Follow-up from last week’s post

6 03 2008


From the Lion and the Cardinal:

A priest recently told me that a Catholic must keep his priorites in the following order: God first, family second, everything else third. Trite but so true. Historically, religious affiliation has, for most men, been determined by ancestry. It is not the best reason, because ancestors may have been wrong; but it is the second-best reason. In abandoning this reason for religious affiliation, has society moved up to choosing religion for the sake of God, or down to choosing religion for the sake of neither God nor family? Everything I observe indicates the latter.

In other words, religiosity in America is like moss on stone: widespread but with shallow roots. Food for thought.



4 responses

8 03 2008

Faith of our Fathers is all very well but I suspect many ex Catholics would say it is not to be found in the church of the Novus Ordo.

Am I wrong to think there is a staggering growth of Protentism in Latin America?

8 03 2008
Arturo Vasquez

Firstly, I didn’t say whether I agreed with Daniel Mitsui’s comments or not. I just see where they are going. I think the evidence of the survey says that the Church in this country is really not in good shape in terms of keeping its faithful, and I think that this is the issue at hand. In a consumerist culture, consumerism will inevitably infect religion, and that may not be a good thing.

I am not the most pessimistic person in the world when it comes to the U.S. My comment about the moss was not to say that the religiosity of Americans is insincere, I am saying that it is just not very thought-out and not very deep. In other words, it doesn’t really reflect the life of the civil society in this country. It is something very private, something that in the end should not transcend the bounds of the hearth with the exception of if it starts invading my right to live my life as I want it. Maybe American religiosity means that our T.V. programs are a bit cleaner and our attitudes towards Christianity more positive than say in contemporary Europe. The ability to change religions so easily, however, means that our allegiances might be more towards ourselves and less towards the confessions that we grew up with. Christianity is useful to me; it makes me feel good, etc. The advantage of inheriting the true Faith is that you escape this trap of allegiance to self; the disadvantage is that you will probably take it for granted (hey this isn’t a competition, and nobody wins here.)

If some amorphous cloud known as “Christianity” is what Americans have their allegiance to, and the divides between the churches something that is dependent on one’s consumer choices, then one has little allegiance to the real Christ, but rather an allegiance to a cult of niceness and decency. I remember an anecdote of the Russian Orthodox theologian Fr. Georges Florovsky who taught Patristics at an Ivy League school back east. He was lecturing one day on the theology of Origen, and a young evangelical man interjected with the question, “What does any of this have to do with Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior?” Florovsky responded: “Young man, I was converted to Jesus Christ, not Protestant evangelical piety,” and he continued his lecture on Origenism. The point is, Jesus is not some brand name that one can extract from history, culture, theology, and praxis. Jesus Christ is the Logos who unites all creation, and is an all or nothing deal. Protestantism, and particularily Protestantism in this country, makes Him into a product; an imaginary friend and a virtual buddy. If I have any issues with Catholicism in some of its American avatars, it is that it can fall into the same traps.

The Holy Ghost blows where He wills, and no doubt that much of the talk of “loving Jesus” in this country is very sincere and heart-felt. That may be enough to save people’s souls, and at the end of the day, that is really all that matters, isn’t it? But we must also be aware that this is not the fullness of the Christian way, and in things like this, we have to be as maximalist as possible. You can’t screw around with the truth. And in proclaiming its fullness, that doesn’t mean you are condemning everyone else to Hell.

My main point: America is a nice place. It is no better or worse than anywhere else. And I thank God for all of the nice things we have in this society, and that you can talk about Jesus in most places and people will not look at you as if you have two heads. But let’s face it: America is shallow, its religion in general, is shallow. And shallow is not the same as “simple”: my grandparents both have third grade educations, and that means that they are not the brightest people in the world. They’re simple people. But when confronted with Protestantism, they are staunch in their Catholic Faith, and they pray and read their Bible, and they have a deep sense that they believe what they believe because their families taught them about Jesus. Their families were Jesus to them, and they view it through that prism of communal love and obligation. And for me that is a superior form of believing: Jesus through the prism of history, tradition, culture and community. That is deep. America is not that. Shallow can be sincere, it can be loving, it can be very, very nice. But it is still shallow. I just call it as I see it.

7 03 2008
Sam (as in Uncle not Orthodox)


You sound like Owen concerning the United States of America.

I am not sure if the qoute from Daniel Mitsui’s Lion and the Cardinal post can bring you or fits with your final conclusion.

This country always had deep religious conviction (unlike Moss) with the indigeneous peoples, especially (obviously not in the US) with Mexican indigeneous relgiousity. The first visitors to the United States whether it was the Spanish in Florida, or French in Louisiana, or the Puritans in the Northeast, or the Jesuits in Canada—were very deep and profound–and besides the later creation of the United–were fairly untouched by the enlightenment unlike their European counterparts. (again except in the United States)

While you and Daniel think that the choices and lack of just hereditary religion is bad–I do not think it is bad per se or necessarily even at all.
I am Catholic and believe that Catholicism is the fullness of the Truth and the only true religion and even beyond the religion-the truth inherently. However, I also recognize not only Vatican II but St. Pius X, St. Justin Martyr, St. Jerome–and many others in recognizing the concept that Karl Rahner has (I don’t like Rahner but only the concept) of the Anonymous (or is it invisible) Christian.)

