In defense of religious snobbery

29 09 2010

Or: what I do in real life

I don’t think that there is anything wrong being a liturgical snob, and it just makes sense on one level. Do you honestly think that the King of France should have attended the same kind of Mass that the plebs had in a country chapel in Provence? Or do you think that sending Bossuet to such a chapel would vastly benefit the peasants more than the rustic style Catholicism that they were used to? I don’t think so.

The problem that I see is that Vatican II was a flattening of Catholicism. That cannot be helped, as the rest of society was flattened in terms of class divisions. When I lived in So-Cal, it was not uncommon to see people fall out of their Hummers and into a strip mall looking like bums in their flip-flops and raggedy clothes. Rich people wouldn’t be caught dead wearing that sort of thing back in the day if they could help it. Also, look at the state of weddings: people blow thousands of dollars on those sorts of things and they still come out looking cheesy and cheap. (Never understood the whole “getting married outdoors” thing, although AG and I have been over this in terms of “secular weddings”.) How much do you think liturgy directors at large mega-parishes earn? And look at the crap they put out Sunday after Sunday.

So it doesn’t make sense that little ol’ moi would go to the local parish down the street. I read philosophy books on my lunch break, and save up money just to fly to places to see a ballet. My wife and I usually spend Friday nights watching films with subtitles (lots and lots of films with subtitles). Sometimes to relax, we’ll put on some Charles Ives or Bartok. So how are we going to just go down the street and listen to some guy with a guitar chirp out “One Bread, One Body” and NOT roll our eyes? Does that make us worse Christians for not suffering with the plebs? So be it.

And that is sort of my whole point: whether you go to a traditional Mass or an Eastern-rite liturgy, that doesn’t necessarily make you a better Christian, and maybe you should stop associating where you go to church with that issue altogether. I come from a very “low church” background: raised charismatic, bombarded by kitsch and folk Catholic imagery, and surrounded by people who had just come straight from el rancho in Mexico. I appreciate that upbringing for what it was, but that doesn’t mean I want to live it, and that doesn’t mean that I am going to condemn it either. It is what it is. 99% of people will be happy with that stuff, or at least see nothing wrong with it. But in terms of where I choose to go to church, that is entirely based on my cultural snobbery, and I make no apologies for that.

The bewitched automobile

29 09 2010

Well, now, I’ll tell a story what happened to an old lady and her husband down close Hanover. They decided they’d buy themselves a new car – so they did. Well, when Saturday evening come, why, the old gentleman said to his wife, “Now, let’s take a ride in the new car, this evening.” “All right.” They started off and they got in as fer as Hanover. And right at the square in Hanover the care stopped. Nobody could start it. They done everything they knowed, got garage fellows there to look at it, nobody could find anything wrong. Car wouldn’t move. Somebody said, “Well, you go out to Mrs. K. and tell her about this.”

Went out to Mrs. K and told her, and Mrs. K said, “Well, I’ll write you a piece of paper here and you don’t – you’re not to read it. You take it back to the car and put it on the starter and put your foot on this paper, on the starter, and,” she said, “your car will go.” And so they did. Went back a whole crowd around the car. They put this piece of paper on the starter and he put his foot on it, and the car started right off, and away they went. Didn’t have no more trouble that evening with the car.

So the next morning some time, why, they got someone come and said, “Well, the neighbor woman over there is awful sick.” “Well,” they said, “what’s wrong with her?” Said, “She’s in bed, she’s jist that sick she can’t be up.” And this was the woman that put the spell on the automobile. And Mrs. K. fixed her business fer her that she didn’t bother nobody around there fer awhile.

-Text from Don Yoder, “Witch tales from Adams County”, from south-central Pennsylvannia, found in Buying the Wind: Regional Folklore in the United States.