Losing MY Religion Part Two

I’d like to open by saying I find it hard to take postmodernism seriously, as an intellectual position or otherwise. This position is characterized by a strong hatred of any authority, good, healthy, or otherwise, at least on matters that don’t matter. This position questions religious authority, the nature of reality, and the objectivity of meaning, but is ultimately a waste of time. This position also continues to advance medicine as if bodies really and truly matter, and continues to sustain a global market that while in recession economically is ever-expanding culturally.

2) The Postmodern Position

This position says that we should pick and choose everything, because everything is relative. It comes at a price though, because its overarching dogma is that nothing matters except the idea that nothing matters. Nothing holds weight, everything is opinion in this view. In this view the world itself is subject to my interpretation and nothing holds water.

The postmodernist position defeats plurality through a higher singular Truth, that there are no absolutes. But if things cannot be more true, or less true on a spiritual level, why is this the case on a physical level? If one could say something more true and less true about physical reality, why is it suddenly the unspoken sin of modern culture to say that this cannot be true at all or spiritual reality?

“Your view is your view, and my view is my view.” This isn’t Catholic at all, nor is it Christian. I have lots of well-meaning Christian friends who simply want to affirm that anyone and everyone is right, and that all the christianities are Christianity. This simply cannot be the case. While we may affirm the separation of our churches, we should work towards a greater unity, and that unity has to subsist in and be fully shaped by our quest for Truth together.

Sometimes there are legitimate places where we may disagree or have a closely related plurality of views, but when this becomes a dogmatic “there is no Truth, no right answer, only your view and my view” you’re already approaching the argument from a flawed perspective.

Instead of hearing and meeting the other person to quest for Truth, you have imposed your pluralism onto them. Other times, this view takes the form of an over-spiritualistic view that says that the only thing that matters is that we all embrace the “spiritual growth” of one another, without any structure.

The supreme problem with this coalition of looslely associated views is that they form the other half of the problem of fundamentalism. It is nothing but a supreme form of arrogance to assert that a viewpoint is inherently on equal footing with every other simply because it makes you uncomfortable to seek actual Truth.

Further, if we look at how this is related to Fundamentalism we see that the means are different but the end is the same, the supremacy of self above all else. We see that what transpires is my self-assertion and my imposing myself onto reality to make it serve either my obstinate determination that only I am correct in asserting my interpretation of reality, or on the other hand that only I am correct in saying there is no meaning outside of me. Both views arrive at one conclusion: I, not Christ (by whom all thing were made) determine the shape and nature of the universe. Another name for this is pride.

A Brighter Christian Relationship

Let’s face it, we have all heard, if we have protestant friends especially, “it’s not about religion it’s about relationship.” My only retort  is: If it’s about relationship, why is it not about relationships? What I mean is, why isn’t it about the way our faith is shaped with others? Why isn’t it about the way that others relationships with God can shape our own?

I think sometimes people forget that the saints had and have personal relationships with God that have shaped the Church far more than politics, or philosophies or any other thing. The saints are leaders, elders in the faith, and we can trust their experience of God because we know that God spoke to them. Such virtuous lives cannot but testify to the work of God, and yet sometimes people look at the lives of the saints and play the pharisee by wondering “By what authority is someone doing such miraculous works?”

The thing  is if we took seriously the idea of relationship, we should see that it’s not only our relationship to God personally that matters, but God’s relationship to the entire Church should shape our own. If we took seriously that Christ is the light of the world we might notice that some people in Christian history are indeed illuminated.

A Relationship Together

We, in Christ, can trust each other, we cannot have relationship with God apart from the personal dimension, because all must behold God for themselves in the end, but we have to approach this path together. I think communion of the saints and the authority of the Church as doctrines make sense if we begin to understand the potential for a brighter illumination. If you’ve ever flown in a plane at night, sometimes you see a light or two in dark, rural areas, but what happens when you see two or three of those lights together? They’re much brighter.

In the same way, when we combine our little light, with the light of others, virtuous mothers and fathers in the faith, there’s so much more we can do. We can’t build for a New Jerusalem if we’re so busy building mini-towers of Babel to this or that idea, instead of joining in the one kingdom. There is One Faith, One Hope, One God, One Lord Jesus Christ and He has called us into the kingdom and given us apostles and prophets and teachers that we might learn how to truly follow in the Way of Christ.

