Every Easter, it is de rigeur for the MSM to do something to attack Christian belief. And every Sunday, Andrew Sullivan holds forth with his views on faith which more or less boil down to “Who really even knows anything about all this religion stuff anyway? But I am totally sure that Jesus would agree with me and tell the Church off when she gets in my way. Maybe I’ll go to Mass today. Or may I’ll just read the NY Times. Meh.” This is what passes for passionate engagement with issues of faith in the MSM. So naturally, this year, Newsweek hired Andrew Sullivan to write a piece how everybody needs to follow
him Jesus and not the Church. In the course of it, we discover that Jesus believes and teaches what Andrew Sullivan does on absolute sexual license.
We also discover He’s apolitical. I actually agree with that, but define it differently than Sullivan. By “apolitical” I mean that Jesus, being God, isn’t much interested in submitting to earthly political agendas that defy Him and the good of the human person. These include agendas which exalt appetite above love and fruitfulness. In contrast, by “apolitical” Sullivan means that Jesus is not a Republican, but is thrilled at using the power of the state to legislate gay “marriage” and is also thrilled at creating a political culture that will allow Andrew Sullivan absolute and total sexual autonomy and license to use drugs and indulge whatever other pleasure center activities Andrew Sullivan desires.
Not coincidentally, we also discover from Sullivan that the Church is obsessed with sex on precisely those points where it differs from what Andrew Sullivan constantly perpetually harps on about concerning sex. In much the same way, I used to discover from my children that I “always” go on and on about the need to do their homework precisely at those time they want to blow it off and watch “Star Trek” reruns. In fact, I talked about nothing else. Ever. (I have since matured and found other things to talk about as their grade picked up.)
It’s uncanny how the Church–which pours forth teaching on all manner of things from war and peace, economic justice, corporal and spiritual works of mercy, the nature of the Trinity, interreligous and ecumenical conversation, the philosophy of the human person, biblical studies, the arts, the sciences, and liturgical worshop–*only* talks about sex, judging from the MSM which isn’t, you know, obsessed with sex or anything.
Anyway, Rod Dreher rolls his eyes at this rather unconvincing article that is what passes for intelligent commentary on Christianity at Newsweek. Sullivan’s piece will, of course, be hailed as profound and he will courageously face the applause for the now white-whiskered assumption in our post-Protestant culture that Jesus and his Body are opposites. One can only arrive at that view by ignoring large amounts of what Jesus himself says (“He who listens to you listens to me, and he who listens to me listens to him who sent me” is but one such teaching of Jesus that doesn’t get much MSM press). But since virtually nobody saying “I think Jesus is okay, it’s his followers who have it all wrong” actually knows anything about what Jesus said or did and would be shocked if they did, that’s not surprising. Sullivan deals with this problem by the expedient of hailing Thomas Jefferson for scissoring out of the New Testament anything that gets in the way of what Andrew Sullivan wants. In a culture that takes The Da Vinci Code as sober history (while lecturing Christians on their gullibility) we should not be too surprised then that Sullivan is a prophet suitable for our age.
But at the same time, Sullivan remains closer to the Church on a familial basis (i.e, ecclesially), like a son who can’t stand Mom but would never think of changing his name or disowning the family.
So it’s interesting that Sullivan, for all his hostility to the Church, can’t bring himself to leave her as Dreher has. It reminds me of Evelyn Waugh’s connection of the action in Brideshead Revisited with “The Innocence of Father Brown”:
In Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited, a quote from the Father Brown story “The Queer Feet” is an important element of the structure and theme of the book. Father Brown speaks this line after catching a criminal, hearing his confession, and letting him go: “I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.” Book Three of Brideshead Revisited is called “A Twitch Upon the Thread,” and the quote acts as a metaphor for the operation of grace in the characters’ lives. They are free to wander the world according to their free will until they are ready and receptive to God’s grace, at which point He acts in their lives and effects a conversion. In the miniseries made by Granada Television adapting Brideshead, the character Lady Marchmain (Claire Bloom) reads this passage aloud.
Of course, grace can work both in those who relate to the Church familially and those who relate to her doctrinally, and none of us is especially obedient to her when she gets in the way of what we want, so we are in no position to judge either man. But I find the conflict interesting.