Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Jesus Christ!

From Stuart Derbyshire at Spiked:

Like other celebrities, Mother Teresa was remarkably keen to keep her private life private, rarely ever saying anything about her childhood and her immediate family...

Alpion’s important contribution to the literature on Mother Teresa is to reveal that she was almost certainly motivated to enter the mission by the death of her father, Nikolle Bojaxhiu. He died at the age of 45 in mysterious circumstances. A known and vocal supporter of Albanian independence, he was almost certainly poisoned by Serbian opponents. Mother Teresa, then known by her Christian name of Agnes, was nine years old and she struggled to cope with the loss. Rather than any religious teaching as a child or a calling as an adult, it was this loss that turned Agnes Bojaxhiu into Mother Teresa. Unable to reconcile the loss of her father, Agnes turned to Jesus as a father figure who would never abandon her. This childish retreat into religious certainty stayed with her throughout her life (emphasis added) yet, partly to protect the image of Mother Teresa and partly to protect Agnes from the pain, the details surrounding her early life were walled off from public scrutiny...

Nevertheless, readers who can get past the somewhat pompous and turgid start will find some striking information with quite uncomfortable implications for supporters of Mother Teresa. Her devotion to Jesus was a personal attempt to deal with grief, and her dedication to the poor of Calcutta part of her effort towards self-salvation. Similar to many celebrity figures, it was all about me, me, me. This puts her work into a whole new and rather less flattering light (emphasis added).

Maybe Mother Teresa played her cards close to her vest, but Stuart Derbyshire doesn't. The use of childish, rather than childhood, as a modifier for young Mother Teresa's "retreat into religious certainty" says it all. Turning to God is childish. And Mother Teresa's devotion to Jesus was not only childish, it was personal!

But many suffering people turn to God for solace and, having found it, feel a deep and enriching--not childish--devotion to the source of that solace. And personal? Is Mr. Derbyshire unfamiliar with the idea that we have all been enjoined to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling? A relationship with God has always been all about each of us, us, us--but, of course, it was only Paul (another religious celebrity) who said that, and it always all about him, him, him, too.

As for the questions raised by Mother Teresa's being guarded about her past and personal life? Who knows? Derbyshire implies that using Ockham's razor on this information proves that she was a gimlet-eyed, reputation-guarding, 'I did it all by myself and I Did It My Way' publicity whore. I believe one could legitimately (and just as easily) interpret her actions as
a wish for the focus to remain on God and on the dying poor. It's all in how you look at it--through a glass, darkly--or not.

Regardless, let's presume that Mr. Derbyshire is correct. If so, he should remember that
the God of the Old and New Testaments called plenty of double barreled sons of bitches to do his work here on Earth and is, presumably, still doing so. If Mother Teresa was one of them--fine. She got the work done.

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