And article on the rise of neopaganism in Iceland referred to “a familiar trope in the Western imagination of Christianity as the dull, staid, oppressive usurper of some ancient, organic, and somehow more meaningful precursor religion.”
Leave aside for a minute the huge faith-leap that there existed a “somehow more meaningful precursor religion.” Who knows what ancient beliefs drove people? Anyone who needs to base their life’s meaning on that myth has much more faith that I can muster.
Face the face that intelligent people actually embrace this “familiar trope”? Do the unbelieving in our life world actually see Christianity as “dull” and “staid”? Have they read no poetry by G. M. Hopkins? Have they never listened to J. S. Bach’s organ music and his liturgical pieces – unaware that Bach’s main identity was church organist and music director?
Does Shakespeare seem to them an “oppressive usurper” of truth, beauty, and fun? Don’t they notice the exuberant architecture still going up in our churches? How can they imagine Pope Francis an “oppressive usurper”? Of what?
Well - they have read the poets and listened to the music. They have done all of that. They have seen religion’s exuberant temples and they do chuckle at Pope Francis. And they still think Christianity is “dull, staid,” and an “oppressive usurper” of the deep, beautiful, thrilling instincts of a presumed “precursor religion.” How can they?
Well, I went to Good Friday service – won’t tell where – and was bored out of my skull in spite of having contemplated the Passion for hours and hours. The ceremony was simply dull and staid. I have listened to perhaps forty priests proclaim the new liturgy. It’s dull even when I can understand what the prayers are saying. And it is deliberately staid.
From the other side: I preach homilies to various groups. I prepare them carefully and I’ve been thoroughly trained and had lots and lots of practice. I can say this: a lot of people in the pews have come to church dull, staid, and probably oppressed or even depressed. And I’m not going to be able to keep them awake for long.
So here’s a “selfie” that we Catholics really would do well to gaze at for a while. It’s Easter. Have these days been any more joyful than last week’s days? Do people around me notice that I’m different these days? Has the notion occurred to me these days that I am going to join Jesus of Nazareth and his mother when I go through death? How I imagined the Communion of Saints? Do people find me interesting, exciting, and keenly loving God?
Now look at Pope Francis. He has to use some high-flown language sometimes because he’s pope and is burdened with passing on not only Revelation but also the thinking and analyzing that’s gone on for nearly 2,000 years. So he talks about “evangelization.”
What he does is what we need to imitate. He is plainly a deeply contented man, even though he’s been handed some pretty demanding assignments. He is also plainly a thoroughly good man who phones friends and supplies sleeping-bags to the homeless instead of chasing them away from the church porch.
And most visibly, he is a joyful, happy man whose heart is full of faces and names. Now just suppose for a minute if all the Catholic men and women I know were to be contented, good, joyful, and happy.
Then what could the neopagans think?