Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fr Georges Massouh: Devotion to God or Devotion to Religious Leaders?

Arabic original here.

Devotion to God or Devotion to Religious Leaders?

It is not enough for a person to have correct belief in order to have true faith. If a person does not practice his belief in his daily life, it becomes merely theoretical and impracticable, a dead thing that is of no use. True faith presupposes a life in harmony with dogma, without any sharp separation between the two. Heresy or error, then, does not only come from dogmatic deviation: it can also result from moral deviation.

What does it mean for someone to believe in the dogma of monotheism when he practices polytheism in his everyday behavior? How can he be a polytheist when he worships his passions and his sins? He worships money. He worships authority. He worships sex. He worships himself... He makes every effort to satisfy his desires, even if he tramples people on his way towards reaching what he aims for.

He says that God is the Provider, even as he spends his life amassing riches out for fear of treachery in days to come.  He says that God is the Generous One at the very same time as he doesn't mind being a miser. He says that God is merciful, but then he spends his days without turning to the poor who are in need of someone to have mercy on them.

He says that God is the Creator while he strives to wreak destruction, murder and corruption on this earth. He says that God has granted him the earth in trust but he does not hesitate to neglect it and to make it an unbearable hell. He says that God is the Lord of Life, then he permits killing, slaughtering and dismemberment. He says that God created man "in His image and His likeness" and created him "in the best form" but then makes people into an object for his perverse pleasure.

If we want to be brief about the reasons for which a person assigns partners to God, we would say that, in addition to pride, which is the root of all evil, there is extravagance in bodily pleasures, vainglory and bowing to money, power and greed.

Error becomes even more influential when religious leaders-- from the lowest to the highest ranks-- place themselves above reckoning or when they when they attempt to dictate every aspect of their followers' lives, ruling over their wills and their conviction and leading them as though they had no other recourse. They have wealth and authority and if this leads them toward their lusts, their pleasures and the illusion of glory, then this is the great disaster.

At that point, the religious and spiritual leader becomes for his followers who are devoted to him a pure and infallible idol. Some of them confuse devotion to God and devotion to their religious leader, even though the two have nothing in common, since "there is no obedience to the creature with regard to the infallibility of the Creator."

The cult of personality is not exclusive to those who are addicted to politics. Indeed, it affects many who claim that they are monotheists who worship no one but God alone. The image, sermons, sayings and praises of the spiritual guide replace God, His prophets and apostles, to the point that some people attribute miracles to the object of their worship.

The religious guide must bring his followers to God and not to himself. He is not the object of desire, but rather God alone who is the beginning and the end. God is the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega. He is all in all. The great heresy is when the religious leader takes himself to be the end, leading himself and those brought into false worship of him into perdition.

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