There is a quote from Archbishop Oscar Romero that both traditional and progressive Catholics love to latch onto, because each feels Romero was speaking for them:
A church that doesn’t provoke any crisis, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a Word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, what kind of gospel is that? Preachers who avoid every thorny matter so as not to be harassed do not light up the world!
In truth, Romero was speaking for Christ. His words are a challenge to all of us, from the happy-clappy-God-is-Love-so-let’s-not-judge mushes to the stern God-is-Justice-and-you’re-going-to-hell prunes. It is a challenge to look past our own comfortable and self-righteous sense that God thinks just as we do, and to let the Word dwell within us, shake us, unsettle us until it has reformed us–re-formed–in the image of God; holy as he is holy, perfect as he is perfect.
This is of-a-piece with the Anne LaMott quote I shared here:
“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
You can also safely assume that you’ve created a “spirituality” based on your own conscience (or your subconscious self) when it turns out that all God really wants of you is for you to do what makes you happy. Oh, and “love and forgive and stuff.”
I wonder what Romero would say about the current (and, frankly, cowardly) trend among the sophisticates to exempt themselves from messy, judgmental and possibly-offensive religious identifications in favor of being “spiritual,” which happily offends no one and challenges nothing.
I think he’d like what David Mills writes in this awfully good essay:
So we find Lady Gaga, the pornographic songstress, telling a reporter for The Times that she has a new spirituality just before taking her out for a night at a Berlin sex club. Asked by the reporter, “You were raised a Catholic — so when you say ‘God,’ do you mean the Catholic God, or a different, perhaps more spiritual sense of God?”, she responded, “More spiritual. . . . There’s really no religion that doesn’t hate or condemn a certain kind of people, and I totally believe in all love and forgiveness, and excluding no one.” [. . .]
Even academics don’t see the problem. A few years ago a much-reported study of college students’ religious practice found that they become more “spiritual” as their observance of their childhood faith declined. The researchers defined “spiritual” as “growth in self-understanding, caring about others, becoming more of a global citizen and accepting others of different faiths.” They simply dressed up their favored attitudes by calling them “spiritual.” That kind of spirituality, detached from anything specifically religious, is just materialism in a tuxedo.
Read it all; I believe you will cheer at the end.
Brutally Honest has a response
Ross Douthat: Choose your own Jesus