“Weary of hearing what he has never heard”

Now the best relation to our spiritual home is to be near enough to love it.  But the next best is to be far enough away not to hate it. It is the contention of these pages that while the best judge of Christianity is a Christian, the next best judge would be something more like a Confucian.  The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgements; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard. He does not judge Christianity calmly as a Confucian would; he does not judge it as he would judge Confucianism.  He cannot by an effort of fancy set the Catholic Church thousands of miles away in strange skies of morning and judge it as impartially as a Chinese pagoda.  It is said that the great St. Francis Xavier, who very nearly succeeded in setting up the Church there as a tower overtopping all pagodas, failed partly because his followers were accused by their fellow missionaries of representing the Twelve Apostles with the garb or attributes of Chinamen.  But it would be far better to see them as Chinamen, and judge them fairly as Chinamen, than to see them as featureless idols merely made to be battered by iconoclasts; or rather as cockshies to be pelted by empty-handed cockneys. It would be better to see the whole thing as a remote Asiatic cult; the mitres of its bishops as the towering head dresses of mysterious bonzes; its pastoral staffs as the sticks twisted like serpents carried in some Asiatic procession; to see the prayer book as fantastic as the prayer-wheel and the Cross as crooked as the Swastika.  Then at least we should not lose our temper as some of the sceptical critics seem to lose their temper, not to mention their wits.

The Everlasting Man (1925).

Published in: on December 10, 2008 at 7:44 am  Comments (2)  

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  1. Yes, yes, yes!

    Way back when I took my first year “Nature of Religion” class, the prof told us one of the most frequent trends in religious studies. Usually the student will first pick the class in Eastern religions, since they assume that by virtue of growing up in the West, perhaps in a nominal Christian family, and going to church twice a year, they know all there is to know about Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Finishing Eastern religions, they move onto the doldrums of Western religion and discover that they didn’t even know a quarter of it, and what they thought they knew was wrong.

    For my part, it vascilates between amusing and obnoxious to have to keep correcting critics’ most basic theological errors. They first claim that they know so much, especially if they graduated Church at Confirmation. However, when the clarifications and corrections begin in earnest, they pile on increasing assertions of their intimate knowledge, all evidence to the contrary. One particular debate had myself – a Lutheran seminary student – and a Satanist religious studies PhD friend of mine correcting a garden-variety Athiest whose philosophy was influenced primarily by Sci-Fi, and him refusing to listen because we were hair-brained idiot liberal-arts university students.

    For all their vaunted dedication to Reason, they display astonishing anti-intellectualism. It is one thing to be ignorant by incident… We cannot fault someone for not having been taught to begin with. It is another to be prideful of the ignorance and have no desire to learn about that which one is so passionate to speak out on.

  2. Yes, the Willfully Ignorant Version of Christianity is attractive to certain souls. It is so much simpler and easy to dismiss.

    The Hebdomadarian


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