Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

23 January 2011

Latent Catholicism

The other day in an art gallery my eye was drawn to a piece that clearly had been influenced by the culture of the Catholic church. It was a wooden piece that looked like it came out of a very old sanctuary of some sort. And it was painted bright red. I loved it.

When I half-jokingly explained my attraction to the piece by referring to my own latent Catholicism, a friend objected. You can't be Jewish and Protestant and atheist (my actual chosen religious belief), yet also in possession of a latent Catholicism, so his logic went.

"True," I thought. And then I objected. The truth is, Protestantism comes out of a deeply rooted Catholic tradition, and therefore anyone who grows up Protestant also grows up with the Catholic structural paradigm, even though many protestants (certainly Baptists) would be loath to admit this.

At any rate, I certainly am in possession of a latent Catholicism. I'm actually really into Catholicism. I think that if I were to return to Christianity in some way, Catholicism would be the first thing I would look up. I say this mostly because of the magic that is such a huge component of Catholic belief. Certainly many Christian rituals contain magic – the marriage ceremony is an obvious instance: it is a sin to have sex and then poof it is not a sin to have sex: magic – but I feel like Catholicism has more magic in it. The doctrine of trans-substantiation is a magical moment at every single mass, but I feel like there are a lot of other magical moments: magical artifacts, totems, ritualized behaviors that impart some magical blessings or cleansings. I don't really know enough about it to make a list of these items; I guess it's more just an impression of Catholicism. Perhaps the Baptists have just as many, although I can't think of too many off the top of my head...