligious to run for public office at all levels of society. The most caustic advice, however, came from Dawkins, who told the crowd they should heap scorn on people of faith, above all, on Catholic beliefs such as the Eucharist.

“Mock them, ridicule them in public,” Dawkins said. “Don't fall for the convention that we're all too polite to talk about religion.” A preponderance of four-letter words throughout the day was reported, colouring blue the overall tone of the event.

The second major gathering was in the Mexican city of Silao, where jubilant people lined the streets to welcome Pope Benedict XVI, and half a million gathered for Sunday’s Mass. The outpouring of tears, song, and emotion during this visit has been noted by the media, and has been a powerful sign of how much humanity still looks to God to transcend the sin and violence that plagues human affairs. The state of Guanajuanto is very devout, we are told, the place where an uprising took place in the 1920s against the anti-clerical government (and is the subject of a forthcoming film). Jubilant cries of “Viva Cristo Rey” were heard throughout the papal visit as well.

The two events are a reminder of several basic truths. It reminds us that the Gospel will always be “a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23), for the cross is both a scandal and symbol of our redemption. Yet “for those who are called, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” So while some of the nations rage, others rejoice in God's mercy. When we accompany Christ into his passion, let us remember that the final victory is his, “for the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Amen!

1 comment:

  1. “Mock them, ridicule them in public,” Dawkins said.

    Well, hardly revolutionary, when you think about it? Hasn't this been the status quo in the media and popular culture for the past couple of decades? God looking for condoms on "The Family Guy", Niki Minag showing up at the Grammies with a Pope-look-a-like??

    Thank you for telling the story of the people in Mexico who welcomed the Pope amongst them. The newsworthy story there is of a people who have been treated awfully and lived difficult lives without hope for social justice who still rejoice in the hope that they have in God's mercy and justice. That what they've faced in this life has not broken their spirits and triumphed over their hearts.

    May the people of Mexico pray for us Americans - it sounds like we need it!