This is a brief post to wish everyone a happy Easter. It’s been unusually sober and religious for me. I had hoped to stay with friends in South Carolina but work commitments kept me in Washington. Everyone I knew in DC was out of town, so it was just me and Netflix for most of the weekend. I ended up going to church every day, culminating in an Old Rite Mass on early Sunday morning (I got up at 7am!). Now I feel rested and happy. The ordinary Lent-ending binge – with its associated regret and paranoia – has been averted. This year I have walked the straight and narrow path without a single tipsy trip or turn. Heck, I might be a candidate for sainthood.
I love the fact that this year Passover coincided with Easter. I doubly love how the American media covered the events differently according to the religious profiles of the staff. In the Huffington Post, it was all about how Moses was a proto-trade unionist and the message of Passover is to stand firm against The Bankers. In the National Review, Passover was all about the importance of the alliance with Israel against the al-Qaeda hordes. On Fox News, one segment ran, “Today is Passover, the day that Jews were liberated from Egypt. Let’s talk to Father Patrick McCarthy about the importance of this to Christians.”
I like living in a society where religion is comfortably and openly discussed. I’ve written many times before about growing up in a Baptist home in England and how that set me apart from my peers – I always felt perfectly comfortable talking about faith, whereas they saw it as a subject best reserved for Christmas holidays and the death bed. Outside of England there are two varieties of Christian country. One is where faith is externalized and cultural – somewhere like Italy, where there’s a church on every corner and the constant chime of bells. The other is where faith is internalized and part of a private discourse. That would be like America. Here in the USA, the Calvinist principle that salvation is to be achieved on one’s own terms predominates. But because the Americans are so terribly extroverted, something that should be a private monologue is invariably turned into a public conversation. Faith buzzes around one’s ears like radio waves – never materialized in physical form, but a constant fizz of chatter in the air.
Religion is the invisible architecture of America. Where Italy has Cathedrals and monasteries, America has television missions and mail-order Bibles. In Europe, Christian identity is a given because it’s physically actualized all around you. In America it has to be constantly verbally reaffirmed, precisely because you can’t touch it or see it. The unique genius of the American civil religion is its blending of medieval faith and Enlightenment reason. It is hammered out mid-air between interlocutors. The battleground is everywhere – and that mad fellow screaming Armageddon on the doorstep of Safeways is just another of our glorious foot soldiers. Do not shun him. Next week he could be the Republican Senator from Kentucky.
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This website used to host my blogs when I was freelance, and here are all my old posts...