Organized religion

Not for the first time in my experience, but for the first time in more than a week, I encountered a young lady on the weekend who told me that she believes in God, but fears organized religion.

“But it is very poorly organized,” I tried to assure her.

Normally I ask which god, or gods are favoured. There are so many in the marketplace today, I do not like to presume on brand loyalties. For whatever can be said against laissez-faire, one is compelled to admit that modern arts and sciences have stocked our supermarkets full. It is only when one looks at the fine print on the packaging, to read the ingredients, that one is inclined to scratch one’s head. None of these variously advertised gods strikes me as fresh.

The One into Whom I have bought, or more precisely by Whom I hope to have been boughten, “came down from Heaven” in a provocative way. Careful examination of the background, and also of the foreground of the Scriptures, has led me to the conclusion that they are authoritative, if often misunderstood. I note that Our Lord was personally guilty of founding one of these “organized religions,” and of appointing the deeply flawed Saint Peter as its first CEO. And that, whatever can be said against it, the organization is still around, with the same sales message never yet updated, and in as much of a mess as ever before.

Verily, the more I read of history, the better persuaded I become that Catholic Church, TM, has been on the brink of collapse, continuously, these last two thousand years. As Hilaire Belloc put it, and I do love to quote this:

“The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.”

By comparison, I suppose, the Prophet of Submission could be accounted wiser, to have taken arms against his sea of troubles. His outfit would descend from the unattended dunes upon complacent strangers, in hours when they were unaware. (The whole process arguably in anticipation of the Welsh art of Llap-goch.)

For our “Christian” part, even in the colonies, it was the piratical State that arrived this way — with a disorganized gaggle of proselytizing priests, seldom in their baggage, under the impression they must save men’s souls, wherever the ships sailed — unarmed, and frequently alone, in circumstances perfectly unpredictable, except for the reasonable expectation of a grisly end. They were, in the Americas as elsewhere, more likely to be pleading on behalf of the beleaguered natives against the State, than exacting tributes to the State’s command.

There is a real contrast here in marketing strategies.

But yes, our religion is “organized” in the sense that it is formally hierarchical, and the Sacraments are “administered” in an aforethought way. That much has not changed, and even the architectural arrangement of our franchises has remained fairly constant on the crucifix floorplan, with the head pointing, at least in principle, to the East. (Not towards the Tomb, but instead towards the rising Sun, which is why the churches east of Jerusalem also point east, sort-of.)

And as Cardinal Sarah recently reminded, our priests are supposed to be pointed that way, too: ad orientem, as the saying goes. Verily, it is a mark of our current state of confusion, disorder, debilitation, attenuation, and horseplay, that so many of them are pointed the wrong direction.

Hence the rest of my reply to that sweet young ingénue:

“Please, lady, you do us too much credit. We are only trying to be an organized religion. We haven’t got there yet; your fears are premature.”