Think About It. Does God Want a Spiritual But Not Religious Faith?
Written with great charity, which makes this article perfect to be shared and discussed.
By Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Standing on my Head;
I’m Spiritual but not Religious.
“I’m spiritual but not religious” is one of the catch phrases you’ll hear a good bit these days.
My question about this is, “How do you do that?”
Just exactly what do you do to be spiritual without being religious?
Do you kind of sit quietly from time to time and think beautiful thoughts?
Maybe you go for a hike and think, “Gee this is really a nice day!” Do you smile at folks and think to yourself, “I can see the sunshine of eternity in their smile!” Maybe you feel warm when you read that poem about walking on the beach and there was only one set of footprints and that’s when the Lord carried you?” Do you maybe light a candle from time to time and turn out the lights and feel spiritual for a time? Do you sit cross legged on the mountaintop and watch the sunrise?
I just can’t figure out how a person can be spiritual without being religious because wouldn’t you have to be religious (at least a little bit) to be spiritual?
Spiritual But Not Religious Analogy
Saying you’re spiritual but not religious is like saying you love sports but you don’t play a sport and don’t watch it on TV or go to any games, because once you tried to play the sport or even go to the games you would have to be taking part in the rules that make sport actually happen.
Saying you’re spiritual but not religious would be like saying you love music, but you don’t play an instrument, never took music lessons, don’t go to concerts and don’t listen to music through your headphones even. Because if you were to do any of those things you would be taking advantage of the rules and regulations and structures and strictures that actually make music possible.
The root of the word “religious” is “to bind”. That means you bind yourself to a certain rule or way of doing things. It’s not all free flowing, do as you please and make it up as you go along. Just as there are rules to the game, music on the page and a map for the journey, so there is religion to make “being spiritual” possible.
Surely as soon as a person starts to try to “be spiritual” they start being religious.
Do you get spiritual by lighting a candle and having a little statue of Buddha in front of you? Well, that’s being religious. Do you get spiritual by reading a poem that means something to you or by reading a book with a collection of quotes or beautiful thoughts? Well, that’s being religious because you are treating those books as your sacred text.
So maybe what the “spiritual but not religious” person means is that they do not go in for organized religion. They mean they are not members of an institutional church. That’s possible, but maybe they misunderstand what the purpose of organized religion actually IS.
Religion Maps the Journey to being Spiritual
Organized religion with all its devotions and duties, with all its doctrines and dogmas, with all its rules and rubrics and regulations is simply the rules for the game, the music on the printed page, the map for the journey and the instructions for how to be spiritual.
The organized religion is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.
Organized religion is really only a group of people who want to be spiritual getting themselves organized. They gather the experience and tradition of the past, they gather their community together because being spiritual is easier with a group, and they share and care for one another and share the necessary disciplines to “be spiritual” successfully.
Spiritual But Not Religious
But of course, this gets messy because it gets real. I suspect being “spiritual but not religious” is too easy and too unreal. Getting spiritual in a religion, on the other hand, means you have to get to work. You have to climb the mountain. You have to scrape your knees. You have to learn how to love, forgive and help other people who are on that same journey and part of your team…and all that is tough.
Lest it seem like no more than an inspiring version of the Boy Scouts or the Rotary Club, it is the supernatural dimension that fires them up, inspires them supernaturally and helps them to get organized so their desire to “be spiritual” can achieve lift off.
Honestly, How Can One be “Spiritual but not Religious?”
by Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Standing on My Head:
The feminist Anglicans have unveiled their latest campaign.
Now that they’ve succeeded in getting women ordained as priests and bishops they’re pushing for the language of the liturgy to be changed to call God “Mother.”
Here are twelve reasons why you can’t call God “Mother”
1. Jesus tells us to call God “Father” – The really big reason comes first. Jesus himself tells us to call God Father. Of course the feminist activists don’t take something like the Bible or even the words of Jesus seriously. They’ve stopped believing in something so “fundamentalist” as the authority of Scripture long ago. They regard the New Testament as “an interesting first century Jewish document” which was, of course, conditioned by the patriarchal culture of its time. Jesus–for all his beautiful teachings and fine example–was also hopelessly conditioned by his own time period. That was then. This is now. We can change all that.
