27 June 2005
The uncatholic church
My sister-in-law, who studies in France, is visiting our house right now, and since she's Catholic, she's been attending the mass each Sunday. After visiting a number of U.S. Catholic churches, she was struck by the presence of the U.S. flag next to the altar of all these churches, which claim to be "catholic." She says a flag in a Catholic Church is unimaginable in France.
Jesus did say, "Render into Caesar that which is Caesar's . . ." and this statement has engendered a lot of controversy, yet no matter how much we twist the wording, it doesn't seem to be advocating a marriage of church and state. Which makes me wonder why Christians are so eager to place the flag so close to the church altar. Has modern Christianity irrevocably conflated the state, the capitalist economic system, and religion? Is being Christian now just another marker of one's identity as a full-fledged member of a broadbased club? Of course, it isn't just Christians who are pandering to nationalist sentiments. In Thailand, we have Buddhist monks blessing tanks, and in the Middle East, Muslims fighting for a veiled world that never existed (and never will). But the American fundamentalist movement is perhaps even more ominous since it tries to capitalize on the convergence of religious zeal, military force, and economic power. Among the advantages that religion brings is its capacity to serve as a counter-balance to unwholesome human tendencies (e.g., instincts that drive us towards greed, violence, and ignorance). Can it still perform this function when married to the apparatus of the state? And is the American Catholic church, with flags waving next to the pulpit, a great vehicle guiding the faithful through darkness, or has the church completely ceased to be catholic?
Posted by Karlo at 11:50 p.m.