Friday, March 23, 2012

Christopher West and the Truman Show Catharsis

I wonder if there are a lot of Fr. Z. groupies who are also Westians. Because of the whole "Reclaim the body for the New Evangelization" and the "Save the liturgy, save the world" thing. There probably is not. I guess it's just that idolatry extends across the entire spectrum these days, doesn't it?

I know what is meant by "Save the liturgy, save the world". I agree with it, albeit with a great deal of wariness; for clearly it is not immune to the perennial errors of gnosticism so implicit in the phrase. The errors are not in the phrase per se; but when you consider the perennial inclination of the heart to gnosticism, those errors threaten the words. Indeed, something that is bound to the Eucharist should kind of make one all the more cautious in that regard.

Heck, maybe a lot of the Liturgists from the good old 70's were saying to themselves, "Save the liturgy, save the world." Oh, but you're Neo from The Matrix and you swallowed the right pill, so you're not going to do anything so bad in the major arteries of life as that 70's Liturgist, are you? No, you're not.

Of course, gratitude for knowing proper liturgy is a healthy antidote. But we are ever prone to reducing salvation history - meaning that of our own time - to a nifty code. Restore grammar and everything else will follow suit. Reclaim the body for the new evangelization, and the body-worshipping New-Pagans will convert. Save the liturgy, save the world. And if you can make a few bucks from selling paraphernalia along with it, why not?

I'm interested to know, of the number of people who were formed in some way by a cult and came to be disillusioned, how many of that number went on to form a cult of their own, or joined another cult, or bought into something cultish.

Being formed in some way by a cult must be something extraordinarily difficult (diffi-cult?) to uproot from one's own heart. It's not the brainwashing that's the most dangerous part of a cult; it's what the cult does to the heart.

Because everybody wants to have their Truman Show Catharsis. It can be intoxicating to come to know the lie you have been living. Lots of people like to live this catharsis via their parents, whether real or not, via their teachers, via the economy . In fact, it seems the whole world wants its Truman Show Catharsis, on every level. Like Libertarians congratulating themselves for holding the notion of de-centralization.

Many do not want to understand what the lie is that they have been living under to its truest extent, for that would entail the difficulty of what's been assimilated by the heart, back and forth. They want the Truman Show Catharsis right now, and they want it to go on in perpetuity. Of course, that is when it starts to get highly ironic.

That's the deadly thing about a cult. You have your Truman Show Catharsis and then go on to perpetuate what the cult printed in your secret heart; it's just that you do so under a different modus operandi. Or rather, it is your heart under the same modus operandi, except that instead of being the receiver of the lies and manipulation, you are now the one perpetuating them - under a different species.

If you grew up, say, in the Mother of God community, as Christopher West did, and with the vanity provided by newspapers, came to your disillusionment, and on the very intoxication of that Truman Show Catharsis, went on to formulate a theological antithesis from it, which in turn bolstered your Truman Show Catharsis, which also generated millions of dollars - I mean, that's one delusion that's not going to be going away any time soon, is it?

Didn't think so. Especially not when the cult has formed for you an enemy to fight and provided you with the method by which it is fought.

You take that cult-programming pancake and flip it over from repression to indulgence.

9 comments:

jvc said...

I've wondered about that.

I would actually say that I seem to have noticed a strong disconnect between Latin Mass enthusiasts and Westians.

Paul, have you seen a correlation, rather than the opposite?

Paul Stilwell said...

I have not seen any concrete correlations. Nor am I looking for any. The intro of the post is just my "cautionary thinking". It's also me being flippant, I confess.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Stilwell, what I found most striking in your post post was this:

. . . we are ever prone to reducing salvation history - meaning that of our own time - to a nifty code. Restore grammar and everything else will follow suit. Reclaim the body for the new evangelization, and the body-worshipping New-Pagans will convert. Save the liturgy, save the world.

