On the inherent superiority of Western culture

4 02 2010

Greek wisdom and Roman law were divine gifts that prepared the fullness of time for the coming of the Savior. Only this cultural treasure, after centuries of theological discussions and conciliar definitions, allowed the great Christian dogmas to be formulated with precision. And since they [the neo-modernists] like to speak of the “incarnation”: Just as only the most pure flesh of the Virgin Mary was capable of receiving the Word of God, thus only the “flesh” of Greco-Roman culture was sufficently healthy enough to be animated by the wisdom of the Gospel, and to build the cathedral of Christian cultural, the highest spire of which is the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas. But for the mentality that has today invaded the Church, we have just blasphemed: in Africa, India, and America we have to begin anew. And since there has been a cultural revolution in the Christian West, we have a new task for the next millenium: “A new mobilization is imposed on the Church, in order to confront the task of inculturation of the Gospel in the modern world. In this matter we should embrace the concern of John Paul II: ‘From the beginning of my pontificate I have considered the dialogue of the Church with the cultures of our time an important field of work in which the fate of the world at the end of the 20th century is at play’.”

-Fr. Álvaro Calderón, La Lámpara bajo el Celemín: Cuestión disputada sobre la autoridad doctrinal del Magisterio eclesiástico desde el Concilio Vaticano II, my translation

In spite of my perennialist tendencies, my impulse to post Hindu kirtans and videos of Vodou rituals, I agree 100% with Fr. Calderon’s assessment. Christianity is fundamentally a historical religion. If there were any way to get around that, I would have found it by now. But the fact that the Gospel was written in Greek using concepts such as “logos” that had been in formation in the Greek mind for centuries is no mere accident of history. God could have been incarnated in the context of another culture, just as He “could have” been incarnated in a pearl or an ass. But He did not do that; He came into this world at a very specific time and a very specific place, as did His Body, the Church. Even the Fathers of the Church saw this, and there will always be a superiority of the Greek and Latin tongues to all others, just as the Muslims consider Koranic Arabic sacred, or the Jews Hebrew.

That being said, I think that it is profitable to study other forms of religiosity and cultures, since I do think (good crypto-perennialist that I am) that in them are embodied foreshadowing echoes of the Word of God. They also teach us concepts that we, in our sanitized, modern mentality, once understood but some time ago forgot. But this always has to be done in the mind frame of historical hierarchy. God chose to express Himself this way, and we are obligated to keep to that way as much as possible.

As for inculturation itself, it is not an easy process, and it takes centuries to happen legitimately, and not without many setbacks. I have long defended on this blog the idea that even the more “exotic” aspects of Mexican “folk Catholicism” are just as “Western” as the Pope and the Summa. Only after centuries, and not a little violence, did Catholicism become not just the religion of the State, but of the hearts and minds of even the simplest people. Indeed, if you mentioned to me the persistence of indigenous religion outside of remote parts of Yucatan and Chiapas, I would laugh in your face, as would most Mexicans, save the random New Age-style shaman trying to perform a limpia on you in the Zocalo in Mexico City. Catholicism, in its Spanish flavor with a few alterations, is the indigenous religion of Mexico, as much as that frustrates intellectual radicals who would return us to the pristine religion of “Aztlan” and the “Mexicas”.