Punk Catholic Thought of the Week VIII
Catholic blogging makes me feel like a reasonably well-adjusted former smoker indulging in "just one stick" for old time's sake. I hope you all don't mind if I light up . . .?
An American friend of mine has been trying to explain to me the impact Christian Fundamentalists--also known, if I understand him rightly, as Evangelicals--have had on American culture and politics, and inasmuch as we live in a "global village," on world culture and politics. He was still surprised, however, when I told him that there are a handful of fast growing "megachurches" in my own city, though he quickly recovered when he realised it fit the Fundie profile of not accepting Catholics as fellow Christians, to the point that they send missionaries to countries as Catholic as Malta. Which is like kind of like sending a hip-hop dance crew to give free lessons to the students at the Academy of Russian Ballet.
I may have to move to America and live there for a few years to get it properly, I'm sure; but one thing I feel reasonably enlightened about already, thanks to the aforementioned American-founded Evangelical churches in the Philippines, is the impact which "Fundies" have had on the Catholic Church in America--particularly in the area of apologetics.
(And this is where a stray breeze starts to blow my secondhand smoke in other people's faces.)
Apologetics, or the defense of the Faith, is always a worthy cause, yes--but so much of modern apologetics (which is almost to say, American apologetics) seems to be the rationalisation of the Faith. It's no coincidence that most modern apologists are converts from Evangelical churches, which are all about rationalising Christianity until it matches the Bible perfectly.
Predictably, convert apologists specialise in demystifying Catholicism by answering the question, "Where in the Bible is that?" It makes an interesting intellectual scavenger hunt, but it's also the rationalising of Catholicism until it matches the Bible perfectly. It's an attempt to stuff the Catholic Church into a Fundie box . . . and if you've ever seen the awful movie Boxing Helena, you'll have some idea of what I think convert apologists are doing to the Church.
There isn't a single Evangelical (i.e. literalist Bible-only) charge against the Catholic Church that can stand once the sola Scriptura pillar falls. One wonders why apologists need to ferret out so many verses for so many indirect parries, when a glorious chainsaw of logic is available in the Catholic tool shed. Part of the reason, as mentioned earlier, is the Evangelical training that demands that a Christian in good standing rationalise everything from altar calls to tithing ten percent of one's income. The rest of the reason is a burning desire to win new converts.
There seems to be a consensus among modern apologists that the best defense is a good offense. If Fundies can be persuaded not just to stop attacking the Catholic Church, but also to join Her, then isn't that perfect proof of the rationality of the Catholic position? And doesn't it justify the apologists' plea that readers who are already Catholics buy their books in order to learn how to be better witnesses (not just defenders!) of the Faith? What clever marketing!
It's also very bait-and-switch.
But it's around because the professional apologists know that if they limited their target readers to the Fundie crowd, they'd sell maybe twenty books, tops.
(Okay, I'm almost down to the stub of my
Now, I just don't know . . . I feel weird about trying to attract Fundies by telling them that the Catholic Church is really just the Bible-believing church of their dreams. It's an "I'm okay, you're okay," win-win deal that has a sting in the tail.
Also, on a more personal note, I'd rather find a way to work on my fellow "cradle Catholics," who are still in the Church but who might not realise how beautiful She is. The apologetics industry can teach me how to reach out to Evangelicals, but if any of those clever ex-Evangelical writers thinks that pointing out the Scriptural basis of the rosary is going to get Catholic school graduates to start up the devotion again, then he's nuts. Besides, there's no Scriptural basis for the rosary, anyway.
Well, okay, the prayers we say can be found in the New Testament--but only about half of them. (There's a reason that Anglicans--so I've heard--who pray the rosary will say absolutely everything except the Hail Holy Queen. Some things are just too papist, even for non-Fundie Christians who understand a thing or two about Tradition.) We didn't develop the rosary by reading the Marian portions of the Gospels and picking out the verses we liked; we were taught to pray it when Mary herself appeared to St. Dominic and asked him to make this devotion to her and spread it all over Christendom.
And while I'm on the subject, I don't see why that non-biblical bit of history should be embarrassing . . . unless one wants to appear respectable to a Fundie.