Sarita Colonia – THE REMIX!!!!!

9 10 2008

As a way of introduction to the post below, a song to the Peruvian folk saint re-worked by the rock group, Los Mojarras. (A version of the original song was posted in this post.)

Folk Catholicism vs. Pop Catholicism

9 10 2008

A distinction without a difference?

In conversation with others, I have found myself coining the term “pop Catholicism”. Well, I didn’t exactly coin the term, but I think it is a good working one. First of all, “pop Catholicism” invokes commercialist and individualist tendencies; the superficiality of a technicolor dream. It is consumerist, it wears its Catholicism on the sleeve as a “personal choice”. It also transcends the dichotomy of right and left; EWTN and America Magazine are both consumeristic from a social persective. “Pop Catholicism” is felt banners, Catholic rock music, apologetics CD’s and radio, along with other kitsch that is associated with modern culture. It is Catholicism for a non-Catholic, post-industrial, and postmodern society. It is the synthesis of many tendencies from formerly Catholic societies and their grafting onto a non-Catholic, inorganic context.

Is there a difference between this and what is known as “Folk Catholicism”? In certain countries, the difference is negligible. No doubt folk Catholicism has always been more open to popular elements than its mainstream counterpart. And within the context of modernization, folk Catholicism will no doubt develop in parallel terms along with American “pop Catholicism”. In some ways, the parallels may be striking if not at all surprising. The obsession of left wing Catholics in this country with the New Age  is similar to the rise of spiritism in many places in Latin America prior to Vatican II, and many folk saint curanderos  were also mediums and played around with spiritism [the cult of Niño Fidencio (pictured above) in northern Mexico and the syncretic religions of Brazil are examples of this.]  Modern themes also emerge in folk Catholicism: sports, homosexuality, migration, computers, and other phenomena of the modern age.

To make a glib statement, “pop Catholicism” is folk Catholicism with money, stripped of its need to create supernatural helpers and enemies in the struggle for survival. Folk Catholicism at its worse reverses the premise of the Lord’s Prayer: not “Thy will be done” but rather “MY will be done” in a world where what is contrary to your will could also be very hazardous to your health. When we have reached a point when our will is usually done within the context of consumerist gratification, the Catholic believer disposes of the helpers in the Christian cosmos that get him out of unpleasant binds. Man no longer has need for prayer, and if he does pray, it usually is to celebrate his own dignity and equality with other men (one only need look at the content of modern Catholic hymns).  Pop Catholicism is folk Catholicism without the need, and when man finally finds himself in need in the modern context, he knows not who or how to ask.

Religion no longer is seen as something necessary for survival, but rather another component of good citizenship and self-fulfilment. And if the former gets in the way of the latter, it is obvious what needs to be ignored. In both its right and left wing manifestations, it is a profoundly personal choice. Before, people picked what saints would go on their personal altar to invoke in life and death situations. Now, they pick dogmas and liturgical ceremonies of their own chosing.

Pop Catholicism is all about choice. Folk Catholicism is all about necessity. A modern Catholic rejecting a particular dogma does so because it does not suit him. A medieval mother kidnapping the Christ Child from the arms of the Virgin to ransom Him for the life of her own child, or an old woman lighting a candle to the Grim Reaper so that he won’t snatch her in the night does it out of necessity.  If we return to the state of necessity instead of that of choice, if poverty becomes the norm and not the exception, will we know then how to spiritually survive?