Sunday, January 08, 2006

A serious house on serious earth

It is such a tragedy that in the modern West Christianity is now most alive in its most shallow, primitive forms. Today's Christian fundamentalism is nothing but the mirror image of the 19th Century positivist science - it has no mystery, no breadth, no deep understanding of the tragic human condition - it is totally dominated by pure materialism. I was very lucky to have experienced in my Southern Ostrobothnian childhood a living, non-fundamentalist Christianity in the warm cadences and traditions of Finnish pietism. The Christian calendar was a living, meaningful way to measure the year. You felt living in a place with a natural context, the past and the present were fused together. The Twelth Night was not a random holiday from work and consuming but a day with its own precise meaning and traditions. I do feel a gigantic emptiness in the West where Christianity used to be - of course, I would not want the Church dominance back, but I would think that all world views must at heart be spiritual, mystical. To be significant. Natural science without this dimension would be totally empty of meaning. What we have now left are the Christian traditions of morality and ethics as translated into the secular world by Enlightenment liberalism. But Enlightenment itself is quickly being discarded from being in the way of the global market and its folk religion, the entertainment industry. We have no beliefs left.


Anonymous said...

How strange it is that I can comprehend your take on the modern Western Christianity despite that I already lost my faith roughly around my 13th birthday. Although I am unable to connect to this, what ever one wants to call it, higher power, I still fully appreciate the enormous significance which Christianity holds as a philosophy and naturally as a religion. For centuries it has brought hope to those that had none. This alone is, in my mind, it's justification and it's principles are as valuable today as they were when they were first introduced.

Paradoxically, a godless creature such as I, feels the similar revulsion for this shallowness as you do. This shop till you find your particular brand of Christianity must surely be wafer thin in it's morality. There hardly is a vice which is not accepted in somebody's place of worship somewhere. The sharp end of the stick mentality is the dominant feature in modern living. We listen to the radio stations which narrowly play the kind of music we like, we read the news papers which subscribe to our political bents, we associate with those who are, more or less, like us and worship the Christian God who was made to fit to our individual needs and wants. There are more "flavors" of Christianity than there is the flavors of ice- cream in an average ice-cream parlour and no doubt more is still to come.

"Religion in good hands is a marvelous thing"; I heard recently someone saying this and I agree. Unfortunately, the hands which hold our modern Western Christianity are, more often that not, very soiled. Thinking of some of the obviously mentally unbalanced preachers with their harebrained ideas, sleazy snake oil salesmen/reverends with their sales pitches and finally hugely successful business tycoon/televangelists with their flashy attires, manicured features and the best floor shows in town, one can hardly fathom the depth that they have taken this philosophy. Everything is negotiable thus leaving behind a multitude of the Christian sects which will exist in a temporary Nirvanas which sooner or later are bound to collapse into themselves just as the most hollow things do because the most important detail, beliefs, are missing in their core.

stockholm slender said...

I agree quite completely - it is a complicated question to formulate, but traditional theologically defined faith I have none. I don't think that the Church has ever been divinely inspired. Whatever essence there is in Christianity it is far removed from its organizations and formal belief structures (especially these crude modern fundamentalist ones). But I do believe that there is something valuable buried very deep - and very removed from any shallow rationalizations (read theology).

Any civilization needs connection to the tragic human condition - we can't exist on material values alone. Or if we do, it will be a mindless existence. I suppose that's where we happily heading at the moment...