Like the young king, Henry VIII, I was too busy yesterday, attending my usual five-times daily Mass to catch up with Thomas Schaller’s opinion piece (“The Problem is not Islam but Orthodoxy,” Baltimore Sun August 24, 2010).
The Eighth English Henry solved his compulsory Mass attendance problem by announcing that no one in England ought to go to Mass, ever. It has taken a while, but Henry’s no-mo’-Mass dream is coming true in England, where the immigrant Catholic and Moslem communities are vibrant but where the Anglican Church is to religious attendance what a skeleton is to a living body.
Speaking of living bodies, Henry’s against Anne Boleyn’s gave special urgency to Henry’s no-mo’-Mass rule. Cynicism is everywhere.
Which brings me to Mr. Schaller’s proposal that we honor the victims of Sept 11, 2001 by building what Mr. Schaller calls “a place” that “celebrates the idea that we ought to divorce our public behaviors from our beliefs in God – and for good measure, respect those who don’t believe in god at all.”
Brilliant. But Mr. Schaller forgot to announce how much he will personally kick in for such “a place.”
The failure to actually give cash undermines the idea. An unwillingness to put up personal money to get something done highlights the likely future of philanthropy in a non- religious society. Since we are taxed, why put up any personal money for “a place” of any kind?
Speaking of “place” the free-floating quote attributed to Jesus in Luke’s Gospel begs for context. As with many ancient texts, the original setting of a given statement often is not apparent in the final version, committed to writing decades later.
Jesus stated, according to the Gospel of Luke and Schaller, “bring them here and slaughter them before me.”
Did Jesus really say that?
More likely, this parabolic summation is the stark (and therefore memorable) sermonic highlight from an ancient Christian preacher, who wanted to explain to his tiny flock why their present dreary circumstances are as nothing compared to the cosmic culmination which awaited them. This would not be the last time when vindictive gibberish would be memorialized in a sermon.
By the way, just as Mr. Schaller was kidding about building a secular “place” in lower Manhattan, I was kidding about going to Mass five times a day. I check my Inbox that often but, since I am as secular as the next guy, that’s about it.