Sunday, July 08, 2007

Good News

The first bishop of the United States was Archbishop John Carroll (+1815). He wrote:
"...we are all but one body in Christ, and that which strengthens and gives vigor to this mystical body is the common edification mutually given and received, and resulting from the outward functions of religion, which make the greater impression, as we are naturally more encouraged to imitate what we see. But if, on the other hand, this outward worship begins to be neglected, all languishes with it: the idea of religion itself begins to fade away in our minds; impiety avails itself of this neglect and introduces not only a disgust, but even a contempt of all public and every private worship."
What the modern, superficial, and naive secularist who finds himself or herself in this state of "contempt" for the public or private worship as members of the body of Christ, the Church, does not realize is that if one will not have the revealed religion, or faith, that Archbishop Carroll admonishes us to observe, then the only alternative is, as Nietzsche taught us, is Dionysian religion. And what, pray tell is that? Gil Bailie informs us in his tape series on The Gospel of John:
At the Dionysian ritual, the point at which the distinction between male and female, between pleasure and pain, between sex and violence are swept away is the point at which the ritual is about to settle down to its sacrificial business ... [4b]
(For a more detailed examination of the primitive sacred, I suggest chapter one, "The Victimage Mechanism as the Basis of Religion," in Girard's Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World.) The point is, we may choose to practice (in every since of that word) the Christian faith, or we will fall into the ancient practices of the Dionysian, regardless of the myriad ways we "gussy up" and rationalize it. Probably the most foolish, naive, and self-congratulatory notion today is the myth of the autonomous self. "I Did It Myyyyy Wayyyyy" is the single silliest idea to pass through the human mind, and one that all traditional societies would see as dangerous as the plague. Such a self simply does not exist. Mimetic studies have had to invent an illumining word to help us better understand subjectivity and personhood; namely, "interdividuality". The only choice we have to avoid psychological promiscuity (of which sexual promiscuity is only one symptom) and becoming another modern who has fallen into the Dionysian is to choose to follow Christ through His Church.

"But won't any religion do?" the question may be asked. The shadow of mortality may begin to haunt a person after a close encounter with injury, illness, or death itself, after all. It's quite a marketplace out there, with every imaginable religionist hawking his or her wares. "Why Christianity, for goodness' sake? Why not something more cool? Hip?"

Let's take just one example: Islam. The word itself means "submission". To whom, or what? Like that of all religions, the question goes back to the image of God of this particular religion. In the case of Islam, God, Allah, is a Taskmaster, harsh Judge and Master. Humans are mere slaves, either obedient and faithful or unfaithful, but slaves -- all -- nonetheless. Submit to this Dictator deity, or else... Well, if that is what God is really like, wanting global war, then I'll take hell and the sooner the better.

But if the Bible is correct, and by the way, if the Catholic Church that produced the Bible is correct, then God is love -- a love that is the source and ground of our very being; a love that is steadfast and unconditional; a love that will not abandon us, but is willing to allow us the free will to walk away from this love that is our grounding and selfhood. The Christian faith goes so far as to say that this love became one-with-us, the "Word made flesh" [Jn 1,14] in Jesus Christ the Lord. He lived among us, taught and healed, was crucified, died, was buried, and rose from death in glory and vindication. He established his Church on earth to continue his mission and ministry, feed us grace through his Sacraments, and to reassure us that he will be with us always "the close of the age" [Matt 28,20].

The secularist believes there is no God; no heaven; no hell. So eat, drink, be merry, for tomorrow we will be worm food. He will predictably end up pagan and acting (tho' never admitting) in ways that show that he is worshiping pagan gods and goddesses in "primitive forms of bonding" (Bailie). You can call that good news if you want. I don't.

The Muslim talks about a deity who wants faithful, obedient slaves. You can call that good news if you want. I don't.

Perhaps G. K. Chesterton said well what constitutes good news to mortals:
"...So far as a man may be proud of a religion rooted in humility, I am very proud of my religion; I am especially proud of those parts of it that are most commonly called superstition. I am proud of being fettered by antiquated dogmas and enslaved by dead creeds (as my journalistic friends repeat with so much pertinacity), for I know very well that it is the heretical creeds that are dead, and that it is only the reasonable dogma that lives long enough to be called antiquated."

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