Recently, NPR’s Morning Edition has addressed the question of religion in America. Friday’s story focused on the fact that people, especially the young, leave the Church because it does not address social issues the way the Bible addresses them. Church authorities and hierarchy are seen as more conservative than the Bible itself. How’s that for a 2+-thousand year old set of documents.
One positive of this story is that young people understand the Bible — perhaps better than many priests and certainly most bishops.
But I want to reflect on something else. In his very wonderful and clearly written book, Technopoly, Neil Postman discusses the way that symbols have lost meaning in American Technopoly. A technopoly is a society in which culture and individuals are put to the service of technology, rather than technology being at the service of individuals. Technopolies eliminate alternatives to themselves by redefining the meaning of some of our most important words — religion, family, politics, art. (I do not mean, by the way, to imply that the redefinition of family which bishops accuse homosexuals and homosexual marriage of bringing about is due to homosexual use of technopoly. Just the opposite.)
Postman suggests that “without a comprehensive religious narrative at its center, a cultura must decline” (p. 172). The question we might ask is whether the rejection of organized religion heralds a rejection of a comprehensive religious narrative.
Or instead, is the move away from religion a symptom that technopoly has won, and religion has failed in the modern era to provide a comprehensive religious narrative?
When we look at the divide, for instance, in the Catholic Church — between LeFebrites and the Church, but also between Kingdom Catholics and Communion Catholics, or left and right, or pro-life and Catholic social thought — we see a Church unable to provide a narrative that can address the challenges of the modern industrial world. I have written on here before that the teachings of Catholic social thought provide a seamless garment understanding of Catholicism, but the very use of the term irritates many lay people mis-lead by mis-informed bishops and priests (seminaries do not require education in Catholic social thought!).
Christianity, led by the Catholic Church, is a lost sheep, still torn up and confused by the findings of Galileo, Darwin, and Freud. But that’s only because the Church has allowed too many of its leaders to dismiss human reason as a gift from God by which we might discover God, in what St. Thomas Aquinas calls the book of nature. It allowed the Bible to answer questions for which it was not suited. Today, in consequence, we look to science for answers to questions for which it is not suited.
Only when we are able to see the Truth of the Bible as a consistent narrative of love will we be able to over-come these divides and put science and religion in their proper places. But right now, we are under the dominion of a technopoly that prevents that at every opportunity.