Monday, July 18, 2005
faith as entertainment
far more than a sedative to quiet man's less rational needs, the constantinian roman church served as a vehicle to convey the laws and thoughts of the dying hellenic world to the unborn west. the administration of the church became a primary basis for social organization in the dark aftermath of alaric's sack of rome and the chaos into which the dead empire plunged. roman lex patria became the law of the west through the vehicle of catholic law. the philosophies of plato and aristotle echo throughout the canon of the church; the wisdom of millennia passed to us through biblical exegesis and the church teaching which sprang from it.
when the west began, when charles martel met the moors at tours in a battle to save a roman christian europe from cultural extinction, it was the agency of the church that materially fuelled his armies and ultimately legitimized his dynasty in the person of charlemagne. it was the catholic faith, furthermore, which finally quelled the norse invaders which had threatened europe from the north, over a period of centuries incorporating them into an unified christendom. the papal hierarchy proved time and again with the rise of christendom to be a force more powerful than the barbarian kings of europe, capable of keeping order with the spiritual authority of christianity. augustine's civitate dei became the organizing principle of the new western civilization -- and the strong institution of the papacy reigned over the flower of the west as it grew from the ashes of greece and rome.
and what has that, i might ask, to do with this?
the example presented here, mimicked all around the united states, represents the complete corruption of christianity, its final bankruptcy. the high irony of housing a congregation in a coliseum cannot be overlooked; for what is this perversion of christianity but mere entertainment, a theater of the absurd for the individual cut loose from society in postmodernism and left in quiet aimless desperation?
the appeal of these churches as foghorns of preposterously reduced versions of the complexity of christian morality in a world increasingly industrial, ideological and technological -- a push-button world which has created the desire for and belief in simplicity and predictability, and a corresponding rejection of complexity, history, philosophy and intellect -- has everything in common with the appeal of situation comedy. and the drive for simplicity is now horrifyingly comsumptive -- in the frantic search for a primitive moral anchor, history is reduced, government is reduced, science is reduced, society is reduced to stark moral conflict, rendered in childlike black and white instead of life's full, mature color. devoid of a true sense of spirituality, reliant instead on an emotionalism which must, like a narcotic, be administered to the addicted in ever-greater and more indulgent doses to command any feeling at all, these churches grow in scale, display and outrageous behavior in proportion to their degree of philosophical rot.
but the grandest irony of all is the nakedly antisocial character of such churches. the neitzschean morality of these cults of the self, preaching not social cohesion in faith but emancipation and self-fulfillment in god, constitute the inversion of constantinian christianity in syncreticism. as such, these congregations are not cohesive, codependent societies but tribes of convenience -- all in search of a common goal of self-elevation, each free to abandon any church to take their deeply personal and solitary path to enlightenment. to make plain the ultimate allegiance, the soldiers and heroes of this new christianity are men who disrespect law to manifest their personal moral judgment, the highest narcissistic ordination of the anarchist ideal. it is the revolutionary-hero-cult come alive -- the antithesis of community and institution, the metastasis of anarchism infesting and animating the broken shell of christendom.
it is this decrepit ruin to which marx, as one who saw the fractured and decaying christian institution from the viewpoint of a individualist revolutionary, referred when he said, "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions." and it is his view that has come to be true as western man has become more and more the halfhearted incarnation of his kind -- burning to change all the world for our selfish utopian desire for complete emancipation, yet spiritually lost in a world of constant revolutionism and perpetual conflict that has begotten its own soul.