Losing MY Religion

I love my girlfriend. And I’m proud of her taking the blog world by storm with her blog The Secret Vatican Spy. Her latest post is awesome, and I just wanted to chime in via the blogosphere and let you know that if you don’t read her work, please do. It will help you, it will make you laugh, you might be able to relate, or at the very least, laugh along. I just wanted to recommend that you read her latest post here.

In other news, I wanted to segue from the high praise of our favorite spy into something that’s been on my mind that is related, the idea of religion vs. relationship that seems to be so widespread nowadays.

Today we’ll address one half of the problem, tomorrow, the other half. Today we talk about Fundamentalism. Tomorrow Postmodernism.

Raised to Hate Religion

Lots of people hate religion. It’s trendy to hate organized religion. It’s trendy to be against the grain of authorities anyways. Our world has sold us the idea that organization is the problem. Of course, anything organized is inherently evil. I myself converted into a highly “religious” nondenominational church where the only rule was, we hate “religion”. Organization was and is evil, it only corrupts things. But when it really boils down to it we don’t mind organized medicine, or organized law, or organized education, because there are benefits to the system, right?

Yet, it seems that when it comes to religion, my personal ideas and experiences should be catered to at all costs. I mean, if the hospital doesn’t cater to my every request and give me a profound sense of meaning, I don’t mind, as long as I’m cured. On the other hand religion for many is a therapeutic product, instead of a spiritual discipline. I think that there have been lacks of emphasis on the personal dimension of faith in the past, but the answer is not to run to the other extreme and make everything personal, and all about me.

There are problems with this sort of personalistic tendency, and the first is that, you have taken the place of all authority and essentially asserted yourself over the Holy Scriptures, the Magisterium, the Tradition, the Saints and God. And this personalism has two sides. The Fundamentalist position, and the Postmodernist position.

1) The Fundamentalist Position

This position is often characterized by a strong sense of certainty, not in the Church, or in the Tradition, or in the wisdom of the leaders of the Church, but in my tastes. Many of my Catholic friends know what I’m talking about. There are holier-than-thou people out there who think that a vernacular mass is just one step above cultic devil-worship or just a cut above a really ugly non-Catholic service. I know some people who have intimated that a Novus Ordo mass is invalid. This position hates the idea that the organization can make a decision it is unhappy with, and vehemently fights for personal preference with a minority against the majority.

Papa Kant?

Fundamentalism in this sense is, taking my own experiences and turning them into universal law. Taking my own ideas and projecting them as the way the world should will things to be. In other words, a Kantian view of metaphysics, morals and religion. This position doesn’t operate under the authority of the pope, but of a new pope, a philosophical pope, Kant’s view of the universe and not the Church’s shapes such as these. I begin to act as though my own personal experiences should simply be the way things are, and this breeds a profound arrogance. When I am the measure of my own faith, and not the Church or her saints, something is gravely wrong and I might be honoring the wrong sort of authority.

All this is is the supremacy of a very flawed position. A church “looking back to better days”  is not what the Church is. In every age the Church has risen to the occasion, from the gentile inclusion to the innovation of a standard Latin mass. Believe it or not, sometimes the Church is scandalously progressive. That we have nostalgia for a yesterday that does not exist, an “earlier” Church, where the issues we face today might not have been issues simply betrays our lack of ability to live “in the now”. Let me tell you a little secret, in every age, and in all generations the Church of Jesus Christ has faced problems and challenges from within and from without, without facing these challenges head-on, we would be horribly inept at saying anything to the world of today.

The Supremacy of ME

Ultimately, this position is an organized form of dissent that says ‘anywhere this system disagrees with MY interpretation of what it should be it is wrong,’ and where we find ourselves saying that, we have found ourselves outside the Catholicity of the Church and her Teaching. It is the religion of Me, the religion of my religion, the religion of my desires and thoughts on laws and strictures of the Church.

If you disagree with the Magisterium that is fine, but unless you have a god-given authority to stand on, like obvious saintly vocation, or some other extraordinary virtues to back you up as you go gallivanting about doing so, stop trying to be Martin Luther reincarnate and be Catholic. If you want to be a protestant go do so, but don’t bring your preconceived supremacy of self to the doorstep of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and expect to be taken seriously.

I grew up in a culture and converted to a Christian faith that taught me the same, to hate religion and prize my own thoughts. They taught me to prize my opinion above all else, when Christ asked me to set myself to death. Jesus and His Church asked me to have the mind of Christ and make myself a servant. I can’t exactly serve if I am always assuming that I know best.

If I am a strong detractor of what I have come from at times, it is because I have learned a brighter path. But we’ll talk about that more, the next time.

Peace be with you.


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6 responses to “Losing MY Religion”

  1. Alex J. S. says :

    I think what both of these positions boil down to is the sin of pride. (Indeed, Aquinas says that “heresy is a species of pride rather than of unbelief” [Summa Theol. II, part 2, q. 11 art. 1.].) It’s a terrible and modern idea that my individual welfare should take precedence over the good of the whole (as you neatly express it, “the supremacy of ME”).

    An authentic Christianity is founded in humility. This means humble submission to Tradition and Scripture on an institutional level, and humble submission to the revealed truths of Christ’s Church on earth on a personal level.

    Thanks for another good post.

  2. Eli says :

    Thanks Man, and yeah, I could not agree more. There’s two more posts, and in the third I address the actual Church-given moral answer to the problem, namely pride.

    I could not agree more in what founds an authentic Christianity. Also, I am glad you had that Aquinas quote, i might work it into one of the next two posts.

    Thanks for your comment, as always, and take care. I should be trolling around your blog a bit more this week. ^_^

  3. John Bowers says :

    Hey Eli, I mostly agree with you and Alex, but I would challenge you with this: It is true that the Church has at particular times realized that something it was doing needed to change. A great example of this is the one you cite: the change from the Latin mass to the vernacular. You point out that there are people who now believe this change was wrong. I would conjecture that there were probably people before VII who believed that it should be changed. I don’t think that all these people were necessarily swelling with pride, but some had really thought and prayed about the issue and come to what was at that point a different conclusion than the church–and one that history teaches us the Church eventually accepted as its own. The point being that I do believe that we have been given by God a faculty of reason (we are after all made in the image of the Logos) and are not only able but required to exercise it.

    • Eli says :

      I wouldn’t disagree at all, and I thank you for raising the point. I don’t think that being Catholic is solely about conservation, it is an expansion project, which you may or may not notice when the series is concluded.

      I am not opposed to change in the Church, and was actually affirming this, or at least intending to. I don’t think that change in the church is a matter of pride necessarily. I think that there is a pridefulness to both extremes, the liberalizing tendency, and the ultra-conservative tendency. I would not say that change is bad, but that with change there is always fallout.

      I was trying to say that opting against the Church’s stance on issues that are pretty solid is a dumb idea, and that there’s a danger in thinking that you’re the pillar and bulwark of orthodoxy and truth over against the wider Church.

      I think that there is room for a dissenting minority in the Church, especially when we remember the prophets, but I have yet to meet a strongly virtuous person who was hardcore about TLM and yet affirming and loving in their process of explaining or defending their position. That might be because of a limited exposure on my part, and I am willing to admit that, but I think there is a danger in being too conservative, and there is a danger in being too relativistic.

      I think the point you bring up about the faculty of reason is important and I’d love to see if anyone in the blogosphere has written a post about how to dissent Catholicly, or if that’s just something that seems impossible, or has not yet been seen as a need. (Maybe I can make a million dollars with a book on the subject mwahahahahaha)

      In all seriousness, thanks for the feedback, it’s always appreciated.

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