Tuesday, July 06, 2004

A good Protestant church is hard to find

From a Touchstone writer to his college-age daughters on the Scylla & Charybis choice between liberal and fundie Protestant churches:
If I lost my faith, I would skip the step of being a religious liberal, and go straight to secularism. If I believed what the liberal believes, I wouldn't waste time on church. I can do without the sanctimonious company, thank you, don't need a moralizing homily from a second- or third-rate intellect that's pretending to be Christian (I would know enough Bible to know that real Christianity would look more like "fundamentalism"), and can give to worthy causes without the added middle-person, thank you. And I would deplore the first-rate intellect in the liberal pulpit as infected with a strange weakness that, against all sense and reason, made it religious. Sunday mornings would be better spent on recreation, like writing mocking, sarcastic letters to Touchstone in which I attempted to blend the best qualities of Bertrand Russell, Bernard Shaw, Nietzsche, Ingersoll, Screwtape, and the Grand Inquisitor.
The rest of the letter illustrates the subconscious denial of Catholicism that plagues so many conservative Protestants. Minus this parenthetical paragraph of sound judgment, the letter goes to extraordinary lengths to equate fundamentalists with "legalism" and to identify Catholicism as the prototype of this legalism. Of course, in step with Touchstone's ecumenical fashion, it insists that Protestantism is just as susceptible to the liberal/legalist dichotomy as Catholicism. Well, thanks a lot. Hutchens nonetheless seems desperate to avoid the possibility that the Catholic Church might actually transcend the liberal/fundie dichotomy that his daughters find so troubling. He resorts to a cute rehearsal of Luther's law vs. grace argument to strike that classic "Here I Stand" pose. I would take his line a few steps further: "If I lost my faith in the Catholic Church, I would skip the step of being a Protestant and a secularist, and go straight to hell."