Several of your posts have caused me to recall another friend's explanations of scapegoating. In a nutshell, it is the idea that if we can only get rid of a certain something--be it Jews, Muslims, Baby Boomers, bad translations, altar girls, or "immature" purity (The list could go on and on)--then we could truly save the world. Because that certain something can be "proven" to be the fountainhead of all evil in the world (or in the Church). You can imagine that someone who has scapegoated something, whatever it may be, will be zealous in his attempts to eradicate it.

What you're describing here is (appropriately enough) the flipside of scapegoating. Let's call it the search for a false messiah. It seems more positive in that it's not about getting rid of anything, but about instituting something--but of course it's just the other side of the same deceptive pancake. The focus could be the consecration of Russia, acceptance of Medjugorje, the Latin Mass, homeschooling, "mature" purity: some questionable things, but also some truly good things. But not even the best items on the full list (which one would have to be an expert in Catholic Fads to write) is the saviour its advocates think it is. Even Jesus wasn't the saviour many of His Jewish advocates thought He was, when they supposed He had come to multiply loaves on a regular basis, to expel the Romans once and for all, and to restore the temporal glory of Israel.

Paul Stilwell said...

It's late and I have to get to bed. Just wanted to say first I'll have to return to your comment. So interesting.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post.
I truly appreciate it.

Dawn Eden said...

You write: "That's the deadly thing about a cult. You have your Truman Show Catharsis and then go on to perpetuate what the cult printed in your secret heart; it's just that you do so under a different modus operandi. Or rather, it is your heart under the same modus operandi, except that instead of being the receiver of the lies and manipulation, you are now the one perpetuating them - under a different species."

That is a sobering point about the need to purge the old leaven. A popular Catholic apologist who is a convert from Protestantism likewise warned me that one of the greatest dangers for converts who wish to spread the faith is that they may have residual prejudices from their former formation--prejudices so deeply ingrained that they lurk beneath the conscious mind.

love the girls said...

From the blog link : "He sounds truly Manichean in his claim that an engaged couple is not virtuous unless they are capable of being alone together the day before their wedding without sinning."

Manichen? No. It's Catholic.

Virtue is a habit, and if they are not capable of being alone, then they are not virtuous. Or at least not sufficiently virtuous to resist their disordered appetites.

Further, I don't like the Catholic cults because they're invariable enthusiastic, but I can certainly understand why they are sought out.

The desire to belong to a Catholic cult is due to there not being a Catholic society even at the parish level. Men by nature seek out society which conforms to them.

The reason the Church embraces them is because it has nothing else.
_____________

Enbrethilel,

Accidentals move us. And some move us more than others. It's not a matter of scapegoating, but recognizing that we are moved by our environment with a desire to change that environment in order to change that which is more hidden.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

LTG: I'm not talking about the normal desire to change one's environment into something more ideal, akin to setting out a vase of eucalyptus in order to sweeten the air. I'm talking about the projection of evil onto others, who can then be blamed and punished for it--akin to passing a law that bans smoking even in private homes, in order to sweeten the air.

W*** has made a career of projecting puritanism onto everyday Joes who are simply practicing custody of the eyes, and explaining why they are more responsible for modern society's screwed up (Ahem!) ideas of sex than professionals in the porn industry. His proposed solution: forget custody of the eyes; learn his special brand of "mature purity."

In short, in this case, it is about scapegoating.

love the girls said...

Enbrethiliel,

From what I have gathered in my 15 minutes of reading, West appears to be much closer to the mark.

The modern american war on tobacco is puritanical.

I'm not sure if puritanical is the right term, but it is the one that is commonly used.

Northeastern Yankee sensibilities pervade america. West isn't scapegoating, he's looking at the cause. A cause which affects different american subcultures differently. But nevertheless a cause which can be traced.

Look at the uproar over some girl being called a slut. The girl is a slut, and demands society respect her for being a slut, but progressive society is highly offended at her being called what she is.

American society is weirdly puritanical when it comes to sex.