What would Catholics think if Pope Benedict XVI did…

I woke up the morning of April 14, turned on the TV, and tuned into a couple different news channels. Soon, I was reminded that it was the Christian holiday “Good” Friday. Now, for those of you who aren’t Christians (like me) and also for those of you who are Christians but aren’t fresh on your Bible studies, “Good” Friday is the day that Jesus Christ supposedly died after being crucified. Curtains ripped, lighting struck, thunder boomed, god spoke and forsook his son…you get the idea: not a good day for ole’ J.C.

The reminder came from TV coverage of the new German-born pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, and the “Good” Friday mass he was leading. Upon viewing the first shots from inside the cathedral, I was amazed to see all the grandeur and lavishness the Roman Catholics bring out on this spring holiday. The pope himself was magnificently dressed. He was wearing a sweeping red robe with matching red shoes, carrying an all-gold incense container in one hand and a scepter in the other. And what pope would be complete without the rather large gold/silver necklace bearing the crucified Jesus image, that towering head-dress, and, of course, the pinky ring?

The feeling of amazement and awe vanished as soon I came out of my Vatican-induced haze and remembered that I had actually read the Bible multiple times. Then watching this mass became infuriating. The more gold and precious stones I saw, the more people I saw cross themselves as this supposed holy man passed. The more globs of people I saw crammed into that cathedral…the more I recognized how the teachings of these people’s “personal Lord and Savior” have been warped, bastardized and flat-out ignored.

After I turned off the Barnum and Bailey-like performance, I went to my fetch my highlighted, tattered Bible. I wanted to make sure that the thousand-plus Christians in that cathedral were mistaken about their religion’s teachings, and that I wasn’t mistaken about the book they refer to as “The Word of God”. I flipped to the gospel of Matthew and within 30 seconds found: “And when you pray, do not be like hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues.but when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father.when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Mat. 6:5-6:7). “OK,” I thought, “I’m right so far.”

Then I came across a concise, yet powerful verse: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Mat. 6:19). Instead, Christ tells a young man: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Mat. 19:21). “OK,” I thought, “I’m right on about the praying thing and the material stuff, too.”

I wondered, turning the TV on again and seeing the insanely expensive mass, what would Catholics across this pale, blue dot think if the pope started following the man from Nazareth’s philosophies. How would Catholics react to Pope Benedict rising to the pulpit and proclaiming: “Fellow Christians, beginning this Friday, I will do something truly ‘good’. I have decided to donate all the extravagant masterpieces of art, clothing, gold, silver, jewels, crowns, rings, and anything unnecessary of value to charity, to the impoverished, to victims of natural disasters. This act will generate unthinkable amounts of revenue which will be used to help the needy, to do what Christ taught us to”.

Would you support that? Would the 1.5 billion Roman Catholics think ol’ Benny was off his rocker? I guess if they knew about what Jesus did to the vendor’s tables at the temple, they’d give him a standing o. But I don’t think they would. That’s the problem with most Catholics and most Christians today: The message they were supposed to get has been lost over time by the glitz and glam of the Church. Nobody knows what being a Christian means anymore. Most Christians couldn’t ever answer: “What are the 10 Commandments? Name the 10 most important laws handed down from god himself.” Can you? I guess you don’t have to when you can follow the lead of an elderly German guy with back problems ’cause his bling is so damn heavy. But hey, who cares about a guy that can rise from the dead anyway, right?

Tennessee Colonel Joe Baxter is a senior majoring in philosophy. He enjoys bourbon and fried okra, though not necessarily together. He can be contacted at j.baxter@umiami.edu.