2. The Old Testament refers to God as Father – From paragraph 238 of the Catechism: Many religions invoke God as “Father”. The deity is often considered the “father of gods and of men”. In Israel, God is called “Father” inasmuch as he is Creator of the world. Even more, God is Father because of the covenant and the gift of the law to Israel, “his first-born son”. God is also called the Father of the king of Israel. Most especially he is “the Father of the poor”, of the orphaned and the widowed, who are under his loving protection.
First Church of England Woman Bishop Libby Lane
3. The Liturgy Calls God “Father” – We believe what we pray. We pray what we believe. To tinker with the liturgy is always to tinker with what we actually believe. When we start calling God “Mother” people will start believing God is their Mother not their Father. Of course, the feminists know this. That’s exactly why they want to change the liturgy. They want to change the Bible too. There is already an “Inclusive Bible” Go here.
4. The Catechism explains why we call God Father and how this includes the mothering attributes of God – By calling God “Father”, the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasizes God’s immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father.
5. Calling God “Mother” and “Father” is confusing – Our world is confused enough about gender right now. Calling God both Mother and Father makes God some kind of transgendered being. Nope.
6. Gender identification enables a loving relationship – Think about it. You can’t love someone without sex being involved. I don’t mean by “sex” genital activity. What I mean is that we relate to others through gender. I relate to my mother as her son. I relate to my brother as my brother. I relate to my daughter as her father. I relate to every other person in a sexual way. I am male. They are either male or female. I cannot have a true relationship with someone who is neither male nor female. I can’t relate to an “it”. God wants us to love him and be in relationship with him. That is why he reveals himself as “Father” and why Jesus commands us to call God “Father” so that we can relate to him as his sons and daughters. We cannot be in a loving relationship with an abstract being who is sometimes Mother and sometimes Father.
7. Calling God “Father” helps to heal the father wound – All of us have a longing for perfect, unconditional everlasting love. We want to be loved and known by the greatest love. Our relationship with our earthly fathers–even with the best of fathers–falls short of that and leave us with what is called “the Father wound”. This empty space, this unfulfilled Father love can only be filled by the love of God the Father. Calling God “Mother” destroys that possibility.
8. Mary is our Mother in Heaven–Not God – It is no co incidence that Protestant Christians are wanting a Mother in heaven. They got rid of Blessed Mother Mary five hundred years ago and have been missing their heavenly mother ever since. Protestantism has had a mother deficit ever since they rejected the Mother Jesus gave them (remember from the cross he said, “Behold your mother”?) Now instead of venerating Blessed Mother Mary as they should their longing for a Mother in Heaven is leading them into the heresy of calling God their Mother.
9. The Bible and the Saints Never Refer to God as Mother – The most the feminists can dig up is one reference in the fourteenth century mystic Julian of Norwich who refers to “God is our Father and our Mother”. Hildegard of Bingen also says something similar, but this is no more than what the Catechism says above–that God is beyond human sexuality and his being “Father” includes the traits and strengths of mother. They also use Jesus’ line about Jerusalem, “I would gather you up as a hen gathers her chicks” But all of this is the symbolic language of mystics. God is never directly referred to as “Mother” and is never addressed as “Mother” in any liturgy anywhere.
10. Referring to God as “Mother” is part of an overall plan to eradicate any sign of patriarchy from Christianity – Depend on it. Calling God both “Mother” and “Father” is only the first step. God as “Father” must be removed completely. There is an agenda therefore, to alter the very foundation principles and theology of Christianity so that they worship another god altogether, and you only have to read the new age feminist theologians to understand that the goddess they want to worship is nothing like “Our Father in Heaven” instead it is “Earth Mother”. In other words, calling God “Mother” is not an alternative form of Christianity. It is not Christianity at all.
11. To Call God “Mother” is to worship a pagan Goddess – Why are women priests so afraid to be called “priestesses”? I asked one once. She said, “It sounds too pagan.” Indeed. Likewise, why are they so timid about calling the new god they worship a “Goddess”? Because it sounds too pagan. Don’t be deceived though. It won’t be long before they will embrace these terms. A new generation will not be so shy and will say, “Yes, you’re right. I am a priestess and I worship the goddess. So what?” And having accepted the goddess worshipping priestesses who will be able to say “Boo!”?
12. Calling God Mother opens the door to New Age Witchcraft – Why are people so dense about this? One only has to read the new age feminist theologians themselves to discover that the religion they are sympathetic to is none other than the worship of the Nature Goddess–the God of this world–aka Satan. Of course “enlightened” people will sneer at such an accusation, but feminist theologians themselves call for the complete abolition of the Father God and the embrace of the Mother Goddess. These feminist theologians have been very influential in the Anglican church. I was there. They were all over the place in the women’s ordination movement. That’s where it is headed, and the reason anyone who can’t see it is because they won’t see it.
