News reactions for today, a hot August 16th, 2007
I just read an article, dated August 13th, 2007, on the website of America, the Catholic weekly. Sociologist Andrew Greeley in an article titled, The Church’s Changing Face, reviews the book American Catholics Today: New Realities of Their Faith and Their Church by William V. D'Antonio, James D. Davidson, Dear R. Hoge, and Mary L. Gautier. This book is one of 4 written by social scientists under the aegis of The Life Cycle Institute at The Catholic University of America and based on Gallup surveys from 1987 to 2005.
The Catholic respondents knew in each of these studies what is absolutely essential in their religion--Jesus risen, the poor, Mary and the sacraments. After a couple of thousand years of turbulent history, they still get it “spot on,” as our English colleagues would say. This is no mean achievement, especially in these years of “polarization” (which actually doesn’t exist) and sexual abuse crises.
There are other important elements in the Catholic heritage as well. The point is the faithful are convinced of what is, as the young people might say, “totally important.” These key stories and symbols are enormous and indeed invincible resources for the church’s work of evangelization, and they are there for the taking, if only we can realize that religion starts with image and story and not theological dicta and rules, however necessary these activities are.
But Mary? Why Mary? Have we not been told that she is an unfortunate remnant of a patriarchal age? Forget about it! Any story that suggests that God loves us like a mother loves her newborn child will never go away, and any religion that cherishes that image of God will never lose its appeal, not even to the consummation of the world.
In another question, the researchers asked about “boundary” issues: what kind of behavior marked one as beyond the boundaries of the faith; what kinds of behavior might exclude one, not completely from Catholicism but perhaps mark one as not “a good Catholic?” Can you be a good Catholic without obeying the church hierarchy’s teachings on marriage and divorce, without one’s marriage being approved by the Catholic Church, without obeying the church hierarchy’s teaching on birth control, without going to church every Sunday?
These questions (and others in the scale) do not indicate that the respondent personally has done such things, but only whether the respondent considers such people to be on the periphery of the church. More than three-fifths of the respondents do not deny the title of “good Catholic” to these people. Thus, you can practice birth control, approve of abortion in some circumstances, remarry after divorce, cohabit in an unapproved marriage and miss Mass routinely and may still be a good Catholic.
I have not seen these polls (nor have I read the findings as the authors report them) but by what I gather from Greeley’s review is that my view from the pew is not unlike the majority view expressed in these polls. One can be a good Catholic and hold views on homosexuality, a male-only priesthood, priestly celibacy, abortion, birth control, and marriage that differ from the party line.
Greeley is quick to point out that these data do not, nor is it intended by the authors that they should, determine doctrine or moral teaching. What they do is paint a picture of how the church lives and of what is important to the church today. American Catholics think for themselves now. We are educated, we respect science, we are global, and we have heard the soul of the church’s teaching—to love God and our neighbor—and we love the church for what only it can give.
So much of the news is immeasurably sad. The deadliest single attack since this Iraq War began happened yesterday in Quhtanlya and Jazeera. I can only be silent for a moment ...
One idea is to reread, in a sort of a systematic way, the key books that influenced my thinking and life. I want to remember and rethink these important influences and recreate what I thought and felt at certain times in my life. Sadly, I am not a diary keeper. I wish I was, or had been, but, alas, I keep few written records. If I had this project would be so much easier, at least easier to organize chronologically. But because I did not keep very good records I will have to impose an after-the-fact narrative to this story. No doubt we always organize our narratives out of a jumbled mess. To borrow Gregg Brown’s lyrics, “life is a sweet ripe melon, so sweet and such a mess.” In my case I am aware of this and I wish I had to less to remember and imagine.
As I ended my last post, I mentioned I had just begun rereading Francis Schaeffer’s book The God Who is There. Schaeffer was very influential in my thinking because he did not seem to flinch when confronted with ideas and with intellectuals. One could engage art and ideas as a Christian and not be afraid of evil or worldliness. I will be reporting more on this later. Now I want to spend a little time remembering.
I will imagine my story thru memory and reflection. My story begins when? Before I was 5 or 6? I seem to remember riding my tricycle down the basement stairs. I was not seriously injured in this memory. Maybe that’s why I have done other stupid things since, I should have broken a leg. I am not certain this is a memory or a creation of a memory out of stories I heard. For instance, I definitely remember being told in stories that I laid out my tadpoles, whom I had netted-up at the lake and proudly kept in a jar, on the front patio and rode over them with my tricycle. I do not remember ever doing this. I have random early memories of Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas traditions, watching Sunday evening horror movies while standing in the kitchen window close to my dishwashing mom.
Fast forward. I am also rereading Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Rewind. What did it mean to me in my sophomore or junior years of high School? I will be thinking about that. In the meantime, a few random facts: When I was a junior in High School I spent that year’s Kansas State Fair working for Brookshire Leather making belts and purses, smoking pot, and dreaming about the future. The following summer I went with my buddies to Colorado for a big chuck of the summer backpacking, fishing, and smoking pot. During the early fall during my senior year of high school I made a radical commitment to Christ. It only became radical over time. There was no big experience, no testimony, just a slow recognition of Jesus and the radical life he calls us to or, as I believed at the time, he was calling me to. There was tension in this experience over time too.
Maybe my spiritual story begins when I was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church as a baby in 1954? Or with my Irish Catholic Grandparents? Catholic grade school? Christmas? My Godmother’s prayers? In the heart of God from all eternity? I don’t know when it begins, but I will begin during the summer and fall of 1971.
I was a hippie. I knew there had already been a funeral for the hippie and I even resisted being called a hippie. But for Wichita, Kansas circa 1971, I was hippie. But I was a Kansas hippie. Though I grew up in the suburbs of Wichita, the state’s largest city, I grew up fishing, hunting, and camping. But I listened to alternative music, opposed the read the Whole earth catalogue, and dreamed of a future