What does Safe Sex have in common with Bad Catholic Art?
What does Squeamishness have to do with Bad Catholic Worship?
Why is truth stranger than fiction?
That last one at least we know. "Truth, of course, must of necessity be stranger than fiction," G. K. Chesterton points out, "for we have made fiction to suit ourselves."
Last week I posted on fiction and drama and how Christian art these days fails to hold any interest for human beings. Red Cardigan has taken up that theme here where she laments the fact that Catholic publishers want fiction that is "safe", overtly "Catholic", sentimental and squishy.
And this is really a more painful thing to write about than I let on. It's painful because writers die a little bit for their work, poets speak from hearts that are circumcised, and actors are the most vulnerable of the lot. I can not tell you how difficult it's been throughout my career to pour my soul into something that is disregarded or kicked around or cheapened by the people who are paying me to do it, and who do not really value it. And it's worse in the Church than in the world.
And I've begun to suspect this is because many folks in the Church are unwittingly abetting the Cult of Sterility.
When God tells us in Isaiah 55:11
So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, achieving the end for which I sent it.
He is telling us that his Word, Jesus Christ, is not just a nice guy, but the most creative and active element in the world today. His Word is seminal, a seed that exists to make us fruitful. We see this in the mystery of the Annunciation. The love that the Lord and Mary had for one another does not return void, the incarnate Son of God comes to be on earth through this love and this assent, born of prayer - born of an intimate communion.
Love is supposed to lead to something - something interesting, for crying out loud (like the little girl on the left, something interesting that the love my wife and I shared led to).
But the world around us is all about the Void, sterility, emptiness. We love "safe sex", but the only way to make sex safe is to cut the gonads off of love.
I have just finished a creative project that will never be seen or heard by human beings. It was a Catholic project, for which I was paid a ridiculously low figure, and which now, being finished, will return void - for the producer will neglect to market it. It's like doing great work for EWTN and having it air at 5:30 in the morning on Thursdays. And while I'm at it, all that Marty Haugen crap and the eager young squeaky Catholics with guitars at the Youth Mass - all of that is simply contrived and unreal, and like all such things will return nothing but the whirlwind.
The stalk has no head; it will produce no flour. Were it to yield grain, foreigners would swallow it up. (Hos. 8:7)
Our bishops are friendly but squeamish, our youth hooking up but disconnected, our hearts bleeding but barren. Our food is not filling; our sex is safe, our passion is listless.
They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the whore, but not multiply, because they have forsaken the LORD to cherish. (Hos. 4:10)
What I'm saying in this tirade is that the problem is not merely the Catholic Ghetto. The problem is assuming that the Word is somehow unreal, that He can not appeal to real men, to sinners, to actual people, to human beings - the problem is our vastly naive assumption that we ought to control the situation, and that the Word will stay aloof from all this mess and return void.
On the contrary, the Holy Spirit, who comes to us from the Father and the Son, is disturbing, unsettling, fecund.
We are the ones keeping Him from touching hearts and minds. We are the ones who think that art can be safe, as safe as contraceptive sex, as safe as loving another person - and yet loving another person is the most dangerous thing in the world.