Child Sacrifice Is Alive And Well!
Fr. Dwight Longenecker
– In case you think the murder of little children, cannibalism and black magic are isolated practices or are simply part of a disgusting and primitive Chinese culture– the practice is increasing rather than dying out. The dried bodies of baby boys used to be replaced with wooden effigies. That wasn’t good enough. They’re bringing the real thing back again.
Furthermore, the practice of child sacrifice is not just an Asian phenomenon. It’s increasing in Africa too. Here is a BBC news story about the horrors of child sacrifice in present day Uganda. This article from Zimbabwe chronicles the scourge of child sacrifice in countries across Africa.
This is crude, primitive, barbaric and superstitious stuff. It doesn’t happen in United States and Britain does it? Sure it does. The medical industry in the USA “harvests” organs and body parts regularly from aborted fetuses. Here’s information about this industry which one industry worker calls “unpleasant but necessary”. If you have the stomach you might want to take time if you’re interested to watch this video about the presence of witchcraft within radical feminism and the abortion industry in the United States.
Of course the presence of a few witches in a couple of abortion clinics isn’t evidence of widespread black magic, cannibalism and primitive superstitious practices. Stop for a moment though and consider the reasoning behind child sacrifice, cannibalism and black magic. The occult practitioner–whether he is an African, a pre-Colombian South American, an ancient worshipper of Moloch or a Chinese businessman or Korean drug smuggler, wants the five “Ps”– protection, prosperity, potency, pleasure and power. The superstitious believe they will get this by making a child sacrifice to a pagan deity.
People in developed countries are doing exactly the same thing, but without messing about with pagan deities. The child in Uganda may be kidnapped, mutilated, murdered and cannibalized to give power, potency, prosperity and protection. The Westerners promote abortion because “the family can’t afford another child” and by saving money they attain prosperity and protection and power. By having sex unencumbered by babies the man and woman also achieve the other aim of the superstitious: increased sexual potency and pleasure.
It’s not real difficult: you can only serve one God. It’s either Mammon (the five “Ps”) or God. The way of the first is the way of brutality, child sacrifice and the worship of Satan and the Self.
The was of the second is to follow Christ–who overcomes the forces of darkness and death to bring light and life.
Originally posted at: Standing On My Head
Is Hell Heavily Populated?
Father Dwight Longenecker – Having just finished Ralph Martin’s excellent study on universalism, Will Many Be Saved? it leads me to wonder about this thing we call speculative theology. It seems to me that theologians may well speculate when sacred Scripture and church teaching is unclear about something, but in the matter of heaven, hell and salvation there is not really very much room for speculation. The Scriptures are clear in their teaching that many will be damned and few will be saved. Furthermore, Ralph Martin shows that it has been the unanimous teaching of the church and the witness of saints and mystics that many are damned and few are saved.
Of course this is a “hard saying”. We don’t like the idea that anyone should be consigned to everlasting torment, but that’s what the Word of God teaches. Nevertheless, there is room for speculation. The problem I have with wannabe universalists like Balthasar and Rahner is not that they speculate, but that they do not speculate enough. They are busy speculating in ways that undermine the clear meaning of Scripture and contradict the timeless message of the gospel and the traditions of the church. To soften the harsh reality that many people will reject God’s love and go to hell forever they try to imagine how this might not be true and how God’s love will overcome all obstacles and reach down and save people even if they don’t want to be saved.
In their desire to uphold the universal redemption of the world and the everlasting love of God they over rule human freedom and the reality of human depravity and rebellion against God. In their naïve’ sentimentality they can’t imagine that anyone would reject God’s love, and yet every verifiable bit of evidence from history and yesterday’s newspaper reveal the total depravity of many men’s hearts and their spitting hatred of all that is beautiful, good and true.
Instead of speculating the truth of God away with their own imaginings why not speculate as to how people might be saved through unconventional ways of choosing God or what might happen to souls who reject God.
