Monday, December 20, 2010

Christians. The Weird Kind

I don't usually care for Bene Diction Blogs On, but he published an interesting link to Internet Monk about "Weird" Christians.

For some people, all Christians are weird. But I'm not talking about an atheist prejudice.

I'm talking about the kind of Christian who wears his faith on his sleeve, for whom life is filled with miracles, prophecies, anointings in the spirit, "speaking in tongues" and so forth.

And the idea that interested me the most is that of "supernatural lust". I belive that St. John of the Cross or St. Teresa of Avila referred to a similar idea.

I thought this might be a good springboard to talk about Catholic spirituality.

Supernatural lust (as I term it, and I think it's part of theological lingo, though I may be wrong) is the constant quest for visions and supernatural manifestations. It's really unhealthy.

It's the secular equivalent of always wanting your boyfriend or husband to show affection to prove their love. In the same way, you want God to constantly show his love for you.

Some people want their faith justified, authenticated and rewarded with ecstasies of various forms (and I use the word "ecstasies" loosely). So they spend their time contemplating, waiting for something to happen. Or they study the Scripture looking for some special knowledge of the future so that they can be a kind of prophecy insider.

I really do believe that ecstasies, miracles, prophecy, etc happen. I believe that they happen more than we think.

But the absence of daily manifestations of the divine is not a sign of lack of faith.

I do believe we are part of a cosmic battle. And I do belive angels and demons are part of that battle, and that prayer is necessary.

But those things are lived through the mundane, and not being party to them does not change the direction of supernatural history one bit.

So if you can't know whatthe angels or the demons are doing, it makes no difference. I truly believe that there spirits of darkness at abortion clinics, for instance, and I pray for God to bundle them up and send them back to hell.

Notwithstanding this, the way we're going to experience them is fairly mundane. We won't see the effects of our prayers in a great divine battle. We're going to see people change jobs or change minds.

Another important part of Catholic spirituality is the idea that private revelations are meant for you and perhaps another specific party. Not typically for general consumption. If you read about the visions of the saints, they don't get on a platform and start preaching "I saw this, I saw that." They might write about them in books, but they don't go to the pulpit with that particular message, placing themselves as some kind of divine conduit. You might say that there are obvious exceptions to this like the Revelations of Fatima. The Revelations of Fatima were also accompanied by very public miracles.

Most experiences are private. And they are not accompanied by miracles.

What I find Protestantism lacks is a body of wisdom on revelations and institutional controls. The "democratic" of Protestantism leads to a lack of authoritative discernment-- everyone's an expert. In the Catholic Church, there exists a branch of theology called mystical theology that can inform a person about true and false revelations. There is also the formal examinations of church authorities to make sure that religious manifestations do not get out of control. There's a reason why Catholics don't tend to writhe around on the ground as a show of their faith.

I can't say that I've had a lot of direct experience with "weird" Christians. I come from a Catholic culture. It's just not done.

I simply wanted to use this post as a springboard to start a conversation about Catholic spirituality.