Thursday, August 25, 2005

Spirituality in America
The usual secular take: spirituality is cool, religion’s not. The Eastern Orthodox convert boomlet of about 20 years, big news in Anglican and a little less so in fundygelical/Pentecostal circles*, isn’t on the radar (and in fact the Orthodox aren’t even mentioned). The fact-checkers messed up by lumping Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses in with Christians. (If they’re Christians then Osama bin Laden is simply an eccentric Orthodox — that’s about the religious, cultural and historical parallel!)

The article does look sympathetically at ‘neo-Catholics’, young RCs who believe in the same basics as I do (anti-contraception, anti-abortion, pro-Blessed Sacrament, pro-Marian devotion, basically the same practice of the confessional), and while our externals are different I can’t knock them too much: they’re born RCs or ex-Protestants who are trying to do their best with the religion they’ve received. But they’re still an ‘other’. It’s not quite Mass-and-office Catholicism (having Exposition and Benediction all the time isn’t traditional and it only wallpapers over liturgical problems; it doesn’t fix them), and they tend to drag in the politics as well as the liturgics, self-righteousness and narrow American middle-classness of the Protestant religious right (just add a misguided personal cult of the Pope** and some Irish-American devotional practices and voilà, RC neoconnery). The impression that charismatism (what Steubenville is largely about) is misleading though — that’s a ’70s and ’80s phenom of people one to three generations older than these kids that I think is on the wane.

There’s also a look at black Pentecostalism, specifically the Church of God in Christ (COGIC):
Part of Bishop Gilbert Patterson's appeal: his moral rigor. As he sees it, signs of social depravity abound, from gangs to gay marriage (though he sides with President George W. Bush on moral issues, he's a vehement opponent of the Iraq war and a staunch supporter of programs like affirmative action). "People are totally confused," Patterson says, "and they keep looking for something that they can believe is real and something that will keep them grounded." That "something" is Scripture, whose teachings Patterson has emphasized more than past presiding bishops.
He means well with affirmative action but it’s wrong (reverse racism) and of course sola scriptura isn’t even scriptural but he’s admirable. And interestingly enough in the print version of this in Newsweek you can see that they’re semi-high church: they’ve adopted Anglican clerical choir dress but aren’t high in their actual liturgical praxis or theology.

In humility Amy Welborn asks: how/why has religion so badly screwed up that so many people take refuge in ‘spirituality’ instead? (Fr Anthony Chadwick has something good to say on this as he often does: read the entry for the 21st August 2005.

*I wonder which group has lost more people to it proportionally. Somebody online recently suggested that the boomlet may be more ex-Episcopal than ex-evo. As I like to say, most of them are the kind of people who would have become happy Anglicans or Newman-type RCs as recently as 50 years ago.

**Which mysteriously disappears when he stands on solid pre-conciliar teaching to speak out for peace.

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