November 14, 2001
different religious orders. I couldn't be a Jesuit, for instance. They
lead with their will and expect that their intellect will eventually
follow. Dominicans lead with their intellect and then, if they are of
good will, expect their will will catch up. At the risk of sounding
irreverent, I've got to know why it's true first before obeying." - Dominican Fr. Hayes
guys. They fancied themselves super-decent and super-tolerant, but
actually had no use for anyone who was not exactly like them. What they
were was super-pleased with themselves. In truth, they were the real
bigots, and phony at that. I always preferred Frank Burns, the stuffy,
unpopular doc, a sincere bigot." - Walker Percy, The Thanatos Syndrome
"But when he invited me to serve Mass routinely, I refused. I told him
the truth: that since I no longer was sure what I bleieve, didn't think
much about religion, participation in Mass would seem to be deceitful.
He nodded cheerfully, as if he already knew.
'Don't worry,' he said, doing a few isometrics in the hall, pushing
and pulling with his hands. 'It is to be expected. It is only necessary
to wait and to be of good heart. It is not your fault.'
'How is that, Father? I ask him curiously.
'You have been deprived of faith. All of us have. It is part of the
'Deprived? How do you mean?'
'It is easy enough to demonstrate," he says, shrugging first one
shoulder high, then the other.
'Sure. Just consider. Even if the truths of religion could be proved to
you one, two, three, it wouldn't make much difference, would it? One
hundred percent of astronomers have discovered that the universe was
created from nothing. The explanation is obvious but it does not avail.
Who can handle it? It does not signify. It is boring to think of.
Ninety-seven percent of astronomers are still atheists. Do you blame
them? They are also boring. The only thing more boring would be if the
ninety-seven percent all converted, right? It follows that there must be
some other force at work, right?" - Walker Percy, The Thanatos Syndrome
November 07, 2001
On my way back, at 2nd & High Street, a pair of black gentlemen in their 40s were engaged in fisticuffs. It was a hypnotizing sight, two fully grown men swinging wildly at each other on a Friday afternoon. Perhaps they lacked jobs and needed the discipline of the daily grind to squeeze the life, er, aggression out of them. The driver ahead of me honked her horn and the two men stopped fighting, as if they'd heard a police siren. Then they shook hands.
"Consider the abysmal problem of the relation between God's Kingdom and earthy power (into the ultimate depths of which probably only Reinhold Schneider has the courage to descend today): whether, for example, a call to arms by the Church, a blessing of weapons, or taking up the sword of this world is an expression of the courage of the Christian faith or, on the contrary, the symptom of an unchristian and faithless anxiety; whether something that can be defended and justified in a hundred ways with penultimate reasons drawn from faith (quite apart from the lessons of Church history - but then what does Church history teach?) will collapse miserably before the throne of judgment of the ultimate reason - because what of course appeared to be God's weapon in the hands of God's warrior against God's enemies is now suddenly exposed as Peter's desperate sword-waving against the high priest's servant, whose side Jesus takes in order to expose such brandishing of weapons for what it was: anxious betrayal." - Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Christian and Anxiety
"It crossed my mind that people at war have the same need of each other. What would a passionate liberal or conservative do without the other?" - Walker Percy, The Thanatos Syndrome
"The subtle signs that Denise [daughter] was exercising patience--the slightly deeper breaths she took, the soundless way she set her fork down on her plate and took a sip of wine and set the glass back down--were more hurtful to Enid [mother] than a violent explosion." - Franzen's The Corrections
"Christianity has always proclaimed itself superior to the state. When Christ said "render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar's, and to God that which is God's" He proclaimed an authority superior to government. (If He had not, then what right did the early Christians have to refuse sacrifices to pagan gods in violation of Roman law?). By creating a Church, he gave that authority visible form.
As civilization developed, men took their Christianity with them into the halls of state. If Christ and faith in Him is the highest reality, which penetrates into every action of men, would a state be foolish to proclaim itself independent of Him? No. Quite the contrary. So the Emperor Theodosius thought when he made Christianity the official religion of the Empire.
Throughout that time and in the millenia to follow, it was inconceivable to men that the state would have any basis of its authority that was not religious, and therefore Christian, and therefore linked with the Church. Charlemagne had himself crowned by the Pope for the same reason the French kings to follow were told by the bishops performing the coronation "By this crown you become a sharer in our ministry." This consciousness was called Christendom.
As a natural extension of these ideas, it was also natural to conclude that departure from the Christian faith was contrary to the common good of society. Fundamentalist preachers say as much, and maintain as much, whenever they hand out voter guides and 'demand' (since we're into pejorative terms) that good Christians should exercise their authority in government by voting for candidates who accept Christian teaching. As it is now, so it was then -- departure from Christianity was a blow struck at the health of the entire society, and therefore punishable. The Albigensians were seen, in this light, as being as great a threat to civil society as Shays rebellion or the Confederacy was seen to the United States. No one blames the United States for 'exterminating' confederates, or 'persecuting' farmers, or making the country 'explicitly' what Abraham Lincoln said it was. So do we, I wonder, consider religion and Christianity less important to our well being than our forebears in the first thousand years of Christian history?
I am about to greatly condense things. But with the Reformation, and the devastating wars between Catholics and Protestants that followed, it became clear that doctrinally-specific Christianity could no longer serve as the basis for a stable civil or international order. Men began to look for new theologies on which to found their states, culminating in the present Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment ideas of democratic consent and religious tolerance. But this was originally a grudging accomodation made in stages and over time by Catholics and Protestants...." - anon post on bulliten board
October 28th Hocking Hills
Into the glen we sprung like faeries on furlough from the big house. Immediately after arriving, Oblet and I ambled for an hour, exploring the dusk-lit edges of Acorn Acres. We shoveled the goodly leaf mold scent into our nostrils and watched the moon rise. (Obi might've been sniffing scat, I can never tell for sure, for deer were supposedly not dear in this part of the woods). Soug went to Walmart while I pyro'd a fire for us. That night we watched the movie "Red Planet" and then slept sound despite hearing the eerie sound of a loudly hooting owl, a sort of archaic baying, outside the window.
Steph made the most ingenious hazelnut coffee and we were all comfortably ensconced by 9:30am, and I savored the coffee while reading the rich prose of Percy's "The Thanatos Syndrome" while Soug read peaceably on the couch. By 10am, in the brilliantly-lit morning, with the sound of shush-quiet around us, I felt the nirvana of it. When I contemplated where I could be at the time, at work in the harried 'Wide building, with where I was, with a plush view of longly-wooded trees that signalled permanence and peace - I was overcome by it all and wished the clock be arrested, stopped in its tracks, and that this moment might linger by divine providence.