My Morning After With the Pope

July 13th, 2007  |  Published in etc  |  1 Comment

All Your Sanctification Are Belong to US

Third Question: Why was the expression ‘subsists in’ adopted instead of the simple word ‘is’?

Response: The use of this expression, which indicates the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church, does not change the doctrine on the Church. Rather, it comes from and brings out more clearly the fact that there are ‘numerous elements of sanctification and of truth’ which are found outside her structure, but which ‘as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity.’

I’m not sure why I find this worth a second post, because I don’t know who wants to read an ex-Christian’s reflections on the public pronouncements of arguing people he doesn’t even share common premises with. But here I am typing.

Reading the document that got everyone so worked up caused me to go back and understand things implicit in my own religious upbringing that I’d never seen in light of ecuminism as a mission in its own right, I guess. And I’m mildly amazed that a Protestant sect’s response to stuff like this is anything besides “Where the hell do you people get off?”

Regarding the latter reaction, I guess it depends on where you’re at re: The Great Commission. There’s the version that makes it easy to rationalize the Crusades or a little inspired fingernail pulling from a few zealous inquisitors:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

That’s Matthew, and depending on how you interpret “teaching them to obey,” you have some latitude, depending on if you care to insist they actually learn, and just how nasty you’re willing to get about it. But it also says “make disciples of all nations,” which is much less ambiguous and probably seemed very straightforward to the average medieval sociopath with some knightly training but two brothers ahead of him in the family succession.

Then there’s Mark:

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.'”

That provides a little more leeway for just showing up, reading a few selections, offering a homily, handing out a few copies of “Good News for Modern Man,” then moving on. It’s on the heathens to work out where they’re at on the whole “going to hell” thing.

I guess it never occurred to me, given the religious framework I was raised in, to think one had any more responsibility than to set a good example, do nothing to lead someone further away from the gospel, and bear witness in a contextually appropriate setting. Nothing family hour television hasn’t taught (denuded of religiosity) since “Leave it to Beaver.”

In my teens, when I ended up going to a few different churches with friends, I heard a lot about how that sort of talk was just the kind of luke warm Christianity Jesus said he’d spit out before ending the world. It never took with me because that sort of talk usually went hand in hand with a worship style that unsettled me. I was looking to the bible and the church to help pick right action, the people around me at those places were getting that, and a buzz. No disrespect intended.

Regarding the implicit ecumenism part, a song they used to have us sing at church camp came to mind this morning:

We are One in The Spirit,

We are One in The Lord.

And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love,

Not so different from the Pope’s angle on the whole thing … except perhaps that while the song they had us singing at Camp Harmony said the badge of participation in the Christian church was “love,” which you should probably read to mean “deeds,” the Pope thinks it’s getting in sync with the institution that’s made the most fuss of preserving its succession from the original disciples.

We also sang songs in church camp about a guy who gets trapped on Boston’s public transportation system for want of a nickel and never gets off. No need to quote the lyrics when a thorough treatment is available, including some insights into why there’s hope for poor Charlie in the form of a mid-80s senior citizens’ rate drop.

The spiritual message of the “One in the Spirit” song was pretty clear to me. The song about the guy in the subway? The church camp served a collection of rural districts in SW Pennsylvania and I can only assume there was a simple, secular fear of being swallowed by a metropolis coming out in an otherwise religiously inspired songbook. We even had a song that seemed to be included to provide a counterpoint to the wildly popular “Coward of the County,” reminding us that good Anabaptist children were not to mop barroom floors with those who sinned against them.

Funny, though. This verse was left out of our version:

Among the local taverns there’ll be a slack in business,

‘Cause Jesse’s drinkin’ came before the groceries and the rent;

Among the local women there’ll be a slack in cheatin’,

‘Cause Jesse won’t be steppin’ out again.

An Aside About “Love”

I mentioned a few grafs up the part about reading mention of Christian “love” to mean “deeds,” or “works.”

In 2004, George Bush said in a campaign speech “Too many OB/GYNs aren’t able to practice their love with women all across this country.” People were decidedly creeped out at the prospect of settling into the stirrups only to find they were about to get love practiced on them. We’ll never know how many people since have woken up screaming from nightmares of W. dressed in a smoking jacket, making goo-goo eyes and brandishing a speculum.

Reading the entire speech, it seems like he was moving toward an unsatisfyingly brief nod to values, churches, marriage and a “culture of life,” placed before a much lengthier piece on terrorism and security. He mangled the construction, but I’d guess his Missouri audience extracted the right meaning. That’s the essence of a dog whistle.

Anyhow, it’s a shame “practice our love” was never elevated into the popular lexicon as a replacement for “make love,” which bears the weight of sounding tailor-made to evade FCC censors. Try it out on a loved one tonight either as a bit of pre-coital political irony or mocking blasphemy. Either way … racy!


  1. Cristina says:

    July 14th, 2007 at 2:39 am (#)

    We sang “One in the Spirit” at the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Youth Group, too. Of course, that group was led by radical subversives who poisoned our young minds with ideas like “I’m okay, you’re okay” and the music of that painted harlot, Amy Grant.

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