Growing up, March was known only for Madness. Be it the ’93 season with that fateful time out or the ’98 epic battle for the ACC Tournament Championship between the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils, Carolina basketball ruled our lives. My sister and I saved copies of newspapers when Dean Smith became the winningest coach and watched a disturbing Spike Lee film because Smith made a cameo. During our high school’s homecoming, I even won most spirited on college-dress-up day for the sheer amount of Carolina memorabilia I possessed (think popcorn bucket and a map of the memorable seven-mile stretch between Chapel Hill and Durham).
Thus, I could hardly control my excitement when seated with a basketball team on a seven-hour international flight last summer. The couple next to me, the team’s coach and his wife, soon explained that the team was part of a missionary organization, which traveled to parts of Africa and competed against local teams. Watching the uniformed team in zip-ups and Nikes, I couldn’t help but mull over the materialistic message the team members were sending.
Then it dawned on me that this was the exact message they wanted to portray: Their God helped them earn all these luxuries and if the infidels converted, they too could share in the booty.
The exchange that occurred thousands of feet above ground, came rushing back into memory as news arrived that Mother Teresa’s beatification is scheduled for Oct. 19 at the Vatican.
A countdown until the beatification is displayed prominently on the website dedicated to the cause, www.motherteresacause.info, which also offers a means of obtaining tickets for the day. The Associated Press reports that the Vatican post office has launched a set of postcard stamps with Mother Teresa’s image and that factories have been making rosaries, crucifixes and key chains for the beatification.
Pope John Paul II (sorry Cardinal Chistoph Schoenborn, he is still alive) has arranged for the beatification to coincide with the celebration of his 25th year as pope this month. Since Mother Teresa was a favorite of the pope, her beatification has been on the fast track ever since her death. The pope waived the standard five-year waiting period and originally wanted to forgo the entire beatification process and name Mother Teresa a saint, but was forced to retract when top cardinals spoke against it.
The canonization process is lengthy in that someone needs to undergo “extensive” investigation to make sure that the two miracles attributed them are true miracles. In fact, even after the beatification, the step in the canonization process that only requires one miracle, parishioners can only worship Mother Teresa in a few places where the church deems appropriate.
The worship of a human being who died five years ago does not make sense regardless of the amount of good she might have done for people around her. In fact, it has been popularly debated that Mother Teresa did more harm than good through her missionary work. By urging paupers to accept Jesus in exchange for food, Mother Teresa misled thousands of Kolkata residents into believing that their lives would improve through conversion to Christianity.
Leaders who have reserved their lives for the benefit of others are revered for the work they have done but not worshiped. For example, Mohandas Gandhi, who also served in India, is celebrated tomorrow in the Gandhi Day of Service, where thousands of people volunteer to better the community. While Mother Teresa’s dedication to help others may be admirable and perhaps worth the Nobel Peace Prize, her selfish motivations to convert others do not warrant the worship of thousands of people.
However repulsive it may be for people to worship those who deceived thousands, it is even more reprehensible to bar forms of reverence. Thousands across the world, from Christians persecuted in China to Muslims killed in race riots in Gujarat, must be saved from the mobs unable to accept a variance in views.
The particularly dislikable, be they Mother Teresa or the Cameron Crazies, must be given an opportunity to speak. Much like The Michigan Review, their convoluted perceptions either of people’s fates or basketball dynasties usually help strengthen the arguments against them. Heated discussions and long discourses about these topics arrive at a simple insight that only through the persistence of these differences can one learn to sympathize and create concrete beliefs.
Chirumamilla can be reached at email@example.com.