Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Wages of One Dimensinoalism


This is another piece not original, not by me, but in this case posted on my boards by Tiny Thinker, and quoting a columnists from a Catholic magazine. I think it's really good and the article is worth reading.

by tinythinker on Sun Jan 18, 2009 2:44 pm
Excerpt from "Beads, bells and belief" by columnist Jamie L. Manson of the New Catholic Reporter.I think it speaks to Christianity as a whole even though it is directed toward Roman Catholicism...

Jamie L. Manson
Column title:
Young Voices
Publication date:
January 15, 2009

The church faces a particular challenge with young adults. Many of us are unchurched, because our parents chose not to raise us in the church of their childhood. But for those of us who were raised in the tradition, we grew up in a church that did not have the formative power that it has had throughout history. We were not forced, through fear and guilt, into believing that beads, statues, prayers and rituals held the power to decide the states of our souls and our fates in the afterlife. Yet, this lack of formation also presents a real opportunity for the church. My generation would be the first to willing choose church, to choose to live in an intentional Christian community out of a genuine desire.

What church authorities still refuse to recognize is that they cannot rely on the medieval tactics of spiritual coercion and shame to bring us into the pews. Instead, young adults have to be met where they are, to be engaged in a dialogue about the larger questions of their lives. We have to be addressed as mature, thinking adults, because we simply do not feel compelled to go to church in the way that previous generations do.

The symbols of the church do not speak to my generation the way it speaks to the generations that preceded us. Rosaries, statues of Mary and images of the saints, are subject to much ridicule, and crosses have become more recognizable as a fashion statement than as a reminder of the living, bleeding God who was killed in an effort in reach out to us. But perhaps this is more a result of church's unwillingness to risk breathing new, creative life into these sacramentals. What really is the difference between grasping at rosaries versus Buddhist prayer beads? Aren't both of these actions, at their heart, the movements of vulnerable human beings seeking some sense of peace, some discipline of prayer, some tangible feeling of comfort amid so much of life's chaos, sadness and uncertainty?

The Christian mystical tradition and the Catholic notion of sacrament could offer so much to quell the longings of young adults. But, sadly, the only identification that they make with Christianity today is with biblical fundamentalism and a strange caricature of Jesus. They identify Catholicism with moralistic repression, and a group of disconnected men who are uninterested in listening to the experiences or questions of the laity, most especially its female, LGBT, and divorced members...

The people in my generation have been abandoned during a time unprecedented spiritual hunger, having grown up in a period when the rate of divorce skyrocketed, the effects of technology separated us from family and neighbors, and a frenetic busyness took control of our day to day activities. The young people who seek out spiritual materials like those sold at East West are already participating in sacramental life and are not even aware of it. They are reaching out to the tangible things of nature in a poignant struggle to find grace. How much fuller would our experience be if the church ceased to focus strictly on the ways in which we ought to order our existence, and instead guided us in finding the innumerable ways in which God breaks through to us in our ordinary lives.

I agree, basically, with this statement from Mason's article. The problem is it's only from a Catholic perspective. I say "only" meaning it doesn't take into account the role Protestant fundamentalism and Evangelicalism has played in this process. Perhaps this Catholic author feels that it would not serve the interests of Christianity to lay the blame on the Protestants, but I think a good portion of it lies there. A long time ago I came to the realization that there was a reality which the Reagan era should have taught us, but so few were interested. That reality is this: trying to turn back the clock speeds it up. Reagan tired to turn back the clock in returning us to a former time of more simple minded conservationism, a fictional golden age that never really existed. While the Reaganites were trying to force everyone back into the right wing mold, the problems of modernity ran on head and those who had no connection with the past just ignored it.

In a broader track of time the nation has been separated from its heritage in Western thought. This was always true, there never was a time in America when people were taught to understand the Western tradition or see themselves as part of it. Americans were taught only to think in practical terms. We don't care why some want to build the bridge, we think only about how to build it. We have always spawned a level of literacy (I don't mean dysfunctional readers, but lack of any real connection with the world of books).

The New atheism and the hatred of God and of church that we see in young people, especially on the internet, is merely the result of this one-dimensional nature of American life. Life in this country has always been reduced to consuming and producing. Now we are reaping the consequences. Europe has been made cynical by the two world wars fought on its soil, and we have the cultural connections to continue the tradition; thus the tradition of Western thought is over. We are in the end game of civilization, playing nursery school to the new age of barbarism.


tinythinker said...

the tradition of Western thought is over. We are in the end game of civilization, playing nursery school to the new age of barbarism.

Ah nuts, just as I was trying to break out that one-dimensional rut.

J.L. Hinman said...

LOL well maybe a bit mellow dramatic. It's probably the hold over of my fundie upbringing, tendency to think in eschatological categories.

J.L. Hinman said...

I also find hope in the elections. I think we did break away from the one-dimensional rut, if only for a minute.

Andrew T. said...

I think you misunderstand the New Atheist phenomenon when you describe it (albeit, understandably) as "the hatred of God" online.

For me as an atheist -- and I think, for a lot of people like me -- the internet provided a realization that I wasn't the only person who felt this way, even though I'm surrounded by religious people in daily life. Before the internet made it possible for minorities to share common interests anonymously, most atheists were "closeted" -- and I think many, if not most, still are today.

With that in mind, you can understand the New Atheist philosophy as a celebration at finding others who are like us. And whether you're an atheist or a theist, I would hope you can recognize that as a form of "breaking out of a one-dimensional rut" as well.

J.L. Hinman said...

I was an atheist. I was an athesit before there were computers. So I understand what you are saying. I hope I wasn't as hateful as the people I have run into on message boards, I don't beileve I was.

When I was an atheist I would never say things like "philosophy is shit." I had total respect for great thinkers, even Aquinas. I never tried to deny the intelligence of religious people. but I think so many atheists are just looking for a group they can feel superior to.

Weekend Fisher said...

the tradition of Western thought is over. We are in the end game of civilization, playing nursery school to the new age of barbarism.

One alternative, one word: Renaissance.

Nature abhors a vacuum. There'll be a renaissance of *something*. It's just up to us to make sure it's good stuff.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF