Simply quit going to church once I was of an age that allowed me to do so.
It was an action borne largely of ignorance with a touch of rebellion and apathy mixed in.
I pray hard however that I might never find myself as cynically unanchored as this:
By the time the plume of white smoke appeared and the bells of St. Peter's pealed on Tuesday afternoon, a wholly unrealistic hopefulness had descended on the secular salons of New York. It felt a bit like the afternoon of the exit polls last November when Democrats believed Sen. John Kerry was about to become the 44th president of the United States. There was an irrational feeling that someone who would proclaim the truth of spiritual liberty over fundamentalism would fling open the doors to the balcony and emerge from behind those theatrical scarlet curtains -- some youthful cardinal we hadn't even heard of yet, some charismatic dark horse whom the joyful crowds, so many of them young, would immediately recognize as their own. The suspense was killing.
Until -- Oh no! Cardinal Ratzinger! His very name was ominous, a cross between Ratso Rizzo and William Zanzinger. His election was like the sharp rap of a ruler across the knuckles by a punitive nun. It was as if you expected Barack Obama and got Bob Dole. The more that cardinals and Vatican watchers lined up on "Larry King Live" to say what a friendly, conciliatory guy he really is (the most appealing detail that emerged the next day was that he looked "a little forlorn" as he entered the Room of Tears to change into his papal vestments), the more he seemed to emerge as a 19th-century throwback, stridently opposed to liberalism, doubt, internal argument within the church. And the Bavarian background doesn't help. As one of Larry's callers who identified himself as an amateur historian of the Holocaust put it, "Couldn't we have let this generation of Germans pass into history?"
Tina Brown's rant against the new pope (and people of traditional and orthodox faith) is a testament to what has clearly become the religion of the elite. Her juxtaposed references to John Kerry, Bill Clinton, Bob Dole and Tom Delay speak volumes to what has become the fundamentalism of the left.
Thank God for someone like The Anchoress, who has quickly become not just another Catholic apologist (who makes much sense) but a go to daily read on the Brutally Honest blogroll:
There is a lot going on in this column - an admission that for the folks on the left the papal election meant nothing more than yet another political defeat. Just as they had deluded themselves on election day (a day on which Kerry’s own pollster predicted a loss by 3% points) to believe that a man who had never actually led the presidential race, who had offered neither real ideas or real military documentation, was definitely going to win the White House back for them, they had decided to believe that somehow the “winner” of the papal elections would be “some youthful cardinal we hadn’t even heard of yet, some charismatic dark horse whom the joyful crowds, so many of them young, would immediately recognize as their own.”
Well…actually…NEWSFLASH, TINA…the man who emerged from the balcony was recognised, quite joyously, by the very youthful crowd in St. Peter’s Square, as “one of their own.” Those young adults, after boisterous cheering, began their first elated chant: Ben-e-dict-o, Ben-e-dict-o.
They get it, the young Catholics. And you and your friends, who seem not to understand what was truly taking place in the Sistine Chapel, or what the papacy means, or what - for that matter - Christianity means, do not. To you, it’s all a great big Church of NO that won’t let you just do what you want and pet you and say, “why, how clever and wonderful you are, dear, here, have a cookie! But not two! Mustn’t get fat now, because otherwise no one will ever love you or think you are a good person…be like the Italians! They are not fat!”
I am a little puzzled as to why, exactly, you and your friends feel this poisonous need to go rather overboard in your bigoted nose-wrinkling. I mean, yes, I DO understand to a point. You and your whole generation have had a difficult time moving from childhood of “gimmee what I want…” to the adulthood of “take what you need…”
How you must have truly hated to hear Cardinal Ratzinger, a day before he became Benedict XVI utter those terribly divisive words: We should not remain infants in faith, in a state of minority. And what does it mean to be an infant in faith? Saint Paul answers: it means “tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery” (Eph 4, 14)
No. You could not have liked hearing that, beholden as you are to the age in all of its furious fashion and requirement to conformity. So, I DO understand, to a point, why you need to do the “sniff and giggle, mock those unsophisticated Christians” thing. It’s hard to break those habits from high school.
But, you know, you do have your own church, so I don’t really know why you have to be so concerned about anyone else’s. You have what Flip Wilson used to call “The Church of What’s Happening NOW.” The Church of Me First. The Church of Cackling Condescension, The Church of Blithe Nobility.
There's more to be read and I urge all my readers to go here now and read the rest. Then contemplate in a serious manner, as I need to do, what Church it is that you belong to.
At this writing, I firmly believe I'm part of the catholic church (with a little "c"), the wider body of Christ, firmly believing that absent God's grace and love found only in Jesus Christ, I am lost.
But I also think that I must guard against the cynicism I've felt in the past toward both the catholic and the Catholic church less I find myself suckered into the religion of the left, the religion whose church The Anchoress so aptly describes as "'The Church of What’s Happening NOW.' The Church of Me First. The Church of Cackling Condescension, The Church of Blithe Nobility".
Although it's true that I'm bothered by the fact that I cannot partake of communion with my family of Catholics, and though I'm bothered by this notion that the pope can be seen as infallible, and though there might be other items and articles of faith that Catholics practice that give me heartburn, I am reminded that what I've felt toward the Catholic church, in some ways I now feel toward the Protestant church.
I've become too focused on what ails the broken body of Christ. I've too often found fault with her. And I've failed in many ways to see that I'm as much part of the problem.
I don't think it's too far to move from where I am now to where Tina Brown and her ilk are today.
And that my friend is a frightening thing.
Pray for me and those like me. Would ya?