Saturday, December 12, 2009
Hellinistic Syncretism Redux!
A new poll by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that large numbers of Americans engage in multiple religious practices, mixing elements of diverse traditions. Many say they attend worship services of more than one faith or denomination -- even when they are not traveling or going to special events like weddings and funerals. Many also blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects.
I'm all for it. This, I believe, is the shape religion should take and the direction in which ecumenism should have gone. I cannot fathom why it should matter whether Christian churches agree on fundamental theological claims, much less whether they achieve some sort of liturgical uniformity. What matters is that individuals are welcome to participate in any cult the please whenever they choose, no questions asked.
Churches are now collapsing under their weight of their own arrogance--imagining that they have wisdom to teach, that they embody "worldviews," that they are in a position to teach us how to live. Priests imagine that they're able to exercise intellectual and moral leadership. The sheer arrogance is breathtaking. These jerks want to be important, when they are, and should be, no more than trained monkeys doing pujas.
The pity is that the high cults are dying, as the cults of the city gods did during the Hellenistic period, and being replaced by vulgar, superstitious, boring crap. We know what the denoument was then: Constantine and the triumph of Christianity, gobbling up both high and low paganism--the Neoplatonism of the elite assimilated and the superstition of the vulgar sucked into the cult of the saints. I doubt that this will happen again. It was an historical accident that an emperor took up a cult and promoted it.
It seems a shame. Almost two thousand years of an historical tradition, the development of theology and art--so much of the good stuff of our culture trashed and replaced by the vulgar shopping mall religiousity of the megachurches, commercialized New Age products, and bits and pieces of Eastern Religions.
I don't care if people do yoga or dance naked around maypoles or play at Wicca. I just want my cult to survive so that I can enjoy it.