Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lead Balloons

It seems that Lit is going over like a bit of a lead balloon, at least in part because some people don't have access to it. Betty and Enbrethiliel are reading The Liars' Club instead (well, Betty did read Lit, too). Does anyone want to join them? I have reserved it at the library; strangely, Lit was easier for me to get. If not, we can chalk it up to the doldrums of August and wait until September.


Otepoti said...

I enjoyed Lit very much, and now I'm reading Cherry. I thought I might as well go backwards through Karr's life. I'm relishing it, but relishing takes time. At the current rate, I'll take a couple of weeks to get to Liars' Club.

In the meantime, I have a question for the group, about the process of conversion. There's probably a raft of theological courses on this, full of words like "soteriology" and "actualization", and I definitely lack the technical vocabulary for this, but it seems to me that Mary Karr's conversion follows a pretty typical pattern for converts drawn to the Catholic side of the household of faith. They're drawn primarily by the community of faith, and to the Church as an institution. The facts of the case, of the Lord's life and redeeming work, seem a secondary concern. Karr, Merton, Waugh, a communist newspaper editor turned Catholic whose name currently escapes me, and Lillian Roth (also out of AA) all seem to have this community-deep, facts-light conversion process.

Protestant converts such as I typically go through a "Case for Christ" process, and are constrained early in the piece to take a stand on the falsifiability of the facts - if the bones of Jesus were discovered in Palestine, that would be it, we would take our ball and go home in grief.

So my question is this - what happens for Catholics who find themselves asking questions about the veracity of the documents? (And is that what happened to Anne Rice?)

Pentimento said...

Was the communist newspaper editor Dorothy Day?

I thought at first I was going to be able to answer this question, but then I remembered that I was actually raised Catholic, something I sometimes forget. I can say that my reversion to the faith was solely about recognizing Christ's mercy and the fact that salvation comes only from and through Him -- as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (famous convert, née Edith Stein) wrote shortly before being deported to Auschwitz, "Ave crux, spes unica!" -- Hail to the Cross, our only hope.

What are the documents you mean?

Janet said...

I don't think that either Anne Rice's conversion or her exit from the Church had anything to do with documents. I don't see any evidence in what she says that indicates that her movement either way was intellectual--it seems largely based on feelings.


Emily J. said...

Maybe the Communist newspaper editor was Malcolm Muggeridge? Our grandfather had a photographic book of his essays laying around, so I always associate him with Ireland. I think he was moved by Mother Teresa.

On Anne Rice - seeing as she was raised Catholic, she's a third sort of case - perhaps her situation resembled yours, Pentimento - she saw her need for salvation through Christ. I wonder if her relapse is less about the sinners and hypocrites in the Church, as it is about something more personal. I'd would've thought, since she rejected the Church once, she was familiar with all the sinners and hypocrites and the teachings which superficially look condemnatory. Surely in the process of her reversion she uncovered them again and somehow decided she could live with them. So why now say "I'm through because the Church doesn't allow gay marriage and the leaders are all sinners?"

I didn't read her conversion story, but I did read Christ the Lord Out of Egypt several years ago. What I thought was most compelling about it was the section in which she talks about doing the research and noticing how theologians like to find "proof" for the causes they back instead of reading without ideologies. I can't remember now how her argument went, but it seemed very faithful. So her explanation for leaving the Church seems like a biscuit thrown out to keep the peanut gallery from discovering the real reason.

As for the veracity of the documents, I suppose if Christ's bones were found and proved to be his beyond a doubt or if some definite proof showed up - but I can't think of what since articles of faith are based on what can't be known, mysteries that can't be proved or disproved. The Creationists perhaps are at risk of losing their faith, but the Church was able to absorb all those pagan practices and Galileo and Darwin, so perhaps the next challenge could also be accomodated.

