Friday, December 09, 2005

Benedict Defends the Virtuous Life!

In a stunning move, Pope Benedict XVI has declared that the virtuous life is not "boring." Apparently, poor Christians can't shake the stigma of being lamewads who posess no propensity for fun. While there have certainly been sects of Christianity that have done their best to hide their mirth, to assume that living morally is boring is a bit of a stretch. The Pope missed an excellent chance to quote Chesterton, who said "The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice." It is safe to say that the deceased theologian and the current Pope are on the same page.

There must be people who still feel that Christians are some sort of fun police, preventing the good pagans from having an enjoyable time. This is not the case at all. Augustine, who was himself a good pagan, demonstrates this rather nicely, as he too fell prey to this fallacy. In one of his most human and slightly amusing moments, he notes in his Confessions that he would pray, "O Lord, help me be pure, but not yet."

Augustine knew full well the pleasures of the flesh, and was hesitant to give them up for dreary celibacy. Yet, ultimately he did. If we go earlier in the same Confessions we hear, "Late have I loved thee. O Beauty so ancient and so new! Too late have I loved thee." Obviously it was worth the sacrifice.

Christianity is misunderstood, even by many of its members. Christianity does not make everything all rosy on this earth. Although Woody Allen's classifications of life as things "horrible" and "miserable" is a stretch, cheery Christians should remember that we have been kicked out of Eden. It is hope that ensures us that things will be better in the next world.

All this does not mean that we must suffer through this life. Christianity is more than a pot of gold at the end of a miserable rainbow. It is a common misconception that freedom means the ability to do whatever one wants. True freedom is found in obedience to a moral code. It is knowing that what one is doing is worthwhile, holy and good.

Is it really so hard to believe that their is more to the Church than sadism? I eagerly await something a little more earth-shattering from the new Pope.


troutsky said...

If they were to just show him dancing it would dispel many of these false perceptions.Actually ,I think he should concentrate on more pressing issues than reforming the publics perception,as a recruitment tool, some words on predatory capitalism, or the inherant problems of vast wealth, power and war might work wonders,eh?

A Wiser Man Than I said...

It's possible. We've already got Rerum Novarum, but I think a clarification may be in order. There are a lot of Catholic publications in this country that are of a decidedly neo-con bend. The Church seems to be both liberal and conservative in some senses, but it is assuredly non neo-conservative. The last Pope opposed the war after all, and there doesn't seem to be much more to a neo-con than that.

Showing him dancing would probably do a bit of good. What is interesting about the Church is how they present themselves. Our time is marked by frivolity, and incessant fun-seeking. Thus, the Church reminds people to be solemn by being unusually solemn. Still, a little dancing never hurt.

troutsky said...

At the level of politics, it just seems like a question of balancing priorities.If the Church comes out and says it cannot give communion to someone who supports abortion rights, it needs to come out much more forcefully and deny communion to those who support an unjust war.Or those who do not share enough of their wealth with the poor, etc..

A Wiser Man Than I said...

At first, that seems like a good idea. A big tent has the tendency to collapse. The Church has gone out of its way to include people who do not espouse Catholic Christian teaching.

The problem comes in deciding who gets the boot when it comes to Communion. With only 4% of American Catholic couples practicing NFP--that is, not using birth control--the pews could soon be empty. This would cut tithes drastically, although I think that's one way to take care of the priest shortage.

In summation, Benedict is brave, but he's not that brave. He's not going to kick out more than half of the Church. We're still trying to shake the negative image from the Spanish Inquisition, and I don't think refusing most everyone Communion would be the best PR move of all time.