C.S.Lewis’ final Narnia book The Great Battle has a great scene where a pagan who always worshiped the God Tash–but did so in nobility, honor and virtue sees the Christ figure Aslan and recognizes him as the “Tash” he always worshipped whereas the follower of Aslan who was corrupt and deceitful sees Aslan and it is Tash who devours him. In other words, at the judgement all shall be revealed. All impediments will be taken away and perhaps each soul will see Christ and know him clearly and fully for who he is and what he has done. All doubt and misunderstanding will be erased. All true motives will be revealed and at that moment the summary of the soul’s choice will be finalized. We can speculate along those lines because it allows that many who have never known the gospel, but have followed the light they have been given may see Christ and be saved by him who is the only Way, Truth and Life.
But simply to speculate that hell is not real or that if it is real there is nobody there is to defy Scripture, tradition, the magisterium of the church, the witness of the saints and common sense, for do we really honestly believe that the most wicked souls on earth will desire to enter heaven?
We must accept hell and we must accept that many go there. But even then there is room for speculation. We know that hell exists and we must accept that it is a place of punishment and torment. Not because God is a sadistic monster, but because hell is separation from God and that must be torment for anyone. What are we to make of the torment? It may be fire and brimstone and monsters and pitchforks, but it may also be the torment of loneliness, the torment of regret, the torment of grief and loss, the torment of alienation from God forever. It may be darkness and fire and ice and all these things and more.
We can also speculate about the number who go to hell. Will there really be great multitudes who reject God’s love and hate him to the bitter end? My own opinion is that this is so because I see so many people in this life who hate all that is beautiful, good and true. It is so easy to suggest that the vast majority are poor, lost lemmings who don’t really know God or reject God and that they are good at heart and mean well and when they see Christ they will accept him joyfully. But is this the case? To be sure there are many who have just impediments to faith. They were shown a bad example, or they were abused by a Christian or they were never taught the true faith.
However, there are also a vast number of people who have no impediments. They live in a Christian society. There is a church on every street corner. There are signs of faith all around them. They are surrounded by Christian friends, family and neighbors. They have been to Sunday School and been catechized. They have Christian radio shows and television programs. They have religious books and websites. They have had plenty of time and plenty of chances to seek the truth, to find the Lord and to pursue their soul’s salvation and they have done nothing at all. They have not sought the Lord. They have not sought eternal life and they have not responded to any sign of religion or faith. Shall they not be held accountable for the fact that they did nothing? They did not care enough for their soul to even begin asking the questions?
Is it not patronizing and treating them with contempt to say, “Oh well, all you mediocre people–you will just be gathered up in God’s big loving embrace and welcomed home?” They have not done anything to respond to the love that was offered or the redemption won for them at great price. Shall we treat their choice with such disrespect and force them into a heaven they have no desire for and have done nothing to merit?
And what of the millions of pagan souls who have never heard of Christ? We hope that they may be saved by following faithfully the light they have been given, and we are taught that this is possible, but is there much evidence that many of those souls do, in fact, pursue the light they have been given with sincere hearts and with all their might? I hope that it is so, but I do not see evidence of such. It seems to me that most men are like me–they spend their lives thinking only of themselves and their pleasure and think very little about God and his Beauty and goodness. Furthermore, there is plenty of evidence that many of the pagans are not simply drifting in a haze of general niceness and goodness which will one day allow them to drift into heaven. Instead among the pagans we see true barbarism, cruelty, violence and the worship of demons.
The speculation can continue. Let us suppose that there are multitudes upon multitudes heading on the broad path to destruction. What becomes of them? We know that those who are saved are called to ‘grow up to the full humanity of Jesus Christ.’ They are called to be divinized. The redeemed become greater and greater in their growth in glory. Their progress to sanctification continues until they are full and completely radiant eternal beings. What if the damned are on an opposite trajectory? If the saved are getting bigger and bigger and being infused with more and more glory and goodness and the fullness of God in Christ Jesus in an ever widening gyre is it not logical to suppose that the damned are getting smaller and smaller and less and less significant and going down an ever decreasing spiral into the dark?
If the saved are becoming individual, radiant and unique beings eternal in the heavens perhaps the damned are becoming increasingly insignificant–mere ciphers of what they could have been–drones with empty souls and empty hearts. All glory has been withdrawn from them and they are dwindling into ash, falling into trash, descending into being mere shadows of the stars they were meant to be. If this is the case, then the Scriptures which talk about the wood, hay and stubble being burnt up make sense. This is the fire that purifies and burns up all that is trash. We do not hold to hell as obliteration of the eternal soul, but perhaps the eternal soul shrinks into so insignificant an identity as to be what ash is to a piece of wood?
