One might expect me to display a cynical crinkly-mouthed reaction to two religious events that made the news this past weekend. Well: "No."
Fall River Massachusetts -- the town where I achieved the bulk of my spiritual instruction -- hosts the Great Feast of the Holy Ghost each year at this time.
It is impossible to express the pride that the Portuguese and Portuguese-Americans and people of Portuguese ancestry exhibit in Fall River. Except in Newark and New Bedford, where they are less old school about it.
I remember "The Feast" from my childhood as an educational buffet. A kid could learn about the culture of an ethnic group that was foreign (since many generations, countries, nationalities lie between me and "The Old Country") yet comfortably familiar. Strictly speaking: the food was deliciously familiar but the clothes looked goofy and I only understood a few words, and I wasn't sure if I was supposed to say them out loud.
As a young person, The Feast gave me the opportunity to see my connection to one set of forbears who had this fascinating history and culture an ocean away. A weekend-long lesson about faith, famiy, and tradition. That's a powerful connector of people with each other, with their heritage, and with their community.
On the other hand, relegate to history's dustbin the confused teevee clown disgracing the memory of a leader who delivered -- without corporate sponsorship or monstrous side acts -- a great and challenging speech about America's real commitment to universal civil rights.And to those people who insist that their god has answers to political problems, economic issues, social concerns, and personal matters, I remind you of the First Amendment, and the words of one of its authors:
The Federalist had never been to The Feast.
"Ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects."
- James Madison, 1774