What made me realize that my total belief was bizarre is that the majority of the worldlings see nothing supernatural in the world at all.
What is more disconcerting to me as a thoroughgoing, unashamed, un-deconstructed supernaturalist–is that the vast majority of my fellow believers also see nothing supernatural in the world at all. This impression was strengthened by an article by a worldling called E.J.Dionne who writes articles in a failing newspaper in Washington. My intrepid fellow Avenger–Fr. Z –fisked his article here. In the article Dionne whines about the bishops who are “attacking” the poor old American nuns who are just sweet old ladies who run soup kitchens and are nice to everyone, and how they really ought to back off the gay people who are also just sweet old ladies, and they should stop being so nasty to everyone and all hierarchical and all.
Fr Z points out that the fellow (who claims to be a Catholic) doesn’t really get it. The church is not primarily a supporter of charities and a social work organization. Of course we want to run schools and hospitals and help poor people and feed the hungry, and unless we do we’re not being good Christians, but that’s not really what it’s about. That’s the fruit–not the root. The root is something far more radical and mind blowing and it’s this truth that most Catholics either have never heard or have heard and don’t want to hear again, or (worst of all) hear every Sunday but it doesn’t really penetrate the hard heads and harder hearts.
The truth is what we used to call in my Bob Jones days, the Old Old Story. That is, that this is a sinful old world and that without God the human race is heading for the flames. That’s right, I believe in saints having visions of hell and that most of the people there are people who didn’t believe in hell. This old, old story tells us very clearly what religion is for. It’s for saving souls from hell. Its for lifting them up from the miry clay and setting them free. Its for healing the sin-sick soul. It’s for the utter transformation from the wordly life the other worldly life.
The reason the church is losing the culture wars is because most Christians–Catholics included–believe in this culture. We have bought into the American Dream lock, stock and barrel and we have never even once dared to criticize it. We have swallowed this culture’s assumptions that life is all about this world and getting ahead and being super duper nice people who don’t really need supernatural salvation because, after all, we have a good retirement plan. So you made a good retirement plan, but what about the stage after retirement? Have you paid your premiums on that one? Probbly not.
This is the good news of the Catholic faith. It is the only form of Christianity–apart from the EO, snake handlers, and Pentecostal faith healers–that really, honestly takes the supernatural seriously here and now. True, true, there are many many Catholics who have not clue what it means to live the supernatural life, but there are enough of us crazy old loons who do, or who at least want to. There are enough of us roaming the world like latter day Gandalfs who believe in the other world enough to forsake this one. But if I am ready to forsake this world, I am also ready to try to save the world.
And this is where it gets more interesting, for walking to my office from the church this morning I was also convinced that if this world is to be saved, then the Catholic faith is the only chance we have. Someone once said, “The most practical thing you can do is pray.” The same applies to the Catholic faith. Saying Mass may seem silly when there are hungry children to feed. Building a big beautiful church may seem vain when there are hospitals and clinics and schools to build. But all of these practical people are utilitarians, and I have no more use for utilitarians than unitarians. Both make my blood run cold with their pragmatism, their efficiency and their eye on the bottom line. These are the ones who would save the world, but lose their soul.
So let me be a supernatural hero. Excuse me if I play the Don Quixote and read the old books and tilt at windmills. You can join me if you like and sign up for Red Blooded Religion because, in this day and age, (as in every age) it is only this kind of radical religion that will really turn the world upside down.
For remember–you cannot be baptized without being turned upside down, and you cannot be saved if you remain right side up.