Friday, March 15, 2013

Spiritual But Not Religious

You have to keep in mind that popes are elected. That means that they have done enough politicking over the years to line up allies and votes. Voting among bishops is just as political as contests between Democrats and Republicans. The age thing is relative in some respects. People are living longer now. How many people have we read about recently who were great authors, musicians, actors, etc who died when they were in their early 90s? When I was a kid, I thought that 60 was the age close to death, but now my mother still has an active life and is near 90, although her parents died in their 60s and early 70s. I don't think the Catholic Church will change, and they will continue to lose members in Europe and America. Why? People have been leaving for years over the policies regarding birth control and divorce. As long as they hold their positions on those issues, people will either quit going to church or go to other religions. If they won't budge on those issues, don't hold your breath waiting for approval of gay marriage. There are also other scandals looming, including one about the Vatican Bank. Membership continues to increase in those parts of the world where couples continue to have lots of kids. Hence, choosing a pope from the growth market.

Spiritual people are probably uncomfortable with the fact that papal elections are still about politics. They like the symbology of the new pope naming himself after St. Francis because they like the ideas that Francis represents. 

But the rift still exists. Those who love the best ideals represented in Catholic theology but do practice birth control and have been divorced will still drop out and go their own way. 

Many people started drifting when the church gave up all their high rituals like the Latin Mass, Gregorian chants and so on. People were enchanted by the mysteries of the high magic. When you entered into one of those old churches and smelled the frankincense and beeswax candles, heard the chanting, participated in the ritual movements and responses led by the ritually robed priests, you knew you were in a special place. That is why so many people, even non-Catholics were captivated about the news of the process of selecting a new pope. Their attention was drawn into the rituals. This week even non-Catholics could be heard conversing about the cardinals being locked in until the election was final, black smoke, white smoke, the ringing of the bell, the announcement "Habeus Papam" and the significance of his choice of name.

This whole process is a great example of the contrast between what is meant when a person says that they are spiritual but not religious. They may not want someone telling them how to have sex or who to have it with, and they may not want to tithe, but they still love the magic of an otherworldly ritual. Ritual still has the power to move them spiritually, even if the policies of the organization do not.

No comments: