By Matthew Santucci
Last week, the Christian faithful commenced the Lenten season with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. The cross, imprinted upon the forehead of believers, stands as an outward expression of a commitment to inward reflection, personal sacrifice and spiritual renewal. I believe, however, it would be remiss to think that this expression of faith is analogous to effectual change.
Often, external expressions of faith are tantamount to a superficial display of Christian virtue. The act of attending mass, receiving ashes and going to confession is not done out of a genuine belief in their redemptive power, but out of an inveterate and obsequious adherence to faith. In short, feigned religiosity encourages us to rely upon our emotion rather than appealing to reason. That is why, when we strive for spiritual perfection and focus on the imperceptible and unverifiable ether, we neglect the real, palpable afflictions of this world.
Incidentally, it is in this light that I encourage believers to make a genuine examination of conscience this Lent. Focus not on what you can give up, but on what you can do for the collective good. Ask yourself, what impact can I affect in my community? How can I tackle the ubiquity of social injustices? We are all in this together and the greatest force for good is not religion, but collective empowerment. That is why I say, “eschew religion, adapt secular humanism!”
In an interview with CNN last year, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was asked if he subscribed to a particular religious creed. In his response, he did not impugn the merits of religion. Rather he provided us with a perspicacious reflection on the fundamental value of faith. “Every great religion…essentially comes down to: do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.”
“We are all in this together, when you hurt, I hurt…I believe what human nature is about is that everybody in this room impacts everybody else.”
The profundity of his statement should stand as a guiding principle in the creation of a new national ethos, one that is predicated upon justice and underscored by empathy. Our preeminent objective should be focusing on emerging and expanded consciousness. We must work to ensure that we do not allow people to go without healthcare, or live in abject poverty. We must work in combating climate change. We must ensure that education is available to all and not a reserved privilege for the few, and must work towards eviscerating racial, economic and social injustices.
Once we realize that we are all connected, that all we have is each other and this one planet, we can abandon blind faith in favor of a reason, thereby laying the foundation for a genuinely progressive future. This is our obligation to posterity. That is why during this Lenten season, I encourage the Christian faithful to focus not on making a paltry sacrifice, but rather on what impact you can make in the community and what you can do to mitigate the suffering of our fellow human beings.
Instead of relaying solely upon emotion and adhering to dogma, strive for understanding and reason. We are all in this together and the greatest force for good is collective empowerment. A coalescence around these principles will enable us to ameliorate the iniquities of the world; together we can build a community of believers not in God, but in collective goodness – we can truly make the world we live in a safe, equitable and loving home for all.
Matthew Santucci, FCRH ’18, is a history major from Wolcott, Connecticut. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Fordham Political Review.