WHERE DO PEOPLE OF FAITH STAND IN TODAY’S POST-MODERN, SECULAR, WATERED-DOWN, PLURALIST,’PROGRESSIVE’ WORLD OF PLUTOCRATIC/TECHNOCRATIC CAPITALIST CONSUMERIST ‘DEMOCRACY’? EMBEDDED IN THE NEW, VIRTUAL WORLD OF THE POST-MODERN CATACOMBS.
We hear a lot these days about how people of faith, especially those belonging to conventional Christian denominations, find themselves increasingly marginalized and even put upon within the realm of public discourse. Not a day goes by in the province of Québec where we don’t get reports of Muslim taxi drivers in Montréal getting fined by city bylaw officials for displaying religious symbols in their cabs, or radical organizations for the total secularization of our province calling for the taking down of the Christian Crucifix above the speaker’s chair at the now 125 year-old provincial Parliament.
Myself personally, I was recently told by a supervisor at one of my places of work, that he didn’t feel comfortable with me reading the Bible at work behind the counter at a tourist information office while waiting for my tour to begin. I told him that I had no intention of not reading the Bible, and that all the students who work at the centre read their college and university text books while at work, so why shouldn’t I read the all time best seller on this planet?
People of faith find themselves increasingly at loggerheads with a secular society which is obsessed with wiping out any mention or discussion of God or religion from public discourse. What, therefore, or who, for that matter, will guide us through the tempest of life, with its accompanying panoply of moral and spiritual pitfalls, ethical debates, and matters of the spirit, which always seem to haunt us in times of personal or especially, collective need? (I.E. natural disasters, war, famine, pestilence, environmental degradation, etc).
Certain people always want to exclude God, faith, religion and spirituality, until such time as there is a dire need for answers of that nature, then the secularists go out with their microphones and cameras, and go looking for somebody with a Roman collar, or some such, and ask some supposedly piercing questions as to why are we in such dire straits, and where is God in all of this and why is He allowing this to happen, and why doesn’t He just come and fix it all for us and make it all right so that there won’t be any more suffering?
The answer is simple: God gave us all free will to choose what to do with our lives, to follow His will or not. Obviously there are enough men and women who are obsessed with following their own self-centred, self-willed, self-seeking desire for money, power, property, prestige, and carnal pleasure, that the world is where it is today, and those who do follow God’s will find themselves standing in a particularly special place: Embedded in the new virtual world of the post-modern catacombs. In fact, one might say that people of faith have always been to some degree ‘in the catacombs’.
In the early Christian Church, before Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, it was persecuted, and the early Christians had to hide in underground shelters and tunnels underneath Rome, called ‘catacombs’. Some were caught worshiping Christ and put to death, in fact some of the earliest saints of the Church were people who were caught by Roman officials in the catacombs, and executed.
As Christianity ‘came out’, if I may use a post-modern term from the field of alternative sexuality, it became more mainstream, at least in Europe and eventually the Americas. For a while we were basically the dominant hegemonic system for managing a society, taking elements of Old Testament kingship from the time of David and Solomon, and using them in the way our Christian kings and queens governed Europe by mixing temporal and spiritual elements into a de jure form of theocracy.
But our time was marked, as absolute monarchy debased itself, and moved further and further away from the divine and spiritual elements of kingship and became just a rapacious, grasping temporal system of unequal ownership and distribution of property, power, money, prestige, not to mention a cesspool of dissolute carnal proclivities.
Our world was opening up ever more by the time the liberal revolutions awakened scientific and intellectual curiosity with the Enlightenment, and the move was on to disestablish the relationship between monarchy, faith, and civil government, which has led us to not only the republican notion of separation of Church and state, but also the rising tide of secularism, as opposed to secularization.
This brings me back to my notion of people of faith always having been somewhat in the catacombs. By this I mean that regardless of what place faith and religion have played in the mainstream discourse of society, people who truly live by the tenets of faith in Christ, or of God as they understand Him, have always been, and will continue to be, in a minority, and will find themselves, for all intents and purposes, to be ‘embedded’ so to speak, in the case of today’s people of faith, within the new, virtual world of the post-modern catacombs.
By this I mean that they find themselves today, as before, a minority, within a greater pluralistic majority, where lip service is payed to virtue, but in practice is more often than not sacrificed to the imperatives and expediencies of money and power. People of faith must, more than ever, seek each other out privately, within the public realm, if that makes sense, and get to know each other well enough so as to know that they can trust each other, ‘have faith’ in each other’s faith, and be able to count on each other’s support in all matters, public and private, be it professional, personal, or otherwise.
Some may find this difficult, and may end up sacrificing some of their faith-based principles for the expedient advancement of a secular political cause, but in general, we the faithful of this world, shall continue to faithfully congregate in the catacombs of this world, be they the caves of yore, or the cyber world, workplace, social club, hockey team of the post-modern world of today.
For if we are to continue to exist, we must, as all communities, do what is necessary to maintain group cohesion and work on group maintenance, so as to face the onslaught of the secular juggernaut. There are principles that taxi drivers in Montréal believe in, and which old stock Québecers believe in also, and whose ancestors came here moved by the Spirit to found a civilization out of the wilderness, and whose motto is ‘Je me Souviens’: ‘I remember’. We cannot choose to remember just what we think we want to, but our entire heritage. And our faith is more than just heritage; it is a living, breathing testimonial to how the spirit moves people to do great things for God. Just ask Marie de L’Incarnation, Monsignor de Laval, or Catherine de Longpré. The school, Diocese, and hospital they built in Québec city over 350 years ago are all still standing, whereas the Revolution which was ever so Quiet, which was supposed to sweep them away, has, for all intents and purposes, run out of steam after just a little more than half a century.
Perhaps the people of ‘progressive’ inclinations could learn something from some people who’ve been ‘in the catacombs’ for over 2000 years? After all, our organization has been under the same management for just about that amount of time, hasn’t it? Maybe those bylaw officers in Montréal should give out tickets to people who’re really causing trouble, like the people who’re skimming 30% off of our road-construction contracts? Or maybe tackle the corruption of our politicians by reminding them of why that Cross is above the Speaker’s chair to begin with: That Christ the Good Shepherd watches over the deliberations of the Speaker, and of all the members, reminding them of their duty to maintain decorum, and key elements or moral rectitude in the way they comport themselves inside and out the Chamber. Or maybe encourage more people to actually read the all time best seller, which apparently, has sold more copies than any other book, but which fewer people actually take the trouble to read than any other book?
Then and only then will those living outside the ‘catacombs’ be truly able to appreciate the contributions of their brothers and sisters within. Now that’s what I truly call ‘progression of democracy’. Amen.