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.

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37 responses

8 11 2010
One of God's underdogs

Arturo you are still a coward.

9 10 2010
Arturo Vasquez

Thank you for your input. It is nice to know that “God’s underdogs” are filled with such rancor and bitterness. You have verily peered into my soul and have seen the rot eating away at my heart, all without having ever met me. Pray for me, then.

9 10 2010
One of God's underdogs

Your laughable your false belief that you are un gran señor is enough to make anyone want puke!
I guess what gets to some of us about your disgusting and hipocritical attitude is that you are one of those que comen mierda y erutan pollo. Allow me to translate in English you eat shit and burp chicken.

True Christianity is not about how fake and sophisticated it you want show yourself in front of others.
Christianity has a depth that while you admire the beauty around you, or have a strong preference for it which is natural for most people but especially for Christians since it is proper to praise and give thanks God for his infinite kindness and great splendor in all His creation it is also important to be detached from earthly things.

To love beautiful things it’s fine BUT to have PRIDE and show disdain for other people while assuming that you are better than them are two different things.

You keep missing the point and you get offended and show even more pride for your erronious point of view.

Many gifted people throughout history historians, philosophers writers, composers, painters were not even recognized while alive or if they were they also died alone and poor, their very sponsors or admirers left them alone, ignored and even snobbed them while busy mundanine world continued to admire perhaps other more beautiful but earthly things.
For my part I can accept you not liking as you said and I quote “go to the local parish down the street and listen to some guy with a guitar chirp out “One Bread, One Body”
That is your right but it is your sick arrogance and prideful spirit in comments you made like this one allow me to quote you”Does that make us worse Christians for not suffering with the plebs? So be it. ” or like this one “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.”

At least to me it shows that not even with all the philosophy books you read in your lunch breaks and the money you spend flying to places to see ballets will help you when you are in front he Almighty. I honestly believe that God could care less about your lousy snobbery.
He will probably be more concern on how you thought of yourself better than those of the church down the street you seem to despise.
In short Arturo you are simply STUPID. No amount of reading and music and ballet can change that.
Now let me tell you, I actually feel better about myself knowing that you not feeling no worse about your prideful self will land you in HELL.
Idiots like you are oxygen theives and should in be SIX FEET UNDERGROUND.
What a waste of life you are.

Adieu.

One of God’s underdogs.

9 10 2010
Arturo Vasquez

The only thing cheaper than Internet piety are Internet Inquisitions (or perhaps, Internet humility). None of these things has anything to do with real life, and none of them give you more or less virtue than you already have. I am just a little fascinated by people who read a blog just to get pissed off. I do it as well sometimes, but I don’t make a habit out of it.

Thank you for reading anyway. Hopefully you feel better about yourself, because I feel no worse about myself.

8 10 2010
One of God's underdogs

I pray that God will take out the pride out of your heart, don’t confused appreciation for beauty with pride.
King Philip II of Spain was very Catholic but he was jealous of his half brother Don Juan de Austria.
The problem with snobery is that no matter how much you want to be sophisticate even in your Christian practices that will not guarantee your salvation.
No sir you don’t sound like a true follower of Christ but a follower of the devil and his pride.
I am pleb or so idiots who think they perfect and know it all call me but I know that if Christ was interested in snobbery he would not have been born in a stable or would have only associated with the Sanadrin or the pharisees.
I agree with Louisa you have no clue of what you’re talking about.
Pride is what is you Pharisaic heart.

One of God’s underdogs.
I speak english as a second language so to all the snobs go ahead and use your pride to put me down for my english grammar.

2 10 2010
FrGregACCA

Sure, Jason, and I am far more sympathetic to the Lotto players than to those who play the markets even if both misconstrue “liberty” in much the same way.

2 10 2010
Jason

I’d say that the mentality you’re referring to is just a variant of the Patrick Henry plea for “liberty or death.” The lotto is just a fantasy of a life of leisure (i.e., a life where you are “at liberty”).

2 10 2010
FrGregACCA

I am completely serious. The “American Dream” seems to have degenerated into a delusion that one will, indeed, hit it big one way or another.

2 10 2010
Visibilium

Fr. Greg, be nice.

Arturo, I’m a firm believer in consumer choice in church-going, and I applaud your choosiness. I don’t have as wide a selection to pick from, and that’s one of the things I point out to the enquirers whom the presbyteras send my way. (I don’t know why they insist on sending eager newcomers to me.)

Once upon a time, I was sent an interactionist-style dualist whose eyes bugged out when I told her that I was a happy Enlightenment fan. I suppose that was too much dualism to swallow, and we never saw her again.

