What leprosy can teach you about the modern world

My biggest issue with the Catholic faith growing up was its required belief in magic. Magic was dogma - the resurrection, immaculate conception, the lives of saints, Jesus the healer, winemaker, waterwalker.

Many of these, approached with logos and armed with the tools of exegesis, turn out to be the standard narratives of myth-making throughout human history: the virgin birth, the chosen people, the heavenly ascent, and so forth.

The entire Curia, most of the clergy, and a significant number of the lay people in the Roman Catholic Church know and fairly openly acknowledge this.

From what I can glean, this perpetuation of myth-magic is seen permissible from several perspectives: the belief that there are different levels of consciousness in the faithful, especially among the children and the poor; that there is a metaphorical interpretation that is seen as valid; and that the extension of such interpretation leads to a "right thinking" (hello, Buddhism!), which in itself is the miracle and mystery of faith.

Thus, the story e.g. of Jesus and the leper (Matthew 8:1-4) is not at all about the actual healing of leprosy, but about the radical inclusion within the community of an afflicated person. It is a radical break with the traditions, mores, ethics, religious precepts and so on of the time. It says: there is nothing within you that we cannot love. Unless of course you're in third grade or in sub-Saharan Africa, in which case the Church maintains the whole story is totally about leprosy (this is not acceptable). 

In one of my favorite heretical texts, A Course in Miracles ("scribed" by some psychology professors at Columbia University and a base text for the self help boom, having inspired Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson, Tony Robbins, and many others) Lesson 341, which is rather towards the end, begins:

"A miracle is a correction. It does not create, nor really change at all. It merely looks on devastation, and reminds the mind that what it sees is false."

In other words, it is a change in perception - a change in consciousness. It moves from judgement of exterior to the acceptance of the inner perfection of the individual, no matter how wrong a turn they may have taken, how far in "sin" they've slipped, how disgusted you are by their actions. 

This lesson of universal acceptance, inclusion and non-judgement is one we'd do well to heed in societies that are slipping further towards tribalism, othering, authoritarianism. 

"Miracles fall like drops of healing rain from Heaven on a dry and dusty world, where starved and thirsty creatures come to die. Now they have water. Now the world is green. And everywhere the signs of life spring up, to show that what is born can never die, for what has life has immortality." (ACIM, Lesson 341)

Happy Sunday.