Thursday, January 24, 2008

For or against

I would have switched off the radio had I not been at a crucial point in something on the other side of the room. Before listening to what he was about to say, I had already decided that the words of one of the world’s best-known scientists would be sheer rubbish. I rarely hear of him saying anything sensible, but he seems to be beloved of the media because of his controversial points of view. As a very vocal atheist, he seems to lose touch with the scientific method when it comes to speaking of anything that touches on religious matters.

The radio was not silenced, mainly because I do not have three hands and so could not spare one of my two to reach over to the on-off switch. It was also at that moment that I suddenly realised my prejudice and, yes, my arrogance, in deciding that this same scientist could say nothing sensible about anything. Thus it was that I heard quite an interesting discussion on bacteria that I can neither prove nor disprove. Even though I would still enjoy seeing Dr. Know-it-all cut down to size, perhaps my prejudice will be a little less the next time that our paths cross.

Many teachers find that, in addition to teaching Religious Education, they must also teach a secular subject in order to prove that they do not have a one-track mind, to demonstrate to the world that teaching religious subjects does not mean that they are incapable of offering anything else that is worthwhile.

Take the example of the Pope, for instance, who describes himself as having “a passion for piano”. When Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, a great amount of media time and energy was taken up with commenting on his love for the piano and on whether or not his piano would be moved into the Apostolic Palace. Almost an equal number of comments have been passed about his subsequent enjoyment (or lack) of concerts, liturgical music, rock music and so on. As one who has done many live radio and television commentaries of papal ceremonies, I promise you that there were many occasions when the musician was present every bit as much as the Pope. It was easy to see the sudden alertness and attention to the music, a concentration on a totally different level to the event that had occasioned the music. Should he not, then, be well-qualified to speak, not only on matters of faith, but also on Bach, Beethoven, Liszt and so on? Yet, as soon as he became pope, the world immediately confined his authority to the Church. Would the world be sceptical now of his ability to speak of music? Would there be prejudice, either favourable or unfavourable?

How often do I compartmentalize people and decide in advance whether or not they are worth hearing? How often do I reject someone else’s point of view simply because of one particular group to which that person belongs?

Someone once said that there are only two people who can tell the truth to a despot: the courageous and the imbecile. Where do I stand? Does my own prejudice put those whom I oppose in the group of the courageous or the imbecile as they declare something that, perhaps, I should hear?

God bless,
Sr. Janet