The judgement therefore is not made on quantitative terms but qualitative. As harsh as it may sound, does it matter that the trash is thrown on the fire? This is actually the image the Christ uses when he speaks of Gehenna–which was the trash dump outside Jerusalem. The chaff will be thrown away and burned. The potter throws the broken pot onto the trash heap. The waste is a tragedy, but nature is prodigious. There are many acorns but from them few oak trees. There are many seeds and few flowers. There is much coal but few diamonds.
I realize in this egalitarian age where we judge by quantity not quality such a thought is horrendous, and my own heart is heavy at the thought of so many being damned. Indeed it is heavy at the thought of one soul being damned. I wish that all would come to salvation and hope that many will see Christ at that moment and say “yes” to Love, “yes” to Life “yes” to Goodness, Truth and Beauty, “yes” to Christ.
However, I cannot help but believe that there will also be many who will continue to hate Christ and reject his love. St Faustina saw that each soul would see Christ and he will ask each one three times if they love him and only those who reject his love three times will depart from him. That is the sort of speculation that inspires me for it combines hope and mercy with the reality of the everlasting consequences of human choice. This is truly a severe mercy, but the only one which grants man true dignity in the image of God for part of that image is that God has granted to each soul a portion of his own omnipotence–which we call free will–and this free will cannot be violated or man is no longer in God’s image.
It must therefore be respected, and for that free will to be respected it must receive the consequences of its choice.
Originally Posted at: Standing On My Head
What is a Pelosi Catholic Anyway?
Fr. Dwight Longenecker created this article about why liberals love Pope Francis (or hope to love him.) He coined a phrase the “Pelosi Catholic” which “Magesterial Catholics” liked so much he decided to fully define it. Here are both of Father Longenecker’s articles.
Why are progressive Catholics and the secular press so in love with Pope Francis? Not because they love the Catholic faith, but because they see Francis as a vehicle for their own agenda. The Crescat has a couple of interesting posts about how the press is handling Pope Francis here and here. She says what I feel–that we don’t have a problem with Pope Francis and his simple style. What we dislike is the implication by the press that he is the opposite of Benedict. A typical example is a little phrase in an article in the Daily Telegraph today about Francis using a 20 year old Fiat Popemobile rather than the bulletproof Mercedes that Benedict used. The Fiat is contrasted to the other popemobile which had “a white leather seat with gold trim.” Never mind that the Mercedes company designed, made and gave the safe and efficient and modern popemobile (which cost $450,000.00) to the pope.
Why this love affair with the new Pope from those who have for years hated the Catholic church and branded Pope Benedict as some sort of secret Nazi? If you want to see what all the schmoozy love talk for Francis is about check out this article in the HuffPo by John Sweeney. In it he showcases Matthew Fox’s book which ‘gives advice’ to Pope Francis. You want the Todd Unctuous version of the new Pope? Here it is then in a nutshell:
Because he is poor and comes from a poor country and loves the poor Pope Francis is a secret liberation theologian. Yay! a Marxist Pope! He hasn’t said it yet, but he’s going to go back to Vatican 2 which the last two popes did everything they could to dismantle. He’s going to listen to the people and not be the Pope. We know this because he calls himself the Bishop of Rome and not “Pope”. He is going to reverse that rule against contraception and allow pre marital sex. He’s going to allow women priests and married priests and when he gets the chance he’ll probably allow same sex marriage too!
What really gets me going is the fact that suddenly I hear of lapsed Catholics who love the new pope and non Catholics who think the new pope is marvelous. While I rejoice in this obviously successful PR, I’ll believe it when I see them starting to attend Mass and practice their Catholic faith.
I’m with the Crescat. I’m all for the Pope, but I am increasingly nauseated by the hypocritical “devout Catholics” and secularists who care nothing for the reality of the Catholic faith, but are captivated by the Pope’s simple style. What I would like to ask these Pelosi Catholics is if their new found fondness for the Bishop of Rome means they are suddenly converted to being pro-life and pro-marriage and in all things.
Soon enough the progressives will have their knives out for Pope Francis, but before they go against him, they will use him for their own agenda as much as possible. Here’s how they’ll do it: They will showcase everything he does which seems to fit their Marxist, Freudian worldview. They will ignore everything else. They will cherry pick. A new encyclical? Fugeddaboudit. Wearing brown shoes with holes in? Make a headline! A sermon in favor of marriage and family? Don’t mention it. A condemnation of a right wing dictator? Put him on the cover! You see how it goes.
