Sunday, August 23, 2015

The American Religion

From A Conservative Blog for Peace:
Harold Bloom's observations from 1992: I believe his premise that the Protestant heresies, which Frederick Kinsman, an ex-Episcopal bishop of Delaware who became a Catholic (Reveries of a Hermit is a series of talks he gave at Notre Dame University in the '30s), rightly said began with emotion-driven, inconsistent, partially Catholic Luther's appeal to private judgment, have turned into the American religion; they ultimately mean self-worship. (Reinventing yourself, a distortion of being born again, fits into that, so Bruce Jenner still claims to be a good Christian, God's giving him XY chromosomes notwithstanding. America thinks it makes all things new.) Feel-good pietism (Bloom notes that real Christian writers, as in old Europe, warn against confusing feeling with truth or grace); the Inner Light; Jesus and me; I don't need a church. Related: moralistic therapeutic deism, except unlike deism, in the American religion God definitely loves you, peer to peer, a distortion of a couple of truths, including the Incarnation (Jesus is true God and true man). (Me: liberal high church, Episcopalianism, really says the trappings of the church are nice and fun but ultimately not necessary.) But the Mormons, whom he respects partly for their founders' genius and sees as quintessentially part of the American religion (a home-grown new religion), are a strong community (me: people convert and stay for that, not the theology). But while all Protestantism lends itself to the American religion, I don't buy Bloom's argument that the Southern Baptist Convention, while non-credal and individualistic, is full-on American like the Mormons and New Agers in believing that man is eternal, part of an eternal universe and thus every man is really a god. (He considers fundamentalism, which he doesn't like, part of the American religion just like New Age.) In the tradition of Mark Twain, who rubbished the Mormons, Bloom also takes fun swipes at Christian Science and Seventh-Day Adventism (cults started by boring, rather dim women). Bloom's also a fan of Ronald Knox's Enthusiasm. He agrees with the line that Europeans know what Christianity is and most now definitely reject it; most Americans are still religious, thinking they're Christian but they really aren't anymore. (Unspoken belief: Universalism? Of course! I'm a god!) (Read more.)

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