The West’s big lie about Mother Teresa: Her “glorification of suffering instead of relieving it” has had little impact on her glowing reputation – Salon.com

Posted: January 4, 2016 in Media, Religion

… Speaking in 1997, she remarked that “the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people,” describing how it was “very beautiful for the poor to share [their suffering] with the passion of Christ.” For Mother Teresa, poverty and sickness were gifts that provided the opportunity to develop one’s connection with God. Her mission was not so much to alleviate suffering but to ensure it happened within a framework of religious belief. Indeed, by her own admission she was motivated by a desire to fulfill her own religious convictions rather than altruistic concern for the world’s poor. “There is always the danger that we may become only social workers … our works are only an expression of our love for Christ,” she told a BBC journalist in 1969. This attitude is manifestly disparate from the utilitarian principles by which humanitarian efforts are ordinarily judged.

Yet this reality, of Mother Teresa as a missionary first and an altruist second, is not the image that has taken precedence in the West. She won the Nobel Prize not for her religious convictions but “for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty.” Reports from volunteers, journalistic investigations and academic research that decries her “glorification of suffering instead of relieving it” has had little impact on her glowing reputation. This remains as true within secular communities as religious ones, with pollsters consistently reporting that Americans consider her one of the most admired figures of the 20th century.

The extent to which Mother Teresa is considered a humanitarian hero is a significant victory for the Catholic Church, which coordinated a high-profile campaign to have her “fast-tracked” to sainthood. However, in many ways it is no surprise that she remains so popular among Westerners. She presented a narrative – that of a European nun going to help the world’s poor – that acted to both resolve the internal guilt of wealthy churchgoers while also presenting their religion as a relevant, modern force for good. Meanwhile, her conceptualization of suffering as a positive experience provided rebuttal to those who criticized the West’s repeated failings to inspire tangible action on global inequality.

Speaking on world tours, her fatalistic attitude toward poverty, combined with an insistence on remaining “apolitical,” defined her disinterest in confronting the structural causes of destitution. She presented to the West a perfect role model: a do-gooder who didn’t threaten to challenge the status-quo. In the words of Kolkata-born journalist Mihir Bose, “She’s part of the western agenda, it makes the West feel better; ‘this is one of us, once again rescuing the third world.’” …

Source: The West’s big lie about Mother Teresa: Her “glorification of suffering instead of relieving it” has had little impact on her glowing reputation – Salon.com

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