Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Attacking the Church Militant: Harry Potter theology indeed!

Over at aCath News we have been graced today with a post by Mark Johnson attacking the Church Militant. 

The very concept of it I mean.

Does he not understand the concept that all catholics in this world are members of the Church Militant?!

Yet Mr Johnson apparently teaches in the Department of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney, where he is a PhD candidate.  So he has no excuse for such ignorance.  Likewise Cath News itself.

Fight the good fight of faith?

The object of Mr Johnson's ire is apparently the use of militant language, and the concept that there are actually such things as absolute good and absolute evil.  I assume this means he hasn't actually read (or understood) any Christian Scripture as such!

Let's take a look at some of what he has to say...

Much of recent institutional Catholic identity has become overwhelmed with a prevailing deep insecurity. This insecurity has taken many forms - such as criticism of servant models of leadership [Mr Johnson claims anyone who criticises this very recent theory is suffering from 'insecurity'!  The classic liberal tactic of attack those who dare question their particular storyline, rather than actually engaging with the critique itself!] and the rise of a variety of ‘warrior’ narratives [which are surely firmly based in Scripture.] which not only seek to demarcate a righteous ‘us’ from the sinister ‘them’, but abrogate for ‘us’ the deeply hubristic role of combatants for God. [It is deeply disturbing to see taking up the fight for Christ being described as 'hubristic' in an opinion piece on a site claiming to be catholic.]

As if the world really needs more such self-appointed militia. [It is entirely disingenuous to compare those taking up the spiritual battle to those actual physical world militias!]

The most consistent construct of this insecurity [really?] is cultural, and the great miasmic evil to be confronted is relativism. [Well, at least he is honest about where he is coming from.  And it is not Catholicism as such.]

The assault on natural law as the basis of society

Mr Johnson then proceeds to defend relativism, attempts to redefine it and what constitutes liberalism, and argue that there is no such thing as absolute truth. 

He claims that the real target of the Catholic critique is liberal democratic systems. 

There is something in that - to the extent that what we understand by the term liberal democratic increasingly seems to mean moving away from a natural law based conception of government where some truths are held to be self-evident. 

Instead, liberal democratic is increasingly being redefined by stealth to mean a permissive system based on arbitrary "rights" where the prevailing criteria for what constitutes a right is the pursuit of individual pleasure even at the expense of other's rights (such as to life) and the good of society as a whole. 

And that is why it doesn't matter whether you call it liberalism, relativism or whatever - because Catholics should indeed be trying to resist the  attempt to fundamentally redefine the basis of Western society away from the concept that the laws of a nation must be grounded in the natural law!

Truth is not 'relational'!

Mr Johnson then proceeds to give a rather obscure dissertation that I assume is trying to say that truth can be found everywhere, not just in the Church:

Relativism as the imperative to understand knowledge as relational is deeply to do with truth. It reminds us that knowledge does not manifest in a vacuum, but instead has all sorts of tributaries flowing from all sorts of wells. [ie outside the Church?  Well half true of course!  Elements of the truth can be found everywhere - but mixed with error.  We need the Church to safeguard truth, and revelation to protect us against error.]

Take for example our own Christian faith. Some may not want you to see this, but if we lift up the seemingly pristine cover of static notions of certainty we find a wonderful conglomeration of influences. Surely the Spirit speaks through vitality and a harmony of diversity.

He goes on to talk about the fact that Catholic culture is the product of multiple influences.  That's true of course.  But what we should treasure is the outcome purified by the encounter with Revelation, not all the discarded bits as he seems to be advocating!  He goes on:
What is it that speaks through deadening uniformity, or even mindless conformity? [Anyone who claims the Church's spiritual traditions involve deadening uniformity or mindless conformity is clearly simply ignorant of the rich and diverse patrimony of the Church.  Or is he talking about those pesky moral doctrines we are required to believe as Catholics....]

I won't bother to reproduce the rest of it, you get the flavour.  A commenter suggests that his piece constitutes 'Harry Potter' theology.  Indeed.

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