If all roads lead to Rome, is Lebanon’s road to secularism doomed from the start?
When I look back at the beginning of our road to secularism, I see an empty path that slowly gained loyal adherents along the way. I see glimmers of hope from those that believed that one day, no matter how far, they would not be forced to go to Cyprus to have a civil marriage. I feel the dignified sense of justice of children, who even though could not regain their parents, would inherit equally from them regardless of their gender and religious beliefs. I partake in the young’s pride of having obtained a job of a lifetime without the push of a political leader otherwise unfit to become a garbage collector (no offense to garbage collectors; you are hereby saluted and thanked).
Today, the road seems empty, almost deserted. A faded memory to those that once walked its course, the fiery slogans capturing the moment now screeching out of a broken record player; torn apart pictures and banners piling up on its corners consumed by dust.
Today, the dusted path seems only to survive in the virtual world — asphalted by those whose hopes haven’t died, maintained by those spreading the word so the dream doesn’t — yet the struggles of the confessional regime have never been more real; and its signs never so pervasive.
For if we were calling for the downfall of the confessional regime and the laymen that represent it, what are we to do today, when more of the clergy themselves have become political leaders in their own right?
For if we were calling for a secular regime with a complete separation of religion from government and public affairs, what are we to do today, when our “consensual democracy” has been transformed into a “democratic theocracy” of sorts, each man of religion fighting his way through the political battlefield, whether on behalf of his own persona, or his own flock, in itself a debatable issue…
For if we were calling for political leaders to rise above their differences for the greater good, what are we to do today, to be able to convince men of religion, with their daily access to the Almighty, in the upper echelons ruling the faithful and privy to the mysteries of the world, to account to us mere mortals and take care of faith instead?
Those guilty of the crime are not one but many, flaunting their turbans and cassocks in our faces, declaring their holy victories and claiming the glory of Lebanon for them alone. Ironic, given that holy wars should be nothing more than an oxymoron and Lebanon’s glory belongs to only one person…the people.
To say that both the Christian and Muslim religious establishments and its leaders are guilty of exacerbating confessionalism is not for politeness but for the simple truth. The system has even permeated our psyche insomuch as one cannot engage in credible criticism of one side, without having bashed the other. Ironic as it is, one of the only things on which both agree is the fact that their influence and role in public life is one of the cornerstones of national stability and co-existence.
Some roads may indeed lead to Rome, but in our march to a secular society, we take the road less travelled, and that will make all the difference…