Saturday, May 17, 2014

"we're going to church every other day it seems"

"In the spring of 2014 we're going to church every other day it seems. I don't have to tell you that 'church' is the Bell Centre, home of the Montreal Canadiens."

- Ron MacLean (on Hockey Night in Canada this morning)

This after an intro utilizing religious images of cross and angel wings to frame a death in one player's family, all strung together by vague invocations of Coldplay's Fix You.

With just this illustration one could write a whole book on the role of ambiguously religious notions in sustaining supposedly "secular" Canadian culture!

In many ways it may be helpful to note how it is not so much secular as post-Christian.*

From a Christian perspective, this could of course be seen as both as a negative and a plus; a threat and a point of promise.

In the negative sense, as illustrated in Ron MacLean's intro, this plays out in the exaggeration and misuse of background Christian images (like angel's wings), as well as in the watering down of more crucial Christian themes, draining them of meaning and ethical relevance and utilizing them as it conveniences the fickle mind.

So it is that religious themes can be conveniently employed in dire moments for an ambiguous sense of comfort, or in better moments for a heightened sense of something sublime. Whether this banal usurpation of "christianity" is leaking into the church or is buttressing popular discourse, it ends up negating itself even when it offers momentary good feeling.

In the positive sense, there is much here to engage with a smile and a probe for deeper meaning--even in relatively innocent cases such as Ron MacLean's intro (which is not the first of his monologues in recent years which have tried to offer some kind of coherence but have fallen head-shakingly short).

In a larger sense, too, there is much to engage with constructively when we recognize ourselves as post-Christian rather than secular. The advance of human rights, care for the environment, the recognition of the need for societal apologies and reconciliation, the eye for multi-cultural community and for geo-political justice--these are all worth our interest and engagement. In a post-Christian culture we are are neither disinterested in these advancements nor beholden to the corporate or governmental angles that are put on them.

Anyway, back to the game. (Although, for the record I'm actually watching the FA Cup Final this morning.)

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* I am using the word "post-Christian" in the broad cultural sense. In no way do I mean to imply that Canada ever was a so-called "Christian nation."

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