Scy, I don’t ever think that I read your old blog, but your new one looks promising for fresh controversies.

2 10 2010
Jason

I read philosophy books on my lunch break

I don’t think being a “delicate genius” (to use a phrase from the great “Seinfeld”) has anything to do with philosophy.

Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of
life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the
elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the
wisest have ever lived a more simple and meagre life than the poor.
The ancient philosophers, Chinese, Hindoo, Persian, and Greek, were
a class than which none has been poorer in outward riches, none so
rich in inward. We know not much about them. It is remarkable that
we know so much of them as we do. The same is true of the more
modern reformers and benefactors of their race. None can be an
impartial or wise observer of human life but from the vantage ground
of what we should call voluntary poverty. Of a life of luxury the
fruit is luxury, whether in agriculture, or commerce, or literature,
or art. There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not
philosophers. Yet it is admirable to profess because it was once
admirable to live. To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle
thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to
live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence,
magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of
life, not only theoretically, but practically. The success of great
scholars and thinkers is commonly a courtier-like success, not
kingly, not manly. They make shift to live merely by conformity,
practically as their fathers did, and are in no sense the
progenitors of a noble race of men. But why do men degenerate ever?
What makes families run out? What is the nature of the luxury which
enervates and destroys nations? Are we sure that there is none of
it in our own lives? The philosopher is in advance of his age even
in the outward form of his life. He is not fed, sheltered, clothed,
warmed, like his contemporaries. How can a man be a philosopher and
not maintain his vital heat by better methods than other men?
–Henry David Thoreau, “Walden”

I admit, I have an instinctual distaste for “high society.” I love poetry and art, yet I would be suffocated in the society of poets and artists. I guess I’m like you, except the other way around: I understand that people go to ballets and wine tastings and live in big houses. I think it’s a silly way to go about living life…but it’s their life. I live my life in the way that makes sense to me. But, when it comes to stuff like Liturgy, I think that’s separate from “the real world.” I’ll never understand people’s willingness to spend obscene amounts of money on jewelery. I would never spend money on jewelery. Yet I have no problem with building beautiful churches with gold and all kinds of expensive adornments. If something is worth being “snobby” about, I suppose it’s God.

1 10 2010
FrGregACCA

Yeah, okay. And it is mostly working class people and below who regularly play the lottery. Middle class and above? The stock market.

1 10 2010
Bernard Brandt

I find it of interest to note that Time Magazine (or some magazine of that approximate calibre) has come to the conclusion that “We are all socialists”, at a time when socialism, and particularly the Marxist variety, has been thoroughly discredited, as the source of more human suffering than even bourgeois capitalism or western religion even thought of being.

Thus, I also find it of interest to note how many so-called Christians, particularly some of the commenters here, are espousing the language of socialism in their comments.

Clearly, some of you are having cognitive dissonance with the fact that someone out of the proletariat happens to like classical music in the Liturgy, or would rather rise out of poverty, and might even want to say something like: “Workers of the world, f*ck off!”

Ah, well, I’ve come to the conclusion long ago that Marxism is the opiate of the soi-disant intellectual. All I can say to youze guyz is: “Just say no! Just say no!”

1 10 2010
Michael

Och,

I don’t like nor do I drink Starbucks.

For basic American coffee I like Dunkin Donuts.

Usually I like ethnic coffees especially of the Hispanic variety–some traditionalist Carmelites in Wyoming or Montana sell coffee.
I also have been to some stores that roast their own beans and have local roasts and organic.

I am also a big tea guy (and still hetero). Ito En. Japanese Tea Ceremonies are the quintessential example of asthetics and tradition–and while women can perform them–they are very manly and have been known to beat even the greatest Samurai.

1 10 2010
ochlophobist

Michael,

I don’t really disagree with your parsing of stores, the reason that I mentioned WalMart and the ghetto gas station is because my local WalMart and the ghetto gas station where I fill my truck up at both sell those cold Starbucks drinks. Bourgeois evangelism I guess.

A friend of mine’s family was greatly benefitted by the Starbucks insurance for a spell, but I am inclined to agree with the video Arturo posted below that dealt with Starbucks – the compassion of Starbucks is a self affirming lie paid for with the blood of the poor.

30 09 2010
M.Z.

I think Marxists are more adept at seeing distinctions. Since becoming – gasp! – much more sympathetic to Marx, it is very difficult to not immediately ask the question, “For whom?” In some respects I’m happier for doing so, because maintaining the facade of Enlightenment based equality required incredible effort. After all, once you take equality as a premise, there is nothing objectively better because everything is reduced to being a matter of preference.

