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Why is CNN’s Reza Aslan Hyping Death-Worshiping Cult While Disparaging Catholicism?

On Sunday’s episode of the CNN miniseries Believer, Reza Aslan boosted the Mexican cult of Santa Muerte, or “Saint Death,” as a religion for the “disenfranchised.”

Aslan, who took part in eating human brain tissue in an earlier episode of the miniseries, interviewed several devotees of the rapidly-growing Mexican folk religion. He particularly zeroed in on its appeal to drug traffickers, prisoners, and the “transgendered” community.

The liberal author touted that “one of the most fascinating aspects of Santa Muerte devotion is that it’s led almost wholly by women. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering that this is a movement that began in the kitchens of traditional female healers.”

Aslan later spotlighted a Santa Muerte festival, and gushed that “the kind of people that are here — the disenfranchised; people looking for work; people who have been left behind by the state, by the [Catholic] Church — it’s a new community — a new religion, really, that’s forming before our eyes. It’s amazing. It’s amazing to me.”

During the episode, the CNN host’s open-minded approach to the Santa Muerte cult contrasted with his clear slant against the traditionally predominant Catholic faith in Mexico. Mere minutes into the broadcast, he claimed that “Mexican Catholicism is predicated heavily on the saints.”

While veneration of the saints is a key aspect of the Catholic religion, the faith isn’t “predicated” on them. Above all, the Catholic Church preaches Jesus Christ; and while the saints are invoked in its worship, the Son of God is clearly at the center of the Mass.

Aslan continued by pointing out that “there is even a saint for biracial children — Saint Martin de Pareo [sic] — who, for some awkward reason, is usually depicted with a broom.” If the author had only done a modicum of research, he would have found out that St. Martin de Porres is often depicted with a broom because, out of humility, he “regarded his chores as if they were the highest honors.” This isn’t “awkward” at all.

The author also highlighted dueling shrines — one to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the Mexican Catholic title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the other to Santa Muerte — that sit across the street from each other in a Mexican neighborhood. He noted that the Guadalupe shrine was “put here by a couple of the neighboring parishes, as a way of discouraging people from the worship of Santa Muerte.”

Aslan emphasized that “you can see how big and grand this is, compared to what is really a small Santa Muerte shrine; and, of course, with these eyes staring at the devotees, as they make their way down the street to Santa Muerte.” For whatever reason, he felt the need to add, “I don’t think it works.”

[image via screengrab] 

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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