The God of Petty Semantics

What’s in a word? Apparently a whole lot. A Catholic priest in Arizona has been forced to resign after using the “incorrect” word in baptisms he performed over decades. Andres Arango would say, “We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Oh, the horrors. For those of you like me who didn’t see the egregious offense in this passage, apparently the correct phrase is: “+I+ baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” *1

Why is this a problem? According to the Catholic Diocese, it is Christ alone who presides over all sacraments. Therefore “if you were baptized using the wrong words, [in this case I as opposed to we], that means your baptism is invalid and you are not baptized.” Which is a pretty big deal in a religion that also tells its adherents all unbaptized people will go to hell. The Diocese says it could eve nullify marriages. So they’ve decided to cause mental anguish for tens of thousands of followers, telling them they have not, in fact, been baptized as the had assumed, and their souls are in mortal danger.

While I try to be respectful of everyone’s religious beliefs, this is also a prime example of why so many people absolutely loathe organized religion. I have a hard time imagining any all-powerful Deity being so petty. Whether you worship Buddha, Allah, Krishna or Jehovah, or perhaps a 6-legged squid octopus, I’m fairly certain that if God is out there, he/she/it has more important things to worry about—like starving children, the lack of love in this world, or the fact that some people still think dabbing is a cool thing to do.

Yes, this seems more like the pettiness of us feeble-minded humans to me. I imagine even an octopus has better sense in their priorities.

This episode is also quite silly from a theological perspective. The Diocese is essentially attributing its own semantics hang-up to God, saying that a contract and commitment one makes with God is null and void simply because a wrong word was used…in a language mankind invented, used in rituals mankind invented, with words men thought up and and created, then arranged in a particular passage they decided upon (which, by the way, has changed over the years), in a religion that didn’t develop any of these rituals until long after its founder’s death.

It’s also a notion that directly contradicts everything Jesus taught while he was on this earth. I seem to remember Jesus chastising leaders for their strict adherence to rituals, scolding them for promoting the “letter of the law” over the spirit of the law. I remember him rebuking people who criticized him for plucking some grains on Sabbath, and overturning tables in the temple while defying priests. In fact, this is a big reason why he was crucified.

It would be nice if the Diocese could take a chill pill, stop traumatizing its constituents unnecessarily, and focus its energies on things that truly matter. This entire episode is reminiscent of when the Catholic Church put Gayetano Ripoll to death for instructing his young charges to say “Praised be the Lord” instead of “Hail, purest Mary.” *2 Apparently, things haven’t strayed all that far from the days of the inquisition.

Life is difficult enough as it is. We certainly don’t need to run around creating mental anguish where none need exist.

1. Marina Pitofsky, “Ariz. priest resigns after incorrect word invalidates baptisms,” USA Today, Feb. 16, 2022, p. 5A
2. M.L. Martinez,, “Cayetano Ripoll,” National Geographic History, Jan./Feb 2019, pp. 74-75

Brett Favre Speech Exposes the Narcissism In Us

We all know narcissism exists in the world. But none of us like to think of ourselves as self centered or narcissistic. This is why something stuck me as I was watching the speech given by Brett Favre during the Thursday night football game on Thanksgiving between the Bears & the Packers. (for those of you who don’t know football, you might know Brett Favre from his guest appearance in the film There is something about Mary.

Favde was at the stadium to have his number retired and be inducted into the Hall of Fame. So naturally he had to give a speech. Durinig his speech, he thanked any number of people, and talked about all aspects of playing football. But as I listed to the crowd’s responses to what he said, a predictable pattern imerged: the times when they cheered the loudest were always in response to self-serving comments given by Farde.

“And most of all I thank you”    (loud cheers from crowd)

“The best place in the world to play football”   (loud cheeres & applause)

And so on.

It was like watching a collective mass of heads in the stadium become one giant common brain, and this brain seemed to be thinking:

  • Hooray for me!
  • Hooray for us!
  • Two cheers for me!
  • Talk more about us!

I couldn’t help but think of a stadium full of seals barking every time someone threw them a fish.

Sure, they may say we are not self centered, and we might even want this to be true, but our cheers say otherwise.

The Labeled Society

One of the more destructive habits that our society excels at is labeling. We routinely attach negative labels to all types of people, actions, or events: Terrorists Predators Monsters Degenerate Perverted Despicable Illegal’s Sickening Evil Catastrophic Horrific These destructive labels have become so commonplace that most people absorb them without … Continue reading →