Shame on the Journal for enabling promulgation of the bigoted screed by a family practice MD and disgruntled resident of Arroyo Hondo (Journal North April 3, 2015) trashing the religious congregation known as the UDV (formal name in Portugés: O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegeta).
It is with some irony that we note the publication of this diatribe occurred on the simultaneous occasion of Good Friday and Passover – observances of two different religious traditions marking profound instances of religious intolerance and persecution.
The good doctor claims to be concerned about technical county planning/zoning issues regarding wells and water lines, but the principal thrust of his untoward attack on UDV is an assault ridiculing the congregation’s Christian identity (or as the Journal had previously described the UDV, as a “Christian-based church”).
In doing so, his piece offers unsubstantiated, catty quotes, which he attributes to an anonymous “former member” of the UDV. Virtually every polemic hurled at UDV has its dubious foundation in short sentence fragments supposedly uttered by the unnamed source.
The piece dismisses the UDV as a non-Christian congregation by complaining the church, per his/her anonymous source’s investigation, does not display any crosses. Perhaps those theological researchers should pay a visit to the local edifices of the Unitarians and Christian Scientists, as well as the meeting locations of the Friends (Quakers). Display of a cross (Roman, Swiss, Red, Maltese, Orthodox) does not necessarily make or unmake a Christian.
A study of the history of the institutional Christian Church (adherents obedient to the Bishop of Rome) is a study in attempts to eliminate one version of Christianity by another brand of professed Christian, starting with the 500-year crusade against adherents of the monk Arius of Alexandria, who rejected the Doctrine of the Trinity after the Nicean Council of 325 C.E., not to mention the torching of witches/heretics in Europe and Massachusetts from the time of the Holy Inquisition through the colonization of New England.
Those challenging the Christian identity of the UDV might also research the history of religious faith as syncretic belief systems. Actually, most every religion is syncretic – even mainline Christianity (Judaism to the teaching of the Greek philosophers to the observance of Pagan Roman festivals, Saturnalia/Christmas among them, to the works of German/French humanists of the Enlightenment and contemporary Existentialists).
Anyone who finds syncretic Christian practices disturbing might want to visit the nearby Indian pueblos on their (Christian) saints’ days. He would observe the syncretic practice of performing traditional (animistic) dances and chants as part of the Christian celebration, and would likely find the local parish priest in attendance, occupying a seat of honor alongside the tribal elders.
The piece also characterized the founder of the UDV as an “illiterate Brazilian rubber-tapper” who is “venerated like Jesus would be in a Christian Church.” Maybe so, taking the word of his unidentified source, and maybe not. But, in any event, is a literacy test – as administrated by voter registrars in the Jim Crow American South – a requisite for entry into the Kingdom of Heaven?
See the Gospel Matthew 5:3-12 (Beatitudes), King James Version, which recounts Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, including: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven: for persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
And could all the saints venerated by millions of traditional Christians – from Peter the Fisherman to Francisco to Chiara to Rita to Mother Cabrini – pass the literacy test?
The anti-UDV piece also suggested that the financial resources of UDV elder Jeffrey Bronfman are the source of the Arroyo Hondo residents’ continued defeats in their battles with UDV (“… it was stated that Bronfman had set aside several millions to take on the county and win the case … .”)
Well, the legal representation of the disgruntled Arroyo Hondo homeowners’ side – by Sommer, Karnes & Associates – doesn’t come cheap, either. And so it happened the UDV has prevailed in every case because the law was on its side – as the rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court on down demonstrate.
The UDV critic also made the misleading, non-sequitur statement that the storage and disposal of huasca “is under the jurisdiction of the DEA.” Not exactly so – in the case of the UDV, court rulings have affirmed that the storage and disposal of its sacrament is under its own jurisdiction. And the federal Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Agency’s parent organization, was on the UDV’s side in the case that resulted in the Supreme Court decision allowing importation of huasca.
Good doctor, won’t you and your associates ever cease your relentless attacks on this neo-Christian congregation? The societal/religious ills you perceive among the UDV congregants more likely than not stem from your own prejudices and ignorance.
Physician, heal thyself.
Jake Arnold of El Rito in Rio Arriba County holds an advanced degree in philology (linguistic anthropology) from the Universitó degli Studi di Firenze in Florence, Italy.