In a time when religion is blamed for bin Laden, intolerance and other modern impertinences, Marx’s old bluster that “religion is the opiate of the masses” has gotten a second wind.
But religion was never a good opiate. When it does its job right, religion startles its adherents with a bracing picture of reality, and a terrifying apprehension of divinity. The only religious opiate that exists is the psycho-babbular cult of mega-church convenience and anonymity.
The real opiates are quite secular in nature. Take a look at these very real opiates for the masses, especially the new ones.
Not softball or sandlot baseball, or flag football, but all professional chimeric productions hyped by steroids, shrill agents and million-dollar contracts for $100 slum shoes. This opiate includes suburban and wannabe-suburban parents who overbook their kids’ weekends with soccer to get themselves out of church and behind chain-link fences so they can holler at the coach who plays his own kids and not theirs. Sports TV is false history and gradeschool arithmetic on crack. But professional sports is not nearly as opiate as is …
Amateur politics in Elks Clubs, church halls and mildewed Grange chambers is human and earthy, almost holy, even with the carbuncles of certain pot luck pots (e.g., “slippery pot pie”) and shoe-banging deaf octogenarians. This is politics in the way of Aristotle, even Machiavelli, and can be understood within the bounds of human nature. But what we have in the procession of real power is no longer human. What we have on TV has little to do with real power, but is instead a soap opera soporific, where one donut president can change races on a whim, and another oilman president is an avowed enemy of the English language. I might vote for a Ron Paul/Obama ticket, but what I will get, like death and taxes, is Clinton/Clinton.
Wall Street. Wealth management.
Or, more accurately, wealth protection via human sacrifice – a term that includes abortion, partial birth abortion, and renunciation of childbirth (note the sterility of Western Europe and Russia, and the new chic cult of young adult self-sterilization). Human sacrifice also includes the globalization and free trade zeitgeist that produces unholy couplings like the Chinese über-oligarchy in “civil union” (if it can’t be called marriage) with trans-national corporations like the lead-based Mattel corporation. Wealth protection also demands the sacrifice of other natures, like forests and rain forests, coral reefs and chaparrals, farms and childhood, home, heart, hearth and earth.
Self-determination. Auto-cephaly. A single American jurisdiction.
The first explains why American religion must gravitate toward the hoodwinking, hackneyed ecclesial format of the townhall meeting. The second term carries the seed of its own destruction, like a lysosome, because autocephaly usually produces encephalitis. And the third term ignores (or fantasizes against) the most important lesson of all American religious history (something missed by the otherwise spot-on Ahlstrom): in America, a centralized ecclesial administration will always tend toward a heretical departure from Christianity: first from traditional ecclesiology, then Incarnational ethics, and then finally from Trinitarian faith. These departures are necessitated by the transgressive personal behaviors of an independent and academicized bureaucratic elite, who look with disdain upon the “trite” moralisms of the grass-roots, the rank-and-file blue-collar non-initiates who have not attained the 33rd degree of institutional gnosis. Sin produces heresy, because sin necessitates heresy so that sin can abound (sin, and the passion that produces it, is militated against by the sheer presence of Orthodox doctrine). One cannot believe in the Trinity whilst one is sodomizing, or self-aggrandizing, or intellectualizing. So one must turn the Trinity and Incarnation into something else, another more palatable narrative. Something more egalitarian, more industrial, more cosmo.
Jesus did not have fun. St. Paul and John Chrysostom did not have fun. Joy, yes, but not fun. Fun is diversion, a pseudo-ecstasy that proves to one’s acquaintances or “social network” that one has been “happy,” and is therefore “justified” in the modernist semantic mapping of salvation. But fun as a goal is like a greased pig, like a djinn who might grant three wishes but always one damnation camouflaged in the fine print. Our celebrities have lots of fun. QED.
This sort of sex used to be confined to the red light district, but has now invaded the heterosexual bedroom – through the mediation of checkout aisle glossy journals and “christian” and oh-so-not-so-christian sex manuals for once, twice and thrice marrieds (like the guy who wrote about martians and venusians in bed). Sex is now, for many, a goal, even a gateway into gnosis. I have heard that it is even, by itself, a sacrament. It is most certainly not. It is a blessing for a married man and woman. But it becomes a curse if perverted and engaged elsewhere and elsewise. But even married sex has become the stuff of science and serious technique, with counselors unwittingly channeling the spirits of Masters and Johnson, Kinsey and the toe-curling pages of Cosmo. Is modern sex necessary for marriage? No. Is transgression necessary for modern sex?
