Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Election of Popes

I noticed during the elections of John Paul I and John Paul II in 1978 that the networks covering the stories were not so much anti-Catholic as just not understanding things outside their own sphere. Whatever network one turned to, it was the same: a guess at how he might be on the issues of abortion and women priests. That was the discussion in the leadup, and the discussion after the election. It was not a declaration that these were the only issues that were important, it was the only things they could wrap their head around. They assumed that this was all anyone else was interested in. This, remember, was in a time just after the very religiously identified 1960s. In 1960, 96% of Americans identified with some religious tradition. Yet by 1978, one class of people did not have the basic information about it. 

 I remember some of the problem, of people thinking that religion was about "being a good person." 

This has increased over time, and has certainly expanded to include conservatives as well. They think they understand and see through everything. That is the story for the Jonathan Haidt research which is about political rather than religious differences. I have commented much on that, but it is not my issue today. 

Intriguingly, this is happening even among liberal Christians now. This is a reversal. In the 70s and even into the 80s the conservative (usually both senses) Christians seemed to be the ones who did not understand much actual doctrine and Church history. They knew about being Born Again, the ideas behind Christmas and Easter, plus a lot of cultural nonsense they held in equal esteem, like no alcohol, no tobacco, using the KJV, or amount of water for baptism. Those in the moderate and liberal denominations often knew more about doctrinal distinctives and the reasons for them. 

The number of liberal (usually both senses) denominations has grown since then, and I think they are the weaker brethren in this matter now. They retain plenty of people with high amounts of knowledge, certainly, but these are concentrated in the oldest generation, my generation now. Young Lutherans and Congregationalists have an almost entirely political gospel now. They think they have understood the "real" doctrines off the church, but have embraced the most ephemeral.

If even those who have grown up attending services no longer understand, we can hardly expect that secular reporters will suddenly start to get it. CS Lewis: "None can give to another what he does not possess himself. No generation can bequeath to its successor what it has not got."

1 comment:

james said...

Years ago I noticed that kids from our youth group had some notable gaps in their knowledge about the faith, and I composed(*) a "background for the faith" to remedy that. I've mentioned this to several youth group leaders over the years, without exciting inconvenient enthusiasm. Probably they're up past their eyebrows already, and given some of the prayer requests that come out of the youth groups, not without reason. The pastoral aspects of the job are daunting.

I wonder what's out there for catchesis already on Youtube.

(*) "Composed" might be the wrong term: perhaps "collected" is better, given the different styles the different chapters wound up with.