Looking back, I think that when I finally took ownership of being Catholic, my conviction began partly with reading novels about love, and somehow coming to the realization that everything is about love because of God. And it partly began with appreciation for the philosophical unity of the teachings and the beauty of the prayers and liturgy, and partly on awareness of a need for salvation, and partly a need for community. That sounds like a cop-out I suppose, especially since I technically became Catholic when my parents converted when I was in elementary school. BD and I didn't really grow up with any familial/ethnic identification nor any vocabulary of the faith nor with any real knowledge of what Catholicism was all about because it took awhile for our parents to soak all that up. Then again, that's probably true for a lot of kids.

I did get Liars Club from the library a couple days ago, and have read about 75 pages with fascinated attention. Then I went to Barnes and Nobles yesterday adn started to skim Lit before realizing it's a book that can't be skimmed. I was tempted to fold over a corner right there in the aisle, so instead I shut the book and headed to the checkout line, but while I was waiting, I realized that I probably wasn't going to finish it by the end of August because my husband is coming home TOMORROW, and I want to read Liars Club first if I do any reading. So I'm going to hope my library gets a copy of Lit not too long after I finish LC - or maybe I'll get back to a bookstore. So, Pentimento, don't think the book is a lead balloon, - just the timing.

I did read My Friends adn meant to write up some thoughts but don't know that I will do that either. You couldn't help but sympathize with poor Baton and his yearning for friendship, even though he's so pitiable; I suppose instead of hanging out at street corners and cafes like him, I lurk at blogs and wonder if someone will be my friend. That desire to be known and loved is maybe another starting point for conversion.

Enbrethiliel said...


I think Anne Rice's choices are good to ponder precisely because they are not intellectual. (I confess that my own skepticism is directed toward the mostly intellectual conversions, and I'm really starting to wonder about people who throw the word "orthodoxy" around a lot. That kind of clarity can be a wonderful thing, but it can make us mistrustful of those whose religiosity takes a darker edge.

I don't think anyone can read Interview with the Vampire and not see what a deeply Catholic book it is--even if it is an expression of dead (undead?) faith rather than living faith. Rice is an artist, not an apologist. She has to write as it comes, even she risks saying something she will someday regret.

I kind o take the reaction to Anne Rice personally, because my own reversion to the Church was very intellectual and I'm trying to work away from that now. These days, I can describe my faith and attempts at faithfulness in the paraphrase, "The spirit is weak, but the flesh is willing." I don't want to be here only because I m convinced it is all true, since I still have moments when I'm perfectly sure it isn't.

BettyDuffy said...

LIke Emily said, I sort of consider my reversion, a conversion, since, although we had received the Sacraments when our parents' converted, we had NO Catechesis. I'm not sure how that all worked out.

Anyway, in answer to Otepoti's original question, I think my reversion was less about community and ritual than it was about Christ, and being miserable with my sin. Since we had little Catechesis, I didn't have the spiritual vocabulary to seek a relationship with Christ outside of the few ritualized prayers I knew. And there was a Catholic community that helped me obtain that vocabulary, but I still didn't really obtain the vocabulary to talk about it with others. So I could talk, then, about the ritual, about the intellectual reasons for my faith, and about the moral enlightenment of living a life of Grace--but not about my relationship with Jesus because that was sort of a private, somewhat sentimental thing, that I had a feeling I should be embarrassed about.

Honestly, I think my embarrassment is related to our family's Protestant history, and the Evangelical movement that has absorbed a large portion of our extended family.

We were Methodists, and Disciples of Christ, which are both somewhat liberal, non-effusive denominations. And the zeal of some Evangelical members of our family became a source of ridicule, before we knew better than to make fun of people (still working on that, actually).

Anyway, I don't want to be the source of my own ridicule, or that of people who might think like I have at various times in my life, and so, I keep talking about the intellectual stuff, and the ritual, and keep Jesus to myself, except when I'm feeling very, very vulnerable.

As far as whether or not the facts of Jesus's life are true, having a Sacramental experience of the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist took away any doubt about that. It's a mystery that I cannot put into words.