Many Catholic apologetics and more so Evangelical Christian tracts lambast Mormons and Jehovahs Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists–I do not agree with their theology and find many of their beliefs problematic BUT:
1. Mormons have a strong family structure (some supposed sociological data in tracts notwithstanding that denies other data and is not my personal experience). They are good and honest in business as a general rule (although not universal) They have a unique and interesting history and are truly American. They have a dedication and fervor for their religion from persecution, to the trek across America, to fights with union soldiers, Indians, alliances etc–does this mean I am Mormon–NO–I think their theology is like reading Tolkien–but to note their fervor and positive social attributes is possible and right to do.
2. I had a friend who died in the funeral business (a Catholic) who stated the best and most honest people he dealt with in the funeral business were Jehovahs witnesses. Again, their theology and some of their practices are bizarre. But if you are walking down the street at night and you see a bunch of Jehovahs Witnesses–you are not going to cross to the other side.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses have also produced an incredible corpus of legal cases on freedom of religion that are landmarks in our countries legal history and current interpretations and help, do help, and could help Catholics and other religions and individuals who practice them.
3. Seventh Day Adventists do think the or at least did think the Pope was the anti-Christ and the royal Tiara had 666 in some form or fashion interpreted or otherwise on it. They also have the longest lives in Southern California credited to their strong family structures, sense of community, prohibitions on alcohol, and not eating pork–but also besides prohibitions which may or may not affect health–organic food and eating healthy something forgotten in most Americans.

I also think both you (Arturo) and Daniel Mitsui are much too hard on the US-Anglo American (at least by culture) “apologetics industry” of the Scott Hahns, Jeff Cavins, Ken Hensleys–the EWTN shows–those CDs you can get free or from a donation in the back of many churches, World Youth Days etc.
There was actually a corresponding post from the AG Blog (Go sit in the corner?) about her experience with her School ministry (A&M or St. Marys if I recall) and being “Pope John Paul II Catholics” eg lay participation in the Mass, probably some guitars, orthodox theology, theology of the body, pro-life–but probably some jeans and t-shirts and singing and guitar playing–but lots of vocations and good classes etc. No, it is not SSPX or even Opus Dei but pretty good.

The Scott Hahns, Jimmy Akins, Fr. Coprapi. Fr. Benedict Groeschell’s, Fr. Loya, Jeff Cavins, Ken Hensley, TV, radio etc–are VERY DEEP–not like Mos–YES–a little cheesy at times and not for everyone BUT REAL CATHOLICS–and by their fruits they shall know them–not just MEAN spirited attacks (manytimes true) without love like the New Oxford Review–or the sometimes arrogance (albeit exactness) of Fr. Z—but a POSITIVE, PRO-ACTIVE approach. Teaching the Bible. Teaching Theology. Explaining how to raise kids or keep a marriage intact from former Baptists with 10 kids. Issues of Sexuality. Personal conversion stories that don’t sound like Moss.
I know lots of people who converted listening to Scott Hahn tapes and CDs or watching Life on the Rock, Coming Home to Rome (or whatever it is called).
The Apologetics Industry is not merely a copy of Evangelical culture but a continuation of these former Protestants encounters with Jesus Christ and the utilization of the Anglo-American culture which they came and where they live and that affects any of us who live in the US.

The United States of America is home to many immigrants, albeit not all educated, that brought statues, relics and customs from Italy, the Carpatho Mountains with Ruthenian bearded married Catholic priests, Processions from specific small towns in Sicily of St. Rocco, customs from Ireland, Icons from Ukraine–that made the United States more interesting and diverse in terms of religion than any Nation on the planet. Relatively more tolerant (the nuances of a secular culture, some bad past history, and bad current trends notwithstanding) of anywhere else in the world. Non Catholics like the German Missouri Synod Lutherans who were the breakaway Lutherans brought a depth and fervor in many Churches and even schools, hospitals and universities all over the Midwest. The Dutch Reformed in the USA are more devout Christians and Calvinists (if the two words can be put together) than their cousins and ancestors in Europe and maybe even South Africa.

In the United States their are beautiful Hindu Temples, huge beautiful Mosques (not allowed in every country at all times), Bahai temples of incredible architecture, and Protestant demoninations of every stripe and some very profound thinkers (whether you agree with them or not) like the Lutheran Marty Martin or the Muslim (not US originally) Hossein Nasr Seyyed.
Go to the South and Middle America and you will see more people in community and wear their religion on their sleeve (and yes they have other probelms) than Berkley USA. Go into any major city and visit a Mexican neighborhood and see in many if not most of the houses the same saints tables and walls as you post in the photos on your blog about your Grandma.

The religiousity is not the moss but the rock itself albeit one that has been thrown around a lot and lots of people want strike and break.

6 03 2008

Well, the opportunity to choose for one reason cannot, it seems, be disconnected from the opportunity to choose for the other. I’ve seen a bit of both. Many people today are, in fact, choosing to change religions because of their understanding of God.

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