Confessions of the Neither Left Nor Right (Nor Up Nor Down)

"a dog is not a toy," by Paul Stumpr

“a dog is not a toy,” by Paul Stumpr (Flickr)

I suppose, if forced to collapse to the left or the right of Catholicism, I’d scowl slightly and twitch to the right. But I’d resent being compelled. I admit I have a panic button that, when struck, makes me look a lot like a toddler with plush doll versions of Ireneaus, the Virgin Mary, Thomas Aquinas, and Dante, hugging them close and yelling, “BUT I NEED THEM ALL FOR THE CAR RIDE!”

I’ll not be very easily or pleasantly unhanded of the great theologians of the tradition. (Yes, Mary was one of them.)

My stubborn clutch of the past makes me something like a conservative, I guess. If by that we mean “someone who likes old things.” I do like old things. Hell yes. If it means “against change and development,” I don’t even think that’s possible for a Catholic. And if it means “angry/stupid,” I honestly don’t remember signing up for that one at my baptism. Not that I remember my baptism. I’m just saying: my baptism is carried along by all the baptized who have come before me. So I like old things, yes.

All the same, tradition without conscientious engagement with the present is no longer itself. Jesus did not say to the Apostles, “Go therefore and ignore people.” The strange adventure of faith means, somehow, a consistency with its origins that is at the same time creative and new. Now, we might well disagree on what that looks like – tell me I can’t bring plush Saint Benedict along and watch me throw a fit – but we must at least agree that faith has to live. That it cannot simply look “the same,” since that ends up being code for “my favorite century of Catholic history.” We are responsible for all the centuries. Including this one.

Which is, I suppose, what the left is said to wear on its banner. So I guess I’m twitching left now. I don’t know: I have two hands, a left and a right. Are we talking about my hands? I have two. You have two, I hope. And if you don’t, you will in Heaven.

I don’t know what side I’m on. I want to be on Christ’s side. “O good Jesus, hear me; within thy wounds hide me; suffer me not to be separated from Thee,” as the Anima Christi says. That seems like a great side to be on, whatever it looks like. And I will suggest only that it looks like Christ. I will add that it probably does not look like us.

I mean, I wouldn’t attend a parish I myself ran. I know that much.

I find them all rather useless, these old little boxes people keep trying to stuff each other into for some reason. I guess it’s easier than facing how complicated the Church and her people are. In any case, I know I’m small, but I freaking hate being shoved into a locker. Stop it. I’m not a freshman in high school anymore, and when I was, the practice amongst the senior girls was to hiss at freshmen girls. Which was just…weird, and not all that frightening.

It might be healthier to think of loving soft things like a toddler does instead of choosing sides. Not to mention it’s infinitely cuter. Essentially, the first and last principle of Christian thought is charity. If that is not what drives what we say and how it reaches others, I’m not sure what we’re doing.

I’m not saying “let’s all get along,” though that would be nice. I am saying we ought to think seriously about what charity might look like, and leave open the possibility that we are not at present being very charitable at all. Even if we are right.

I would very much like to share my very huggable Aquinas with you. He’s so fat, it’s easy to cuddle with him. And what would you share with me?

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2 thoughts on “Confessions of the Neither Left Nor Right (Nor Up Nor Down)

  1. I very much resonate with your desire to be neither left nor right. Some friends and I have a blog, Via Media Methodists, where we seek something similar to what you’re calling for here. Thanks for this.

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