5 Nov 2010

Your Own Personal Jesus (Part 2)

Likewise the All Saints' Day tradition is particularly followed by Corsican families, with strong visual displays of colourful potted chrysanthemum sprouting across cemeteries. Subject to debate, this may reflect the historically-extravagant, almost ostentatious, side of latino spirit, showing others how much you care for your dead by lavishly decorating graves with flowers, in other words, a case of 'showmanship' over religious/ private introspection and remembrance. I do personally know some villagers who make sure they are seen walking down the cemetery with the biggest floral arrangements on All Saints' Day, in some unspoken competition with other locals.

Sobriety in design for this beautiful Amsterdam church
This is the 'look-at-me' side of religion I have a problem with. Likewise I am somewhat irked by those who go to mass purely to score elusive points with the local Joneses, while being deaf to the church's call to behave as a good - altruistic - christian who carries out acts of goodness within that very community. I have been outraged while attending mass to overhear some individuals overtly putting down other parishioners and then go for communion. This sort of hypocritical behaviour has negatively impacted on any religious inclination I might have felt at the time.

The commercialisation of religion is another bone of contention for me, and Christmas is a fitting example. Banking on what is a religious day to turn it into a shameless shopping extravaganza, there again exacerbated by peer and media pressure and that all-consuming consumerist aspiration to keep up with the Joneses is short of hypocritical in my book. The attiude is just as pointlessly beside the point as those Christmas cards you get by the dozen from people who don't even manage to mumble a hello to you the rest of the year!

A touch of gold for Manchester cathedral
On wedding days, religion is once again shaken to the core, taken for a ride even, by those couples who choose to get married in church (a specifically pretty sought-after country church for some!), not so much for the religious blessing than for the aesthetic qualities the church setting will deliver on photo. You and I have countless examples of the sort, where religion takes a back seat and is only used as a setting - a backdrop - for a party. I attended a communion once where the priest had to interrupt mass to tell off parents who were disrespectfully talking, laughing, greeting relatives, moving about and snapping away from all sorts of angles like this was some fashion shoot, without much consideration for the religious ceremony.

I think religion is serious stuff and if someone is going to treat it casually, as an obligatory pre-party prelude, maybe they should for once give it some thought and decide whether atheism might not be a more appropriate option in keeping with their aspirations. Just a thought.

Haunted by a troubled past: St-Quentin basilica
My mum once said that you should go to mass for yourself and not think of others around you. This confuses me too, when religion invites us to be selfless by welcoming/ helping others, and promote good. Maybe I am being too demanding of us, and we should just approach faith as best we can and be forgiving/ tolerant of those who 'haven't seen the light yet' and don't understand the consequences of their selfish/ hypocritical conduct when involved with religion.

You see, I wasn't kidding when I let out yesterday that my relationship with faith was complicated. Everyone's perception and reaction to religion is their own (and in most cases, like here, without a clear-cut opinion on the matter). To close this post on religion, there is nothing more appropriate for me right now than refer you to the aptly-titled 'Personal Jesus' song. These two words together indicate what religion is down to: a personal relationship (or absence of it), be it human or of the sacred order, that resonates throughout our lives, or hits a high note at a certain point of it. Our cultural heritage, personal knowledge, level of awareness, our willingness or capacity to question our actions, all these elements shape up and shake up that concept of faith and the personal Jesus within, alter it, or simply disintegrate it.

P.S: 'Personal Jesus' was originally written by Depeche Mode, then reinterpreted 15 years later by king of controversy Manson. Yet the song's dimension never came out more meaningful than when his predecessor, Johnny Cash, made it his own. The lyrics had come into their own like a rich mature wine, to deliver wisdom with a resonance.


  1. I agree with you totally. And yes, Johny Cash was the first person to really make that song come alive.

  2. Thanks Christine. Johnny Cash also did a splendid cover version of 'Hurt', to the point where we'd think he wrote that song. A rare moment of musical genius!