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Pious Cliché

In False Dichotomies - the lines between on April 14, 2012 at 3:44 am

In the book Mystery and Manners, Flannery O’Connor says that the separation of grace and nature does a disservice to both.  Emptied of the spiritual, nature becomes either sentimental or obscene (see previous post).  And emptied of nature, the spiritual becomes nothing more than pious cliché.

It didn’t take long to think of a great example for this one.  What “spiritual” thing has been emptied of almost everything physical?

If O’Connor is correct, this thing will only suggest devotion, but will be so over used that it is almost meaningless.

The Cross? The central symbol of the Christian faith?

I saw a young man in full “gangsta” attire sporting a bejeweled rosary.  I suppose it’s possible he was a Catholic, but it’s just as likely that he wore similarly adorned dog tags the next day.  If so, I also would have doubted he was a veteran.

When purchasing a cross to wear as a pedant, charm or earring, do people actually care about the particular origin of the design, or do they just buy the one that strikes their fancy?  There are many varieties of crosses: Cathedral, Orthodox, Celtic, Greek, Russian, Byzantine, Latin, Maltese, Jerusalem, Huguenot and many more.  I have an ancestor that was a Huguenot so I could wear that one with some legitimacy.  Or is it good enough to be a Christian to legitimately wear any cross?  My concern is that, for many, the first association of the cross around their neck is not that it is actually a Roman torture and execution device.

. . . crossing the line between physical and spiritual

How do we rectify this?  If O’Connor is right, we need fill the spiritual, once again, with the physical.  We need to be introduced to the physical dimensions of the crucifixion.  A lot of people have written on this and many Good Friday sermons have been preached on it.  If you have not ever heard of the tortures of crucifixion read one of these articles.

The Cross, emptied of its physicality becomes pious cliché.  I suppose it’s fine to put a cross around your neck, but it ought to be scandalous. Isn’t it scandalous for the son of the most high to be shamed, tortured and executed on this device?  The heart of the Gospel is in the answer to the question, Why would those who love him wear a symbol of this obscenity?

Read “Pious Cliche – Revisited”