Monday, August 19, 2019

The new paganism. . .

The old paganism had imagination.  It was superstitious.  Though the old pagans did not believe in THE God who revealed Himself once for all in Christ Jesus, they did believe in gods, in spirits who controlled a hidden world of which they knew only part.  They knew the limits of their power and authority and were fearful of what was beyond their knowing and their control.  They sought to appease these hidden powers in whatever way reason or ritual might suggest.  Like St. Paul of old found, there was an awareness of and even altars to the unknown gods (perhaps in a just in case scenario).

The new pagans seem not to have this kind of imagination.  They routinely live within the realm of a virtual or digital life.  They may be superstitious but only marginally so and instead of the divine they think more in terms of luck.  They do not believe in the God whom we know through Jesus Christ but they would insist they do not necessarily believe in any gods even through they would claim with equal fervor they are are truly spiritual (without being religious).  What is meant by spiritual changes from one person to another but mostly it means that the person has a spiritual identity which lives past death.  This is a grand unity with spiritual forces scattered throughout nature as well as humanity.  That said, the new pagans do not see the limits of their power and believe they can reason themselves past any mortal barriers with the help of technology.  They are not fearful of where their technology or spirituality (without being religious) will take them but have every confidence that it will be good (better than today).  They do not seek to appease or control these hidden spirits but they do seek to use them for such earthly purpose as happiness and entertainment.

What is most true of the new pagans is that they consider Christianity old  news.  It is not that they have not heard the Gospel but they insist they have heard it all before and rejected most all of it.  Of course, it could be debated whether they have any real knowledge of Christianity at all but they do not believe they are in the dark.  It is not that they have never discovered the God who has revealed Himself in Christ but they think that they have known Him and found Him wanting in one form or another.  The new pagans think themselves wise to the old religions of the world around them and wise enough to see through them and their limitations to seek something better, more well eqjipped to satisfy the quest for happiness, contentment, entertainment, and pleasure.

Theirs is a paganism of worthy causes (climate change, social justice, sexual liberation, etc.,) that take the place of redemption but are ultimately causes that return to them not only the reward of making a difference but improving their own lot.  The sacramental reality they look for are not means of calling to the earth the divine but raising the mortal to a higher and more sacred purpose and calling.

It is a vastly different landscape that Christianity faces today as it looks out upon the numbers of these new pagans and the old approach of arguing them into the Kingdom or reasoning them into considering Jesus may not be all that effective.  Instead, the Church will need to manifest a more profound sense of the transcendent that is accessible through the profound means of grace.  I am not at all saying that the preaching of the Word will be unfruitful and that would be an arrogant statement to make.  What I am saying is that the world will need to see a people living out their lives within the liturgy, kneeling in confession and prayer, raising the voice of praise and thanksgiving, devoutly receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, and joyfully living out their baptismal life as children of God who belong not only to the moment but to eternity.


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