On October 3rd, 1992, I watched as Sinead O’Connor tore up a picture of Pope John II on Saturday Night Live. It was an act of protest against child abuse; she stated the Church of Ireland knew molestation was occurring within its walls, yet was doing nothing to protect children.
Sinead immediately became a pariah; she had death threats tossed her way, and public opinion of her was overwhelmingly negative. The next week’s host, Joe Pesci, opened his monologue by holding up the picture, now re-taped together, and proclaiming that had he been around for the shredding, he would have hit her.
Sinead’s career never fully recovered from the incident. She continued to put out albums and perform, but where her hit album sold millions, the follow-up releases barely dented the charts.
It is now 2012, and as it turns out the shaved-head singer was on to something. The Archbishop of Ireland has released over 65,000 documents from Church archives which verify repeated instances of sexual abuse. Molestation was covered up and cloistered away under orders from the Vatican; in some cases, children were told to “remain silent” regarding what had been done to them.
So Sinead was 20 years ahead of the curve, but the public didn’t care.
I do understand the initial hesitation to immediately embrace her action; Sinead has always been fairly insane. Back when popular, she acted more like a petulant teenager than a young woman. She shit on the American Anthem, stating she wouldn’t perform in an arena where it played before her concert, and when nominated for several Grammys she asked to have her name withdrawn from consideration. Today she’s meeting men on the internet and having quickie marriage-and-divorces.
Which means, as said, it is easy to look upon anything Sinead says with a hint of suspicion. What bothers me is the fact that sometimes truth hits home so hard it is undeniable. Despite what lunacy she may have spewed, Sinead was deeply religious herself. She was not an outsider railing against an institution she hated, Sinead was an insider asking the practice she believed in to step up and right itself. When any sliver of clarity shoots through the fog of injustice, it should contain a resonance that is impossible to ignore…
…unless you happen to be an ideologue.
There is little more damaging in life than someone who puts what they want to be true above all facts that may show otherwise. And when it comes to religion, ideologues lose their mind.
I know a man who defiantly stood by a friend of his in expressions of anger toward me because I happen to be agnostic, and this man and his friend were Christian. The only problem with the situation is: the man standing by his friend was supporting someone who happened to be a sociopathic woman-beater. But, as the friend who hit women believed in Jesus, this somehow made him more holy than me, a non-violent agnostic. Kind of like how Joe Pesci thought threatening to hit a woman on live television was more righteous than the simple tearing up of a picture.
Which brings us to the next logical step: Chris Brown. Chris Brown beat the crap out of Rihanna in 2009. It’s been 3 short years, and his career is skyrocketing thanks to the most retarded of retarded white tween girls. Chris has an enormous tattoo of Jesus on his arm, the very arm used to swing his fist into Rihanna’s face. Repeatedly. Now, one could easily make the argument that she is obnoxious enough to make someone want to hit her, but that does not mean that you actually get to do so.
Juxtapose the two events being discussed and ask: What does that say about society? Sinead tears up a picture of a tired figurehead who was actively involved in evil, and it ends her career. Chris Brown physically assaults a woman—beats her black and blue—and it becomes merely a speed bump in his life; a forgotten moment that signified nothing of matter.
Does that make us more tolerant or forgiving today? Or are we more stupid and apathetic? Sadly, I’ll go with the latter.
Religion, unfortunately, has the uncanny ability to bring out the worst in people. When separated from the highest ideals any faith may be based on, it can cater to base fears and prejudices. Politicians know this all too well and use passages out of context to inflame the masses inspired by such rhetoric.
When a book of allegorical fables enters into the political realm, it is in a position to do maximum damage. The Taliban and places like Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Bosnia are prime examples of what happens when religion becomes the forefront of governmental policy
“But that’s Islam!” the weak-minded cry. “We gots us Jebus!”
True. And Christianity has in its wake the Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials, the Spanish Inquisition… Just because a religion has, for large part, moved beyond the worst it has to offer, that does not mean it has disappeared entirely. When you listen to a candidate like Santorum (and to a slightly lesser [but not much] degree Gingrich), the rhetoric they spew is dangerously akin to the Christianity of old, that which we should have grown past at this point in history. The frothing-at-the-mouth mobs they inspire? That should be enough to give anyone pause. In the least, it should make those who do not buy into the politics of hate and derision reflect upon the words of Sinead herself:
“Remember what I told you: if they hated me, they will hate you…”