Monday, April 29, 2013

On Ninja Angels And True TV Enlightenment

I'm a Midwesterner by upbringing as well as a Catholic, though I can't say I really identify with either identity now in my adulthood.  When it comes to the latter, I'm apparently in some very good company.  According to a recent Pew survey, while Catholics still constitution the single largest religious denomination in the United States at 23.9% of the population, a whopping one out of every ten adult Americans is a "lapsed Catholic."  (By way of comparison, the Catholics have lost more members than the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims and "Historically Black Churches" have acquired put together.)

For whatever theological qualms I came to develop with official church doctrine (which I needn't go into here), I quickly came to appreciate one thing in particular about Catholicism as it's practiced in America (and in my hometown of St. Louis in particular, a city known as the "Rome of the West" for its high Catholic population) when I traveled upstate for undergrad college in the sleepy rural town of Kirksville, Missouri.  In a few words, Catholics keep it in church.  I'm not talking about being a "Christmas/Easter Christian", or a "salad bar Christian".  I mean, Catholicism by and large doesn't busy itself with inserting itself into every moment and facet of life, or getting in the face of every passerby even when (particularly when) it's uninvited.

I'm looking at you, Bible Belt of America.

The first week of college was a real wake-up call to be suspicious of every friendly face that suddenly wanted to be my best bud on campus.  Give a Born Again Christian fifteen minutes and the conversation will quickly turn from "what classes do we have in common" to "have you invited Jesus Christ to be your personal savior?"  Midwestern politeness (and a deep urge to end the conversation as soon as possible) kept me from saying, "Yeah, after ten years of Catholic elementary and four years of Jesuit high school education ... me and the JC go back a few years, but I'm glad you had an epiphany last week and saw God in your cereal or whatever."

Outside of the classroom, I can easily say that the two biggest lessons I took from my undergraduate years is that (a) our culture is deeply awash in Christianity, and (b) many practicing Christians are convinced that, to the contrary, our culture is thoroughly godless in general and deeply anti-Christian in particular.  I've never quite figured out how these two things can be simultaneously true, how I could pass by dozens upon dozens of Christian-themed billboards on the four-hour drive to Kirksville, along with enough churches to give practically every Missouri resident their very own congregation of one, only to hear upon arrival that Christians are in fact a persecuted class of citizens in this heathen country.  This, of course, extends to our entertainment industry, which is widely disparaged as a wellspring of anti-Christian messages.

I still don't fully understand why the Christian Persecution Complex is so pervasive, but at least when it comes to the supposed "lack" of positive Christian entertainment, I think I know part of the answer.