The honeymoon will soon be over and when they see that on their pet issues it is business as usual they will soon get their knives out for Francis, and they will be all the more furious because they will have gotten their hopes up, they’ll do this when he rains on their gay pride parade, reminds them that women priests are impossible and affirms the pro-life, pro-family stance.
It will happen soon enough. Hell hath no fury like a liberal scorned.
What is a Pelosi Catholic?
I coined a phrase in yesterday’s post: The Pelosi Catholic–which prompted this excellent explanation from an Italian reader
Pelosi Catholics is not just correct, it is a terrific – if unintended – pun. In Italian, the adjective “peloso”, of which “pelosi” is the plural, means “hairy”, but it has also the connotations of dishonesty and self-serving pseudery conveyed by the English “greasy”. So: Pelosi Catholics are greasy [pseudo] Catholics.
Here’s a further definition: The Pelosi Catholic’s arrogance is only equalled by his ignorance. A cultural cradle Catholic, the Pelosi Catholic mistakes their tribal ethnicity for the Catholic faith. When they say “the Catholic faith is very important to me” what they mean is “I really like stromboli and when our family gets together we have a good time and grandpa talks about the old country and grandma always said the rosary and of course we have a picture of President Kennedy and the Sacred Heart in our house. Aunt Anna gave them to us.”
Now more American than of the older ethnicity, the Pelosi Catholic has absorbed American culture and integrated it with Catholicism just as effectively as they once integrated their older ethnicity with the Catholic faith. Just as spaghetti and Verdi and vendettas once meant “Catholic” now its the Mall, middle America, the broker, the beach house, abortion, divorce and hamburgers.
The Pelosi Catholic really does believe that he can “be a devout Catholic” and “disagree with my church about important issues.”
The Pelosi Catholic should get on the bus….except it’s crowded with those progressive sisters.
When Being Comfortable Is More Important Than Being Catholic: Complacency
Fr. Dwight Longenecker – I’m continuing a series on things that are destroying American Catholicism. They all begin with the letter ‘C’–as does the solution to the problem.
You can use the ‘Categories’ tool to pull up the whole series as they are written. Here is a link to the first article in the series on Cultural Catholicism.
Cultural Catholicism which blends a particular culture with the Catholic faith is destroying American Catholicism because it keeps the faithful from seeing that Catholicism, by its very definition, should transcend culture and challenge culture.
The second thing that is killing American Catholicism is another ‘C’ word: Complacency. Too many American Catholics are complacent. They are lukewarm, and when a church is lukewarm (as it says in the Book of Revelation) God will spit them out. Why are American Catholics lukewarm in their faith? The problem is not simply laziness. It is linked with the first problem of cultural Catholicism.
Too many American Catholics have soaked up the materialistic spirit of the American age totally uncritically. They have chosen the way of materialism, hedonism, utilitarianism and consumerism, and this has dulled their commitment to Christ and the gospel. What are all these “ism’s”? Materialism is not simply buying lots of stuff at the mall. It is also a philosophy that the physical world is really all that matters. This translates into an attitude about the church in which all that matters is the good works of feeding the poor and doing peace and justice. While these things are important–to focus on them alone makes the church, (as Pope Francis says) no more than an NGO–just another charity.
Hedonism is the pleasure principle. If it feels good do it. You needn’t be a debauched drug addict to be a hedonist. Your a perfectly good candidate for the hedonist party with your dedication to a nice, comfortable middle class lifestyle. If you live for pleasure–even if it is a refined and tasteful pleasure–you’re a hedonist.
Utilitarianism is putting practicality first. It is relying on worldly common sense rather then the Holy Spirit. It is making choices according to the bottom line, efficiency and practicality. Most American Catholics choose birth control, for example, because it is a practical, seemingly common sense decision. While we should be practical and efficient and choose wisely–we are also called not just to be practical, but radical. The saints are never utilitarian. Instead they are devoted to the wild and wonderful and unpredictable love of God.
Finally, consumerism is not just soaking up just as much of the world’s resources as possible. It is also a mentality that one is a customer. It’s Frank Sinatra’s theme song, “I Did it My Way”. It’s the attitude, “I’m paying. I’ll choose.” When this attitude comes into the church everybody is the loser. It breeds discontent, disorder and dissent.
