Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bebe con Moderacion

An atheist friend once asked me if it were possible to live in such an urbanized setting and still find time for religion. Hedonist that he is, my friend contends that, in this day and age of fast information, interconnectivity, open-mindedness and secularism, religion has to adapt itself to society, or risk altogether being eradicated. It is for this reason that he became a Buddhist, because he said Einstein thought that that faith was the one most likely to be prevalent in this century, and being a devoted disciple of the gray-haired genius, naturally adopted this same view as well.

I grew up Catholic, although admittedly in not a very pious household. I've stated in past posts that I was reared in the stories of the Old Testament by Protestant aunts in my youth; I was exposed to such concepts as the end of the world and the final judgment at a young age, and even today, I still cringe at the thought of it. To me, Christianity just didn't make sense without hell; even in my young age, I knew that villains were central-- perhaps more so than the hero-- to a plot because it is through them that our hero is tested. Without the villain, the hero just didn't seem quite as interesting.

Consumerism is undoubtedly one of the most prevalent things in the present century. Nowadays, people convert to one religion from another for such senseless and stupid reasons as, for example, the pews being too stiff, the pastor being senile, the people being 'unwelcoming' (Boohoo, there was no welcoming committee to greet me, waaaa), the music sounding like nursery rhymes, ad nauseam. If religion were so important, then why even bother changing it?

The internet, ironically, has aided much in this regard. Nowadays, especially with the advent of blogs, we tend to assume that the views presented in one blog is the whole of a religion's teachings. We construct imagined childhoods from the experiences of others, and oftentimes, converts, unwittingly or otherwise, tend to shape their own view of what the Church should be based on some posts on a discussion forum, which is mostly made up of other converts anyway. In fact, I would even argue that the over representation in the internet of certain factions (E.g., traditionalist Catholics, conservatives, liberals, etc. ) are to blame for the sorry state the Church is in right now. We are stuck in Church, alright-- but it is the worldwide Church of the Web that we are lost in. It is exactly like the imagined 1950s of Republicans, where everyone smiled, women wore skirts and were perfect in every regard, where sex was unheard off, where all men wore suits, smoked pipes, and unfailingly provided for their familes.

Please don't misunderstand me. I respect converts who try to live as holy lives as can be; in secularized Anglo-Saxon countries like the United States, where a thoroughly Catholic culture never took root, I guess it is the fate of all well-meaning converts to build their interpretation of Catholicism upon every encyclical ever written or how they think Catholic praxis was in the closest thing to a Christianized culture as that country had-- the 50s. But it is never enough to just focus on the bright side of things-- Catholicism is not some panacea that will take off that excess 50lbs, improve your stamina, and revitalize your sex life and overall vitality-- and all in the comforts of your own home.

Being Catholic is not an assurance that, from now on, everything in your life will be perfect. No. God chastises whom He loves, after all. Rather, we must examine it from all angles-- light and dark, obtuse and acute, narrow and wide, not to find fault with it, but rather so that we may be grounded on a real interpretation of it. We shouldn't be deceived; not all Catholics who lived pre-Vatican II were saints, in fact, I would even be so bold as to say that your average '50s Catholic did not know much catechesis aside from the basics they were taught by their parents. And certainly, very few Catholics in those days were masters of dialectics or theology; they feared Protestants not because their heresies were incongruous to Catholic belief, but because they thought they had horns and hooves, and were literal children of the Devil (this propaganda is used to the present day to dissuade 'provincial Catholics' from worshipping with the SSPX!) We must accept the Church for what She is, no matter how sinful the lives of Her members appear to be.

In the end, I am reminded of a trip I had to an Evangelical meeting when I was still a child. My aunts took me there, presumably to pray over me (perhaps in the hopes of 'saving' me from Babulon a megala) with the congregation. At the podium, the pastor, with typical Evangelical flair, preached about the errors of Rome, and his following words never managed to leave me: 'Join our church and be saved by Christ Himself-- what an offer you can't refuse!'


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