Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Mark Shea for CE: Masculine and Feminine in the Great Regathering

Get it here!

The gist:
Now the curious thing is, there is nothing particularly questionable theologically with either ad. Nothing in Catholic teaching forbids us to proclaim that King Jesus is all-conquering. He shall, after all, "come again in glory to judge the living and the dead." Nothing forbids Catholics from proclaiming the Gospel with gusto. Pope Paul VI tells us the Church exists to evangelize. Nothing in the Catechism of the Catholic Church says we are not anointed or that we shouldn't speak of Christ conquering the devil. Peter, after all, was promised that "the gates of hell" would not prevail against the Church.

Similarly, nothing in the Bible forbids the Evangelical from practicing contemplative prayer or from imitating Mary's prayer or looking to her as a model. There is nothing about meditation or the image of Christ "being formed" in us like a fetus that was not known to Paul (Gal 4:19).

Yet many Catholics would still feel put off by the first ad and many Evangelicals would still feel put off by the second. Why?

The difference is culture, not theology. Evangelical culture is overwhelmingly masculine. Catholic culture is overwhelmingly feminine.

Note the vocabulary in the first ad: "anointed, dynamic, impact, marching, victory, all-conquering, King." Other favorite words in the evangelical milieu are "mighty" "battle" "winning" and so forth. Zillions of book blurbs, radio ads and TV shows in Evangelicaldom emphasize these categories — categories we commonly gender-code "masculine."

Meanwhile, Catholic culture tends to be overwhelmingly feminine. The big stress is on contemplation, inner life, receptivity, and openness. Fave rave buzzwords include "invite, nurture, faith journey, dialogue, faith community, share" and so forth.


Now let us be clear. It is important to note that there are theological differences between the two traditions. The view of Tradition, the papacy, sacraments, etc. are very real differences and we do not serve the truth by ignoring them. But the differences I speak of here are primarily cultural and we do not serve the truth by mistaking them for theological differences. Thus, Catholics need not dismiss all evangelicalism as all hand-waving emotionalism simply because Evangelicals are more extroverted about their faith. Nor should Evangelicals declare that Catholics "haven't been born again" simply because they do not manifest their deep relationship with Christ in a verbal and outgoing way. The fact is, there is room in evangelical theology for feminine culture just as there is room in Catholic theology for masculine culture. Seeing this allows Catholics and Evangelicals to move past superficial differences and address real theological issues.
Evangelicals and Catholics approach their faith through different sensibilities. Part of the cultural ways in which we express our Faith involve language. Thus, one of the great confusions some Evangelicals have with Catholics is when we "pray to Mary."

Catholics use this as short hand. When Catholics speak about "praying to Mary," they're using a cultural short hand. We don't mean that we pray to Mary as though she was God. Far from it! We mean that that we invite her to share in our prayer to her beloved son, our Lord, Jesus: And, in doing so, to intercede for us.

Any Evangelical that has ever laid hands on his brother and asked for God's Spirit to move him has similarly engaged in an intercessory prayer. Unfortunately, the religious cultural difference between Catholics and Evangelicals can obscure the ways in which our spiritual lives are one.

The more we come to know, and respect, each other's culture; the more quickly we will come to understand, and respect, each other's theology.