An interesting conversation...

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to speak with a woman who was attending an Orthodox church's annual dinner. From what I could get from our talk she was a nurse who had once been Presbyterian but had converted to Catholicism. I appreciated her insights but I think at one point I offended her.

She spoke of her experience of coming to the eucharist before she converted to Catholicism, and that while it was a 'technicality" (as explained to her apparently by a Priest) that non Catholics should not receive she did so anyways and found that the experience was part of her coming to Catholic faith. It was clear from the conversation, at least to my ears, that she didn't see the inconsistency of violating the canons of a faith as part of her journey to embrace it. What mattered was her experience. And that's where the offense probably started.

I gently reminded her that non Catholic receiving the eucharist in a Catholic church is not a "technicality" but canon and then I pushed a bit. Seeing that she was of the same general era as myself (I'm a late baby boomer - 1960) I began to speak of how our generation was among the most arrogant ever in the world, we Americans who came of age in the 60's and 70's really do think we invented sex, and religion, and music, and the what matters is what matters to us, we are ruled by our experience, and anything else is, well, anything else.

One thing baby boomers do not want to hear is that they're arrogant and selfish, even though we are to an astonishing degree. And we don't want to hear we're wrong on anything, even though we often are. We don't believe in much outside of ourselves but we do believe in the mythology of our own enlightenment with a dogmatic power that makes historic religious belief look shallow in comparison. We change laws and cultures based on our whims and the sheer force of our demographic. We've laid waste to institutions and then recreated them in our own image, and our image is "we want what we want when we want it". We live in the vacuum of this moment with nothing past and nothing future and we call this wisdom.

So, although I believe all that and hope and pray enough of us recover some sense of sanity and preserve a shred or two of civilization for a future time, I didn't give her the full dose but enough to get her face scrunched up. And then I talked about Orthodoxy and how there was faith that transcended time and even the individual but by then the wall was probably up. When I spoke with her later she kind of mumbled about how this was one point on my "journey" (dang it all if we are always journeying and never arriving at anything except ourselves) and so on. At first I was concerned but then I realized I was running up against the real American religion and sometimes it takes a while to wake a sleeping person.

Some time later it occurred to me how much I still buy into all the "stuff" of my generation. I would hope that I am aware of at least some of my delusion but the truth is that I've got a long way to go. Our culture is in a messy place right now, top to bottom, and this is largely because the generation in charge of most things, mine, has bought into a whole set of lies about life and faith and reality which are bearing bitter fruit even as we seem unwilling to change. It seems that to admit we were wrong and that parts of our wisdom are foolish and even dangerous is too much to ask. We're the monkey with the hand in the gourd grasping on to the fruit and unwilling to let go even when we see the hunter approaching.

Regardless it was a time for me to see how much I live in the matrix of this world, still, collar and all.


1 comment:

Mimi said...

Father, bless

I've heard a lot of stories of that type, and I never quite know what the proper response is