Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Christianity according to,,,

Although Catholicism is in my genes, the fact that I do not practice the Faith indicates that I have problems with it. Fundamentally, although not entirely, because the Faith has problems with me.
The definition of ex cathedra in Roman theology concerns pronouncements about "faith and morals". An interesting distinction. As I have said, despite my personal shipwreck over The Problem of Evil and my subsequent connection to Gnosticism, as far as the oft-disputed doctrines go, the ones that challenge ordinary reason --the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Sacraments-- I never had much problem at all. My resistance and, frankly, resentment, was focussed mostly on morality.

The homosexual issue was the breaking point, of course. Yet as much as I regret the impasse, I can't really see any way out of it. Some elements of some documents on the issue have seemed to me unnecessarily harsh and unsympathetic, but I recognize that if the axiom that holds Catholic sexual morality together were to be unravelled, ethical chaos would ensue. So I recognize this but do not feel much about it any more, though I once did. After all I've had decades to work that through.

But what puts me off, passionately, is the current configuration of Catholic moral priorities, encapsulated in the phrase "justice and peace." To me it translates as "socialism and appeasement."
Some mewling priest was on Bill O'Reilly last night, chastizing America for celebrating the death of the man behind 9/11, the Muslim arch-terrorist Bin Laden. I wanted to punch Father in the mouth.

Twas not always thus with Holy Mother Church. Once, pardon the transgendered metaphor, she had balls.

Pope Pius V --both a Dominican and a canonized saint-- was the major force behind the European fleet that took on the Muslim Turks and beat them --with massive loss of life-- at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. And rather than demurely regretting that he was forced to be un-nice to them, he instituted an annual feast day of Our Lady of Victory to celebrate. And I have no doubt that he ordered the Te Deum to be sung in St. Peter's, thanking Christ and the Virgin for their help in slaughtering so many Mohammedans.

Was he immoral? UnChristian? UnCatholic?

Of course, not everything every Pope does or says is praiseworthy or true. But is the current pacifism an evolutionary advance or just one more accomodation to the morally-equivalent egalitarian Zeitgeist? As Bernie Goldberg said, coming on air with O'Reilly after the cleric had departed, "whether they are academics, or journalists or priests, liberals are pathetic."

But I do grant that the current mood of appeasement and high-mindedness has deep roots. The Gospels, complex documents though they be, certainly show that Jesus of Nazareth placed a very high premium on the forgiveness and love of enemies and persecutors. Perhaps my quarrel is with Him.

When I was a pastor, I remember being confronted by some pious type , who wanted me to do something (or not do something...I forget the details) because "that's what Jesus would do." My reply was heartfelt: "Jesus is not a useful model here. He had three years to deal with his disciples, from whom he demanded complete obedience, by the way, and then he died and went off to heaven. He never had to run a parish."

And that revealed one of my long-standing issues: what I perceived to be the inhumanly elevated ethical demands you find in the Gospels. I just never bought it. At least in the literal (dare I say fundamentalist) way in which soft-hearted liberals wanted me to. Funny, that. They are all against "fundamentalism" and "biblical literalism" when it clashes with their own worldview, but when it comes to their connatural attitudes of appeasement and pacifism, suddenly they are all WWJD.

Being a decent man (or woman) and still surviving in this fallen world is no easy task. And it strikes me as dishonest and hypocritical for high-minded people to rely on the brute force of other men to protect them and their loved ones, and then scold us for taking pleasure in the execution of justice.
If there is a place where Nietzsche's critique of Christianity rings true with me it is here, where being human is held in pious contempt by those who would demand that we be angels.

Pope Benedict XVI's Vatican gave a measured response, yet still piously reminding us that Christians are never supposed to take pleasure in anyone's death.

Frankly, I miss Pius V.


Anonymous said...

Good blogging. ... I'm more partial to Alexander 6. But then, I'm only a lapsed Protestant. ... A6 was an androphile, though, eh?

As for war, Jesus vamoosed out of the seculum where the tons o' fallenness occurs, and left us behind to wield the two swords (Luke 22:38), which pick'd up meaning from his Word as a justice doctrine of dividingness by sword, not a no-distinctions, no boundaries peace jamboree (Matt 10:34). Sheep vs Goats; Publican vs Pharisee, duals at grinder, bed and field, one taken one not.

Sure, a pacifist rejection of the institutions of the oikoumene is a plausible reading of the Gospel. Presumably the RCC has included orders and other groups (sodalities?) that have embraced such an interpretation of the Gospel's demands.

But whether within the RCC or as protestant communions, until our own time, sectarians accepted that a rejection of the world or the oikoumene meant withdrawal from the world. The pope didn't permit radical Franciscans to stride forward and condemn Catholic kings for wielding "temporal power." (This didn't occur even in the Papal States.)

So perhaps the Mennonite version of the RCC is the correct version of the RCC. Sad that it took c.1968 years for the RCC to begin realizing this. But in any case, this means the Mennonite RCC has no doctrine for temporal power: all such things are part of stuff that's 'passing away.' Christians owe external obedience to Roman, Islamic, Communist etc, or even falsely so-call'd Christian etc authorities (Calvinist, Lutheran, RCC, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox governments) so far as this is compatible with obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But obviously the Gospel, which pertains to eternity not to things that are passing away, can have no message for things that are passing away - no policy advice for temporal power. To every worldling involved in temporal power, the Mennonite Catholic ought to proclaim the Gospel, which if accepted means that the ex-worldling will abandon his position in government, police work, etc.

Best case scenario according to the world-withdrawal school of Christian thought (which admittedly has strong support in the NT) is that everyone convert to the Gospel and leave off temporal power. The seculum's institutions of church and state [here 'church' consider'd as purveyors of false religion, Egyptian, Islamic, Hindu, establishment-Christian, etc] would dissolve for lack of personnel.

Mennonite Catholics should hope and pray for the conversion of all persons to the Gospel even if they find it difficult to expect such an event.

Socialism enforced by temporal power is neither closer nor farther from capitalism or free-market private property etc. In fact, Mennonite Catholics should speak against socialism by temporal power since that involves an anti-Christ imitation of eternity. Christian communal ownership of property must derive from faith and baptism, not state power.

Redistribution by state power is less plausibly an imitation of Christian community since private property continues and selfishness is affirm'd: everyone has the right to their own damn fair share of Mammon.

Anyway, all the institutions of what Ernst Troeltsch calls "church-type" Christianity (Augustinian churches and Eastern Orthodoxy) have now become "sect-type" or withdrawing-from-the-world Christianity. Mennonite Catholicism has nothing meaningful to say to worldlings except that the world should be abandon'd -- single-payer health care and all.

Anonymous said...

I'm pleased you referenced Nietzsche, but isn't this statement naive or something about 'angels'? Even honest Abe Lincoln obliquely reminded Americans of the angels of their worse natures.

»If there is a place where Nietzsche's critique of Christianity rings true with me it is here, where being human is held in pious contempt by those who would demand that we be angels.«

Anonymous said...

If an inwardly world-denying sect-type Catholicism condescends to give to the state policy advice on things that are passing away, these Mennonite Catholics should be ask'd to specify the criteria, which admittedly cannot be the meaning of the Gospel.

I think formerly something like this was sort-of attempted by Thomists, who lookt to 'natural law' for criteria for public institutions including the state.

But by this condescension, Thomists didn't demand that the state live according to the Beatitudes, giving no thought for the morrow, letting enemies and criminals stomp on citizens as they wish, etc. The Gospel was for serious Catholic piety, and natural law was for the real-world state and economy.

Leah said...

Tibetan Buddhism is getting more appealing by the day.

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