Sat Jun 4 17:35:41 EDT 2005

Just got shriven

I just went off to confession at one of the local churches. The church is quite a big one, a lot of Hispanics go there and others as well. They have confession one hour a week and I was the only one there. I was there for 10 minutes or so, shortly after the beginning of the hour. The priest, an African, had settled into his place in the booth to read some magazine when I showed up. He seemed as if he could hardly care less what I had to say, which of course was fine with me.

I couldn't help but think though that the church would do better if they seemed to take the sacrament more seriously. By that I mean both the Church in general and that church in particular. It seems obvious that even putting sacramental efficacy aside confesssion is a very useful exercise. Every month or so you think about the things you do and put into words, well enough to discuss it with someone, what some of the problems are. Don't all the self-help things say that defining a problem is halfway to solving it? If that's the belief, and going to confession is part of what you sign on to when you agree to be Catholic, then why don't more people act on it?

Posted by jkalb | Permalink | Categories: Religion

Fri Jun 3 10:54:30 EDT 2005

A rant on multiculti v. the Religious Right

Liberal multicultural tolerance is a radical project that claims to be neutral, organized and imposed by people who claim to be professionals who are only there to help you. To listen to Thomas Frank, disagreement with the project is irrational, and totally incomprehensible except as a result of manipulation by dark forces. (He writes for Harper's, so presumably he knows what he's talking about.)

If he's right, then what some preacher in Kansas says to the people who decide to listen to him is a bigger threat to democracy than the amazing consistency on social issues of the views of the presidents of the top 50 universities and the deans of the top 50 law schools. Doubts creep in, though. Why aren't the political views of the preacher's adherents simply a reflection of personal conviction, which is supposed to be a good thing? On the face of it, there is no significant religious discipline in America and very little quasi-ethnic religious solidarity. Everything's voluntary and organizationally fragmented. So where does theocracy come in? And why doesn't the uniformity of what top academics say suggest common interests that lead to support of a common ideology that makes experts and professionals the rulers of the world?

In fact, it seems clear that the secular left has more backing from organized groups with an ax to grind than the religious right does. Why would right-wingers have to rely on informal participatory vehicles like talk radio and the internet if the left/liberals didn't control official opinion-forming institutions? It's not as if what schools, universities, the national press and all mainline Protestant religious leaders say is simply a reflection of the average outlook of the average American or the average net outcome of the particular views of particular people. America is professionalized, and such institutions feel a call to remake the social world. That means their attitudes on social issues are organized, inculcated and made official in various ways.

There's public attitude data suggesting that a quarter of the white population hates and fears fundies as much as the most antisemitic 1% hates and fears Jews. Regardless of the reliability of social science surveys, that corresponds pretty well with my impressions. We can agree that bigotry, divisiveness and social danger are bad things. But where are they found today?

Posted by jkalb | Permalink | Categories: Religion