Friday, January 11, 2013

Why People Do Not Like Organized Religion

I knew that behind all the make-up, sex, and domestic
violence, there was a (crappy) philosopher deep in there.
If the modern discussion on rights (be it gun rights, contraceptive rights, abortion rights, or gay rights) has anything to teach us, its this simple lesson: our world loves individual freedom.  Take a stroll down the street and you will see, in such obvious fashion that almost none of us are aware of it, that the most treasured thing in our society is our personal freedom.  When we buy something, or state an opinion, or cast a vote, or craft an idea, we express a very fundamental freedom, the freedom to determine and to live the lives we live.  At the most fundamental level, we hold the freedom to, as Rihanna  put it, "live your life."  This is, for the most part, a fantastic thing.  As an individual, I love the ability to create and pursue whatever course of life I wish, whether it be something as simple as running for some Starbucks or grandiose as running for President.

However, we've let this ideology run amok in the modern day.  What used to be man's ability to choose his path in life has become man's ability to despotically determine and rule over his own worldview, defining for himself each and every aspect of the world around him.  Take this snippet from decision of the Casey v. Planned Parenthood case, which was settled in the United States Supreme Court in 1992: 

"At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

Sounds nice, I'll admit, but with its radical freedom comes a very cold and terrifying shadow: it is utterly and absolutely irresponsible.  There is nothing, apart from perhaps the opinions of others (almost all who are as equally stupid as oneself), to keep me from conjuring up the most ridiculously preposterous worldview  that I can possibly concoct.  This idea of freedom (lets call it Individualism), while pleasing to the ego, has absolutely nothing to do with reality.  Quite frankly, when you have the freedom to be the architect of your own world, it doesn't have to be even the slightest bit real, it can consist of whatever sort of self-deceiving malarchy one pleases.  This radical individualism of the present age has, to put it mildly, flown off to la-la land.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I feel there are
more adequate ways to summarize 2000 years of
Church teaching.
And what better way to see this than to examine the modern reaction to organized religion, say... Roman Catholicism.  (Yeah I'm biased, what of it?)  Whether it be the "Why I Love Jesus But Hate Religion" video, or whole HHS mandate mess, or the equally nuanced LCWR mess, or even this most recent gem of a video,  its increasingly clear that the voices of the wrinkly old men that populate the College of Bishops and the Chair of St. Peter are out of fashion.  The number of voices raised in protest of the so-called "oppressive male hierarchy" continues to rise for all sorts of various reasons, and almost all of them come back to the simple problem of individualism.  We, the people, the collection of individuals, like to be in charge of life, specifically, our own life, and that is precisely why we scowl at the Catholic Church:  because its the most glaring force of opposition to individualism.  Ask your average pew-sitter how much control they have in the Catholic Church, and they'll inform you they have almost absolutely no control.  At most, they may get to vote on parish councils, which have no authority apart from saying "Yes Father, we like that idea" or "No Father, we don't like that idea".  The "common people" of the Church, who are so used to having a controlling say in each and every other aspect of their life, have no authority when it comes to Catholicism, and this bothers many people.  

Now, I know this certainly isn't the most progressive of views to take, and its certainly not going to win me any awards for being modern or ideologically fashionable, but I say thank God for an anti-individualist Catholic Church.  Thank God that every Tom, Dick, and Harry don't get a hand in the Catholic Church, because if they would, the Catholic Church would neither be Catholic nor would it be Church.

I'm glad that, in the course of my day, I can wake up, walk to a coffee shop and get my coffee just the way I like it (Black as sin, hot as hell, and without cream or sugar).  I'm glad that I can choose what I will wear, where I will go, what I will do, who I will do it with.  However, I'm overjoyed that, at the end of the day, I can stumble into a Catholic Church, kneel down in submission, and breathe a breath of reality.  Thank God for the Catholic Church.  When we are lost in the cosmos, clutching to whatever excuse we have conjured and use to give our lives meaning, the Catholic Church stands on foundations of Rock (Petrine reference intended).  The Catholic Church exists, not because of a vote, or a committee, or a group consensus, but because at a certain time, and certain place on this very Earth, God became Man and built the Church in his own Body and Blood, set not upon imaginary foundations but upon foundations of Truth.  He did not instruct men to craft for themselves a spiritual home and religious tradition based upon whatever cockamamie schema they felt most inclined towards.  Rather, He endowed Divine Authority upon 12 simple men and their successors, so that they Church might not stand alone on the human capability, but on the Truth of the Holy Spirit.  

Perhaps its un-American of me, but I'm perfectly fine with being humbly subservient to old, wrinkly bishops, because they build the Church upon foundations they themselves did not set, following a plan they themselves did not create.  They are not delegates of the people to God, but servants of God for the people.  Against the dominant paradigm of radical individualism, where the individual must have the final say in all things, I am Catholic, because I cannot create Truth.  I may be able to choose which pair of pants I'm wearing, but I cannot choose what is and is not true, so I must kneel before that which is True and Real:  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, manifest in the presence and authority of his Church.  Christ is not my president, I do not get to to decide what I think is best for the Church through ballot or referendum.  Jesus Christ is my Lord and my King; I can but only and humbly kneel before him, safely nestled in the bosom of the God who loves me. 

1 comment:

  1. "Pro-reading" was a good idea. Well said, Joe. Here's a bit more fodder:

    "Here we come in contact with the really critical issue of the modern age. The concept of truth has been virtually given up, and replaced by the concept of progress. Progress itself 'is' the truth. But through this seeming exaltation, progress loses its direction and becomes nullified. For if no direction exists, everything can just as well be regress as progress."

    Joseph Card. Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), "Keynote address of the Tenth Bishops' Workshop of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, on 'Catholic Conscience: Foundation and Formation,' February 1991, in "On Conscience" (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007), 26-27.