As a friend of mine says, “Blessed is the Kingdom.” We bless this Kingdom when we enter into it humbly, seeking to unite ourselves to others instead of rejecting them. We build for the kingdom one brick at a time when we stand with other Christians, the faithful, the tested and the proven as prophets pointing us in the right direction. When we unite ourselves together with others who have light, we can truly build a city on a hill. You can’t exactly build a city without walls, without structures and certainly you cannot do it without others.


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5 responses to “Losing MY Religion Part Two”

  1. Alex J. S. says :

    Excellent as usual.

    Some musings about the “relationship vs. religion” distinction…

    First, I notice that those who espouse this distinction usually hold the two terms to be mutually exclusive, for reasons that I cannot fathom. The Catholic way of thinking is not one of “either–or”, but “both–and”. We can observe the rubrics of the Mass and honor God with the noblest liturgy we have to offer while at the same time observing preferential option for the poor and cultivating personal relationships with God. That being said, the Church does not hold all things to be equal along this “both–and” spectrum: there’s a hierarchy of goods. The worship of God and the salvation of souls (for which liturgy is a tool) are more important than merely caring for people’s bodies.

    Second and finally, I wonder how it isn’t enough for Protestants to simply observe the facts of history and see that the Church, from the earliest days of her existence, had a liturgy. (John’s Book of the Apocalypse, for instance, unveils itself in a specifically liturgical way [for more about this, read Scott Hahn’s excellent The Supper of the Lamb], and Justin Martyr describes the Church’s liturgy in essentially the form in which it exists today as early as 100 A.D.)

    • Eli says :

      Thanks. As always you’re back to offer some great insights. I’ll illuminate your conundrum and hopefully provide some understanding in an issue that makes sense to us, but not to others.

      To address your first paragraph: great thoughts. “First, I notice that those who espouse this distinction usually hold the two terms to be mutually exclusive, for reasons that I cannot fathom.”

      The reason is that everyone needs an enemy, and for low-church types who are often though not always culturally compromised, religion is the by-word for emptiness and shallow faith. The Catholic way often requires thought, which is something that seems to be in short supply. Kierkegaard put it best when he said we use the freedom of speech, but make no claims on the freedom of thought. Both-and positions often require education, or understanding, another thing that’s been under attack in our culture.

      The Church has a very logical position, but when people are obstinate about the way they do things, it has to seem illogical or flawed in some way to assert their own “reforms.”

      Second, History is the elephant in the room. Protestants observe the facts and have to draw one of two conclusions: Either Catholics are right, and the Magisterial Traditions are the fullness of faith and instruction leading to the illegitimacy of what you have known your whole life, or Protestants are right and free-worship is somehow embodying the spirit of Christ in a way that ancient practices cannot and do not thus making them illegitimate.

      I think that having come from where I come from it was not a simple answer to recognize that what I knew was in some ways lacking. I wanted it to be right. I wanted Catholics to worship Mary or eat babies or turn wafers into flesh or something, anything to give my contentions room to stand. For Evangelical Protestant Historians the question often, though not always, becomes one of either sympathy, or bias. Both of which make for bad scholarship.

      I’m not saying all Protestants are ignorant, because they’re not, but I do think that the problem is one of either lack of exposure(which was my case as a young convert to evangelical Christianity) which often includes a general bias against Catholics,or one of having to uphold a Tradition which forms you, for one of whatever various reasons.

      For me, History was the crux that over and over compelled me closer and closer to the faith, but most Christians simply lack any understanding of that.

      I was raised assuming that there was the early Church, then the Church lost sight of God for a couple hundred years with people here and there guiding but poorly and then there was the Hero Luther, fighting injustice and making a way for freedom to come to the gospel, and then the freedom of worship happened gradually. The way I was raised praised fragmentation as a form of liberation from the old. It was a tragic position to be in, but it took three years of intensive education and study and prayer and thought to finally come to a cognitive and spiritual assent.

      I am sorry to drone on, I’ll write a post about my former worldview sometime.

      Thanks for the comment. ^_^

  2. Joshua Michael says :

    Nice post. I agree with you overall, but I’d like to offer some defense of postmodernism. The sort of postmodernism you described is what is sometimes called “left wing postmodernism.” But there is also a sort of “right wing postmodernism” which is the sort that characterizes Alasdair MacIntyre’s thought.

    The latter is very friendly to Christianity and Catholicism because of how it emphasizes the absurdity of trying to make rational judgments without being part of a coherent philosophical tradition.

  3. Eli says :

    good point Joshua, I’d like to write about that at some point in the future, but this post did not have room.

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