Together these “ism’s” produce a kind of lethargy in the American Catholic Church. There’s a deadness and torpor. Eyes glaze over. Parishes become like yesterday’s porridge: cold and hard to stir. The fire is gone. The Church is complacent.
How to counter complacency? By another ‘C’ word: Compassion. By ‘compassion’ I don’t simply mean feeling sorry for people. Instead I mean what the word means: “Passion With”. Passion is emotion that is disciplined and informed and active. “Compassion” is emotion and fire for God that is disciplined, informed and active. Compassion in this sense is an active nurturing of the love of God which is put into action to counteract the consumerism, utilitarian, hedonism and materialism of our society.
This “Compassion” starts not with a movement or a sermon or a new rule or regulation for religion. It starts in the human heart. It starts in each individual human heart.
It starts now. With my heart. It starts now with yours.
Read the first article in this series here.
When Being an American is more Important Than Being Catholic:
by Fr. Dwight Longenecker: Reading Sherry Weddell’s excellent Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus is making me think about the American church and what ails her. Can anybody deny that there is a sickness in the body ecclesia? When 50% of Catholics vote for a man who stoutly defends same sex marriage and partial birth abortion can we say that Catholics in America are okay?
Catholics Voting for Staunch Defenders of Partial Birth Abortion and Homosexuality
I don’t think so.
Thus a series of posts on what’s killing Catholicism. All the words begin with the letter ‘C’. I can’t help it. I was brought up as a Biblical Evangelical and our pastors always used alliteration to make their points memorable.
The first problem is cultural catholicism. The Poles, Italians, Irish, French, Czech, German and more Catholics came here from the old country and the bishops reckoned the best thing to do with them all was to allow cultural parishes. So in the same town the Irish Catholics went to St Patrick’s and the Poles to St Stanislaus and the Italians to St Anthony of Padua. Geesh, a man in my parish who grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania said that when he was a boy a girl from his Czech parish fell in love with an Irish boy and the Irish priest wouldn’t marry them because it was a mixed marriage.
I’m all for cultural customs and so forth, but the problem is that the immigrant Catholics–in a foreign land–clung to their culture for security and happiness and part of that culture was their Catholicism. The didn’t distinguish their culture from their Catholicism. Then, after a few generations, when they were all really American and stopped being Italian or Irish or German they also stopped being Catholic. The Catholic faith wasn’t much deeper than Mama’s special spaghetti sauce or stories of the Blarney stone.
Of course they didn’t all stop being Catholic. Something else happened which was even more subtle and insidious. They became Americans and because their mindset was that their Catholic faith was something which blended with their culture, instead of being Italian-Catholics or Polish Catholics they became American Catholics. Just as nationalism and love of culture blended with their Catholic faith when they were ethnic minorities, now it blended seamlessly with their new American culture. Just as Catholicism gave their former culture God’s approval, not their Catholicism gave American values and culture God’s approval.
Thus we have what I call AmChurch: the American Catholic church which is happily and blissfully blended with everything wonderful about America. Except that the “wonderful” values of most Americans are unapologetically materialistic, hedonistic and self centered. Thus at least 50% of American Catholics live like their American neighbors–going to the mall, getting as much stuff as possible, giving as little as possible, having a neat and tidy two children and a double income, and basically smiling their way to success like everyone else.
Now this grates with me because I was brought up as an Evangelical fundamentalist and I realize the roots are deep. More than that, I come from seven generations of sturdy Pennsylvania Dutch anabaptists–Mennonnites, Amish, Brethren and such. These people had exactly the other point of view. They were first and foremost Christians. They considered it the default setting that each person had to hear the call of Christ and leave their nets and follow him. The church was a pilgrim people–a people set apart. They were suspicious of the surrounding culture and very suspicious of officialdom of every kind. If the Catholics absorbed culture the Mennonite were deliberately counter cultural.
The Mennonite approach, however, has it’s problems. The gospel says we’re to be “in the world but not of the world”. We’re not actually supposed to be totally counter cultural. We’re supposed to be yeast in the dough, a light set on the hill. You get too counter cultural and you become a weird sect like the Branch Davidians
Being a happy Benedictine oblate I see the solution as being something more than both of these ways. The problem with cultural Catholics in America is that they have never come to realize that the Catholic faith transcends every culture. That’s what Catholic means for goodness sake! It’s universal. The Catholic faith is therefore embedded in every culture and takes from every culture what is useful and good, but because it transcends culture it is also automatically counter cultural in the right way.