30 09 2010
Michael

Ochlophobist:

Walmart is not bourgeoisie–maybe Costco is though

Ghetoo gas stations are not bourgeoisie either

Starbucks is bourgeoisie but ethnics always have their own coffee (Slavs, Turks, Arabs all use Turkish coffee, Puerto Ricans and Cubans have cafe con leche, and Mexicans cafe de olla or with chocolate and certainly cinnamon)
Starbucks does offer full health insurance to it’s employees even the part timers which I do like and is good.

Ochlophobist–your dad was a commie and so was Arturo in his early days–what is it with the former commies becoming trads into aesthetics?

30 09 2010
ochlophobist

My father came to love Ives when dad was a communist who sometimes (secretly, in that I don’t think the others in his commune knew about it) was an usher for the Cleveland Symphony when George Szell was conductor. After reading this the thought came to me that all the people I have ever known to express love for Ives were either currently or formerly communists, with the exception of one, who was a Catholic Worker. Ives, the epitome of the Yale man, was about as bourgeois as one could be, and yet, at least in the freakish reserve of odd anecdotes that is my life, the folks who love him tend to be (or to have been) the ideological opponents of the bourgeoisie, or would be, had the bourgeoisie not conquered the world and made everyone at least a little bourgeois through Starbucks coffee sales at WalMart and ghetto gas stations.

30 09 2010
Luisa

Evidently you know nothing about what you’re writing about.

30 09 2010
The Harlequin King

In response to Adeodatus’ comment, I’m sure that Louis XIV routinely attended Mass in his private chapels. His preferred form of Mass was neither solemn Mass nor private Mass, but a low Mass with motets (basically, a low Mass dubbed with a soundtrack). Fast but easy on the ears.

I can’t imagine him ever going to Mass with the peasantry, but I’m open to contrary evidence.

30 09 2010
The Harlequin King

“True joy is not having to toil in a field all day (or a dishroom) and seeing your children live past the age of two.”

True ‘dat.

30 09 2010
The Singular Observer

Olivier – I think you have it right.

BTW, Arturo, in a mad moment, I have decided to start blogging again at my own, new, site – so you can remove the “scyldings” link on your side bar, and if you so choose, replace it with my new blog.

Louis / The Scylding / The Singular Observer.

30 09 2010
Olivier le Humanzé

LOL @ “I always wanted to be bourgeois.”

I don’t think it’s necessary to defend good taste. Like you say, it may have little to do with Jesus. But no one would demand we prefer tacky/ugly/banal architecture, food, art, what have you, so why then should we be expected to prefer tacky/ugly/banal liturgy? It only becomes problematic when we start obsessing about authenticity, whether we learned a tradition from grandma vs from a book, etc (I’ve learned plenty from books!)–or when we treat others unkindly.

Y’all worry too much.

30 09 2010
Arturo Vasquez

“Russian Christian philosopher Nikolai Berdiaev would call this snobbery the height of insular bourgeois thought.”

Sweet. Movin’ on up. I always wanted to be bourgeois.

“True joy according to Marcel is self-realisation of the vocation to fatherhood.”

True joy is not having to toil in a field all day (or a dishroom) and seeing your children live past the age of two.

Ancient philosophy was based on elitism. That is the one disturbing, crypto-Marxist thought I had while reading Hadot. Weren’t most people in the ancient world slaves, or at least a big chunk of them, and the rest were peasants who had no time to ponder such lofty things? While philosophers were preparing to die (a la Plato), most people were struggling just to live.

And using Marcel to try to accuse me of being bourgeois (thank you again, by the way) is a little like trying to stone me to death with styrofoam peanuts. Not exactly the best choice.

30 09 2010
synleszka

I’m now reading Gabriel Marcel, in his Homo Viator, he quaints about how modern people think that having a meal at a certain restaurant once a week or being able to go to the movies twice a week is a blessing. In reality, the Marcel states that these show how dull modern people are. True joy according to Marcel is self-realisation of the vocation to fatherhood. In his words, there is no greater happiness then that which results from a family which is not insular and has few children but one which is open to everything God wants.

The ancients would call this snobbery “the logic of the liver” which is the greatest enemy of the “logic of the spirit”. Did not the philosophers say that it is best to be in a state of ataraxia and should not we remember that we live in cave in which the true shapes of life are hidden under many veil?

Russian Christian philosopher Nikolai Berdiaev would call this snobbery the height of insular bourgeois thought.

30 09 2010
Arturo Vasquez

I don’t necessarily disagree with what you’re saying. I am just not sure what it has to do with Jesus, to use a phrase I despise.

30 09 2010
Arturo Vasquez

Maybe. And I am perfectly prepared to let the old ladies “have their way”. As long as I don’t have to see it.

30 09 2010
Robert

Adeodatus,

Could it be the Real Presence?

30 09 2010
Adeodatus

I’ve been a lapsed Catholic for a few years now, and was a staunch tradtionalist for a while. I frequented St. John Cantius in Chicago during my college years, and looked down upon ‘lesser’ parishes. Now when I go to mass every once in a while, to keep appearances up in front of my family and such, one thing that I find is that the novus ordo Mass in an average parish with all of its Amchurch idiosyncrasies is breathtakingly beautiful, I can’t stop thinking about it for hours afterward almost everytime that I go. Just writing this makes me feel dirty. I can’t explain it, and it scares me. It’s like a cruel joke.

30 09 2010
Adeodatus

Isn’t there a story about Louis XIV attending Mass in a village church? As I recall he got along quite well with the peasants. After the Mass, he sampled one man’s wine and bought several barrels from him. Although, during the Mass he saw a man that wasn’t kneeling and the king sent one of his aides to tell him to kneel, and then it turned out that the man was kneeling, it’s just that he was really tall.

30 09 2010
Michael

“Honestly, I am sort of in the “f$%k it” stage of Catholicism right now. Hey, if it makes some old women happy, why the hell not!? On Eagles’ Wings? Sure, sing your little heart out! Infant of Prague statues? Hey, I rock that stuff myself. Want to hand out Communion to your friends? Hey, the Pope said it was okay. Because as long as we keep the old ladies happy, everything will be alright. Once they get pissed off, there will be a shit storm that will make us all head for the hills in panic. Mark my words, all you sherry-sippin’, effeminate bastards who actually care two maniple shakes about the liturgy. Let them have their way, or we will all be in big trouble!”

Does this make you a sherry-sippin, effiminate “bastard” (your word) who actually cares two maniple shakes about the liturgy?

“I don’t think that that would qualify him as a “man of the people” as opposed to bitter, annoying yours truly.”
I won’t give in to the temptation to comment on that statement.

Maybe you should let the little old ladies have their way and just go along with it?

30 09 2010
dominic

I do not thinkit really has anything to do with having money or not. Some people in Tradland aren’t exactly well off (including yours truly) but we have been blessed/cursed with some taste. The culture I’ve inserted myself into (the philosophy reading, ballet watching types Arturo identifies with) and the mindset I have from that simply does not mix well with “average” Catholicism. I will gladly drive miles to attend the TLM (or a DL will do fine as well) in order to avoid the banal shows that most NOs end up being. The Reform of the Reform NO’s are even worse because they showcase exactly what is wrong with the NO even clearer though there are more “smells and bells”.

As to the better Christian comment, even though I have better means at my disposal to be a better Christian I am not one automatically because I self-select myself away from the “plebs” and modern Catholic kitsch. I’m sure there are myriads of regular Catholics that are much better Christians than I. In fact, I recognize I make poor use of the means I have at my disposal to be a better Christian. However, my own liturgical “snobbery” at least keeps me in this rich fare of traditional liturgy and in touch with the fact that I need to get my act together.

29 09 2010
Ryan

I think your basic fallacy here is treating the difference between rich and poor parish masses, during the ancien regime, as the same as the difference between traditional rites and the commercialized, dumbed-down slop created by modernism. As you point out, there are plenty of rich churches that put out crap- this isn’t because of some leveling of classes but the demolition of reverence and any sense of beauty.

29 09 2010
Arturo Vasquez

Considering that the Mass on his country estate would have been a rushed affair, and he probably would at the very least have his own pew, or perhaps even sit in a loft, I don’t think that that would qualify him as a “man of the people” as opposed to bitter, annoying yours truly. Indeed, why would he go to the local church in the first place? Wouldn’t he have his own chaplain if he were a real shot caller, and a private chapel to boot? Go down and worship with the peasants? How quaint.

29 09 2010
Luisa

Yes, you are a snob. The “grand seigneur” attending the humble parish mass at his country estate would show the same respect for the local curate and the ceremony as he would at court -without even thinking about it. It’s being so self-conscious which makes you a snob.

29 09 2010
dominic

Amen.

29 09 2010
A Sinner

Oh, not 99%. I could believe 90% constitute the real plebs.

29 09 2010
john burnett

so, what’s the music?

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