I am in the middle of writing my next book. It was going to be called The Way of the Warrior Priest but the working title now is Immortal Combat – Everyday Evil and the Only Solution.
As part of this process I am being drawn to meditate increasingly on the reality of evil and how, at the root of it all, are lies. Lies, lies, lies. We are the people of the lie, and the ways we lie are multiform and multi faceted. Layer upon layer of lies all interwoven with the lies in our society, the artificiality, the phony-ness, vanity, pride and self deception.
The most insidious lies are the lies we tell to ourselves as we justify sin, excuse ourselves and others to support the illusion that we are nice, kind, tolerant and loving people. We lie to support the image we like of ourselves as good, religious and holy people.
Worst of all, we believe the lies, and because we believe the lies we cannot see that they are lies. We deceive others, but most of all we deceive ourselves, and it is the depth of our self deception which makes the lies impossible to counter and unveil.
Within our religion we love to gather to ourselves false teachers who cater to our desire to be deceived. When I see all the false teachers that infest our church and the rest of the Christian churches I am nauseated and remember these words of St Paul to Timothy.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
I’ve got a name for this particularly sickening phenomenon in the United States: American Apple Pie Religion. At foundation of course, it is Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism, but to this philosophical basis is added a kind of shiny Disneyland gloss with a dash of American optimism and a sprinkle of New Age fairy dust.
All is sweetness and light and “spirituality” with total tolerance– and if you’re Catholic a kind of fake sad victimhood is mixed in. Following Jesus is turned into a sentimental mish mash of self help, positive thinking, kindness to everyone no matter what they’ve done and it’s all wrapped up and delivered as “mercy.”
Why is this so blazingly amazingly successful? The purveyors of this religion write books that sell millions. They have tens of thousands of followers on social media, are praised in the celebrity circuit and have churches with thousands of members, speak to stadiums full of devotees, rake in the cash from their TV programs and multi media outlets.
They are wildly successful because the people have itching ears. They are just desperate to hear this blend of Oprah Winfrey, Walt Disney and Dale Carnegie.
Why do I call it American Apple Pie Religion? Because the whole thing is as fake, shallow and artificial as our culture. Furthermore, we take this false version of Christianity and we wrap the whole thing up in an American flag. We not only have the American Dream, we have Jeezus too!”
It is easy to imagine that this sort of fake religion is only the stuff of the televangelists and Protestant mega church pastors like Joel Osteen, but what many Catholics are blind to is that we have our own version.
Our version is American Liberal Catholicism. The whole progressive Catholic East Coast Catholic establishment are selling their own version of American Apple Pie religion. Joe Biden is one of their poster boys. With his hair plugs, face work, fake tan, dental implants and make believe personal history, he’s the face of the Catholic version.
The Catholic prelates, college presidents and New York celebrity priests who cozy up to him and Nancy Pelosi and the other cafeteria Catholics in power are selling the Catholic version. Look and listen closely and you’ll see all the same characteristics of the mega church pastor, the televangelist and the positive thinking pastor. They all have their slick marketing machines, their money is establishment money, but it’s deep pockets just the same, and the smooth, easy and comfortable religion they’re selling is only different in its emphasis and audience.
They too play to their audience’s bigotry, only their audience is bigoted against conservatives and those who adhere to the historic Christian faith. They too feed their audience’s self righteousness and fuel their fears by getting them to play the victim and blame others for what is wrong. They too play to their audience’s desires for yet more pleasure without pain, self congratulation rather than self examination and the desire for a smug self righteousness that is invulnerable to any criticism.
How have we fallen into this American Apple Pie religion? Because we have become a nation of consumers where the customer is king. In every walk of life we are used to delivering what the customer demands. American religion, therefore has mimicked the culture in which it exists to a remarkable extent and with remarkable facility. Rather than every criticizing the culture in which we live we join the consumer culture unthinkingly.
What is most terrifying about all this to me is how easy it is for me to fall into the trap of delivering what the customer wants. I too want to be loved by my people. I too want to have a successful church. I too want to have the money rolling in. I too want the praise and adulation of the crowds. I too want the American Dream and Jeezus too.
So when I look in the mirror I can only utter a prayer I learned long ago when I read Franny and Zooey…
…Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Have Mercy on Me a Sinner.