Sunday, February 28, 2016

Getting Along

I am too young and too low in the corporate ladder to have my own office, but at the moment I share one with an engaging person who, when she is not getting her ex-husband arrested on federal offences, is an interest conversant. She can speak with substance about travel, music, food—seemingly everything except religion. Living in Texas I have the unusual experience of seeing one of two parts of the world where protestantism is still a major force in culture. 

Truth be told, I have an easier time discussing religion with Orthodox, Jews, and outright non-believers than with American protestants. A priest-friend who works in a chaplaincy related a similar experience and included Muslims in that category. Why? Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims belong to a received tradition which places them into a larger context; they belong to their tradition, they do not create it. A secular person who is religiously indifferent but not hostile, or who is open to beauty and history, can similarly dilate upon Church matters in a limited fashion. Even a soul searcher with a quiet, reflective viewpoint can be a companion in conversation. But rarely protestants. Why?

Precisely because the outlook between American protestantism and historical religions differ. Faith alone, Scripture alone, and Divine election position the individual before God, but do not bind the individual to a received teaching or a visible community. Belief becomes Jesus-and-me or the Bible-and-me. Any question or criticism is a personal question or criticism. The believer tends to latch on to specific ideas or Biblical verses relevant to their lives; one person I know, a divorcee, references "Biblical divorce" on account of an experience of adultery. It is as if creative thinking powers down and focus turns to one's personal status in matters of religion.

Traditionally, religion—Catholicism in particular—is the conforming of one's self to God. An individualistic outlook conforms God to the individual and makes God "accepting" rather than demanding. I would be open to deeper conversation with such protestants, but their religion is rarely formed by conventional Lutheran/Calvinistic/Presbyterian/Methodist/Whatever theology. "Christianity" began the moment I was "saved" usually.

What is one to do? I spend more time with the noble pagans.


  1. Men without tradition are rootless, flighty, stubborn, and often maniacal. A man living properly in a tradition can do little more than pity such people and occasionally buy them a beer.

  2. My co-workers, etc., are virtually all heathen, in the technical sense of that term. Not even their parents were religious, although their parents' parents largely were. It is generally known that I practice the Christian religion, but that has caused me no difficulties as it's viewed as--frankly--quaint and interesting, in a "Bob's a Civil War reenactor, is't he?" kind of way.