June 4, 2017. The Church’s Pagan Problem

During a road trip with a broken CD player, the only radio stations we could pick up were “country” or “Christian”. The rule was we had to stay on that station until it faded out. We got to hear lots of country music. One of our favorites didn’t fit the “my dog died, my wife left me and took my beer and my best friend, then my truck died” mold. The title was “We’re a drinking town with a football problem”. The lyrics were eminently forgettable, but at least the title had some imagination to it. Since I basically live under a rock, it took someone significantly younger than me to explain that the song title is an example of a current linguistic trend, mostly related to alcohol: “they are a drinking club with a fundraising problem”, “a drinking college with an achievement problem”, etc. So here is my understanding of The Trinity: “We’re a pagan religion with a Christian problem.”

Trying to explain Matthew 28:19 to a Jew or a Muslim while maintaining that Christianity is a monotheistic religion will result in frustration, pity, disillusionment, or calling into question your sanity. The Trinity is named specifically only in Matthew. You would think that the Gospel writers would give us more to go on, since The Trinity is so important and all. But Trinitarian Doctrine was invented after the Gospels were written. It is also very dense. Whenever I think about “three persons of one substance” for any length of time, I end up either banging my head against a wall or eating a pound of chocolate chip cookies just to get over it. In the end, amidst the broken plaster and the crumbs, we have Holy Mother Church using pagan European logic to explain Asian monotheism. That’s like trying to nail a screw with a wrench. You can, but it’s difficult to do without damage.

It’s time to face our pagan problem and, since we can’t recover from it, make the pagan problem ours. We don’t have far to go. Our major feasts are pagan holidays with a Christian varnish. They were once (and still are) celebrated as Yule and Oester in Northern Europe. You can argue that praying for a saint to guide you is different than a pagan practice, but it will take time, new plaster and more cookies. And don’t even start with the Christian artwork created through the centuries. Or the statues at the back of the church. (I mean, really, who is to say that the strobe effect on St. Michael isn’t Holy, or at least, … profound?)

If you are sharpening your keyboards to draft a heresy presentment against me, there’s no need. Here’s the thing: doctrine is important because it pushes us to understand the truth of faith rather than follow misguided human whim. BUT doctrine does not, in and of itself, feed the hungry, clothe the naked or bring justice to the poor. We have a limited capacity to understand the Mind of God. But we have a limitless capacity for love.

In the Name of the Father, and of The Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I am
Fr. Ed