The Catholic should always be in a constant tug of war with the culture around him. Here affirming what is good–there condemning what is bad. Here supporting all that is full of life, love, truth beauty and goodness and there condemning and avoiding all that is full of death, hate, lies, ugliness and evil.
The answer to Cultural Catholicism, therefore, is what I call Comprehensive Catholicism–a Catholicism that embraces all things for their essential worth. If their value is precious and eternal the more highly we love them. If their value is trash–well we love trash for what its worth too: to be thrown on the rubbish pile and burnt. This sort of constantly discerning Catholicism is what is needed at the individual and local level, but the reason people opt for cultural Catholicism is because it is easy.
This is the core problem with Cultural Catholicism: by its very nature it goes with the flow. In its love and acceptance of the ethnic culture it is uncritical, and because individual cultural Catholics are uncritical of their culture they are also uncritical of the level of their Catholic faith. They chortle along quite happily living the unexamined life.
When the test comes this kind of Catholicism will simply wither and die in the heat. “When the test comes?” We are in the middle of the test already. What I see in the American Catholic Church is a huge “F” on that test. The opportunity to stand up and be counted and to stand against the culture of death in this country has already been lost by the majority of so called Catholics because so blinded by the love of their culture, they didn’t even realize there was a test to start with.
They Have Not Voted For Equality! They Have Voted To Destroy Marriage!
Matthew 7:13: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.”
Fr. Dwight Longenecker-Today the UK Parliament took the first legal steps to sanction same sex marriage. The implications of their re-definition of marriage are very ominous indeed, and the ignorant arrogance of their lawmakers is breath taking.
Think about it for a moment. Nowhere, not in any time or any place, not in any culture or civilization from the most primitive jungle dwelling tribe to the most sophisticated society has marriage between two people of the same gender ever been contemplated. Some societies have accepted homosexuality or been lenient toward such practices, but no one has ever suggested that marriage could ever be between two men or between two women.
The idea that British lawmakers can take it upon themselves to change such a fundamental understanding of what it means to be human is simply incredible. I realize that they believe they are simply voting on an “equality issue”. This is not so. They have voted on a historic and fundamentally different definition of marriage. They have not voted to open marriage up. They have voted to destroy marriage.
Already “marriage” in our society is practically meaningless. Easy no fault divorce and multiple marriages, weddings that take place most anywhere with people writing their own ‘vows’ with their own ‘ministers’. The whole thing is a charade–a grotesque and hideous mockery of marriage, and the result will be that marriage will be meaningless. Weddings will be nothing but a sentimental display of self indulgence and the marriage itself will be a sham.
Same sex marriage actually destroys marriage, for in re-defining what marriage is, it is no longer marriage. It is something else. Furthermore, the erosion of marriage into meaningless sentimental clap trap or some sort of politically correct statement is not only the fault of the gay militants. It is also the fault of those people who break their marriage vows, divorce and then re-marry. It is also the fault of all those who co-habitate and then turn up at church anyway for their wonderful wedding. It is also the fault of all those family members who are too nice to disapprove. It is especially the fault of those so-called Catholics who condone the cohabitation of their family members, smile kindly on the divorced and re married and run rough shod over marriage in every way imaginable.
What no one has stopped to ask is what exactly is marriage in our society now anyway? It is a lifelong commitment? Clearly not. Is it for procreation? Clearly not. Is it for better for worse, richer or poorer, to love and to cherish til death do us part? Clearly not. So what on earth is marriage anyway and why on earth do homosexual people want to be married? Only because they demand recognition and some sort of false, government mandated ‘equality.”
It is time now for the Catholic Church to withdraw completely from the civil side of marriage. A man and woman who wish to be married should go to the civil authority to sign necessary papers, then if they want to have a sacramental marriage let them come to the priest.
Most of the Protestant churches have caved on divorce and re-marriage long ago. They will also cave on homosexual marriage. Within a very short time now, the Catholic Church will be the only place to receive a truly Christian wedding.
When the time comes to stand up for marriage as God intended, what I dread is not so much the attacks from those outside the church, but the attacks from those within. Already there are numerous voices among the Catholic clergy who are quietly in favor of homosexual “marriage”–and they will turn their ruthless guns of kindness on all who stand firm.
I can hear them now with their weasly words and their sickly self righteous smiles of artificial kindness, “We really must offer a warm welcome to all of God’s children and grant them the love and acceptance of the sacrament…”
It makes me want to puke.