Shootin' the Breeze

and random targets

Frat Rituals, Doctrine and Dogma

When I pledged a fraternity, we pledges had to do many things to earn the right to be accepted into the brotherhood. The final tests came during what was called “Hell Week.” We did not see the sense in many of the physical and emotional tests.

Everyone in my pledge class was admitted. We became “actives.”

The next year, as actives, we put the new pledges through the same difficult process — in the interest of goodwill and brotherhood. With our new perspective, that of being an active rather than a pledge, we could see the value of some of those traditional requirements. Others still seemed of little value. The only justification was “that is what we had to do so they have to do it too.” Tradition!

Decades later, I am even less persuaded by arguments based solely on “that’s just how we do it.” I am not persuaded because such arguments ignore an analysis of why. The answer to being asked why might be an admission that we don’t recall and we don’t understand how it got started, but now we have done it so long that we can’t change. Sometimes, what is not changed should be. Sometimes, what is, should never have been. Sometimes, the wrong stuff is maintained.

My point is not really aimed at reforming fraternities. Fraternities are fun to be part of in college. I am no longer in college. My fraternity days are far in the past, but remain as mostly good memories.

The Church universal is not merely a fraternity. However, various denominations follow something like the fraternity model I described. Fraternities are exclusionary by nature. Churches can be also.

Today Pope Francis is in the news for a homily he gave about the Catholic Church reaching outside. Outside the fraternity. He wants the members and leaders to look again at the purpose of some of those rules and traditions. He wants the Church to welcome outsiders. I am so glad.

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