Public relations. Communication science/industrial psychology. Sociology.
This is the commercial apparatus for the processing of reality into spam-information (which is mistaken for knowledge). "Spamfo" is marked by an abundance of statistics that act as miraculous evidence for an unholy tradition. "Public relations" is a modern corporate invention that exploits facelessness and namelessness, and relies on the rhetoric of repetition, ambiguity and public inattention. Consumerism presents the corporate enterprise of mystification with a ready-made ethos: consumers want to believe the companies, simply because they want their stuff. I am not anti-business in the least, because I come from a clan of farmers, truckers and shopkeepers, even printers. But I cannot abide Wal-Martian newspeak ... oh, and since when did sociology replace history? And doesn't the very term "industrial psychology" creep you out, with Matrixian foreboding? How is "communication" ever a science? Is this not blasphemy?
Third Rome. Fourth Rome.
One should raise one's eyebrows when phrases like "monolithic unity of church and state" are bandied about. One should not be surprised if Anchorage might be crystal-balling, instead of eastward toward Long Island, westward 4309 miles away. One should not put their trust in mortal princes, even in best practices, even in open democracy, even in the satisfaction of cranky web sites. One should not neglect prayer and doctrine, the Trinity and Christology, for the sake of any number, dollars or census. It is best to let modern trans-episcopal jurisdictional offices wither by time, if only to preserve the mystical realities of the sacred ordo. America is a hundred years from a patriarchate. Not only are we doctrinally unready (too entertained still by Tübingen), but we have not even arrived at, or apprehended, the heart of the nation. We are still immigrants.
Opiate mantras – to be chanted drowsily like Huxley’s crowd for soma:
“Self-determination will make me free.”
No, but it will make you determined, just not by your self (more likely, another self).
“Casinos are fun and will enrich our cities.”
No one has fun in casinos. They think so because that is how they interpret an adrenaline rush from the abbreviated ecstasies of cash fountains: the money, though, is like water in a mirage. Or, they confuse fun with libidinous and gluttonous climax – a flash of eros that dims when the hallucination fades, and the sun rises nacreous behind the gray bank of nimbostratus. Enriched cities? Are you serious? That there will be enrichment there is no doubt, but the cities behind the facades will turn into the back yards of Atlantic City. The riches will not go to the cities, but to the already rich. The poor will voluntarily put on more chains of debt, sacrificing generously of their personhood for the welfare of the faceless, nameless wealth managers who live in gated ghettos – far away from the fluorescent inferno of buzzers and bells.
“Lotteries will help our schools and old people.”
“There is no moral difference between large corporations and small businesses, between agribusinesses and small farms. Farms are businesses, nothing more.”
"Any lovin' is good lovin'."
Apologies to BTO, but this is just not true. In fact, it is dangerous and obscures the simple fact that one certain and PC form of "any lovin'" is, after needle-sharing, the most frequent cause of AIDS. But of course, you didn't hear that here.
"It is insignificant that 1400 African-American babies are aborted daily. It is ineffective, inappropriate, inauspicious, moralistic and so pedestrian to join the March for Life in DC. Besides, only a few thousand attended."
I was there, and the first number should be the first note of any Martin Luther King commemoration. The second number is off by a factor of a hundred.
“Evolution is necessary for good science, and good science is necessary for evolutionary survival of the fittest in the competition of nations.”
In other words, “we must beat the Chinese by math and science education.” This is really a mystification for “we must divert our young from humanism and metaphysics, and harness them for the cause of industry.” Evolution is necessary for the industrial project. That is why, thusly, intelligent design (and the Creator) must be stomped out by “good,” or lackey, science.
"We must listen to smart people. Evolutionists are smart. Textual criticism is smart. Comparative religion is smart (you know, don't take the Trinity so seriously). Advanced degrees are smart, especially when they confirm the authority of post-modern prophets who liberate us from the violent narratives of patriarchal bigots. When we go to big important schools, we must stifle our backward upbringing, practice bohemian chic, and put on the nouveau skullcap of industrial mundanity and privatized, individualized, commercialized QVC religion: 'you deserve a break today, so have god(dess) your way, to go, wrapped in plastic'."
“Virtuality is better than reality.”