Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Faith and Parking Spaces

A good friend of mine once was bragging about a thing called "Est", which was sort of Scientology-lite, or a cult for those who wanted a cult they could take home with them at night.

One of the things "Est" promised was how, once you got the "power", you could free up parking spaces in front of places you were driving to.  The Power of Positive Thinking applied to your own personal convenience.

Yesterday, the priest in confession (a retired auxiliary bishop) gave me a CD to listen to as penance.  The guy on the CD was some Protestant speaking before a group in the 1960's.  He was preaching "Empathetic Reconciliation" or something like that - meaning that you could in his words "beam out" God's forgiveness even to people you knew who were not the least bit repentant for their sins.  He asserted that God gave the power to forgive or retain sins not to the apostles, but to all Christians.  And therefore, all you had to do was to pray in just the right way and the power would "beam out" forgiveness to that person - not for their own good, but for yours.  The three or four examples he gave were of people who were reluctant to cooperate, but suddenly became team players after this forgiveness was "beamed out" to them, unaware though they were of this fact.  One gal refused to sell a valuable piece of property until she was vicariously forgiven (or whatever the phrase is), at which point she was willing to sell and everyone was happy.  Kind of a nascent Prosperity Gospel for "Est" rejects.  The Power of Positive Thinking applied to your own personal convenience.

Of course, the Church teaches that - as in all things between God and man - two things are needed: God's grace and our cooperation with it.  The Angel Gabriel's offer and Mary's "yes".  The forgiveness the father offers the prodigal son, and the shame and repentance of the son that preceded this and that made him open to seeking forgiveness.  Without penance, reconciliation is cheap grace at best, a joke at worst, offering no real repair of the breach that sin has caused.

But lo and behold, what did that horrid publication The Word Among Us say about yesterday's Scrpture readings?  That God is always active in our lives.  How do we know this?  Well, when we are looking for a parking space near our destination and God provides it, we know God is working in our lives!

I threw the book across the room and cursed again.

It reminded me of a horrible homily I heard at an FSSP Latin Mass.  The 29-year-old priest said, "One day I wanted to have salsa with my chips, and I realized I had no clean containers to put the salsa in.  Then I realized the butter tub in the fridge was empty.  It made a great salsa container!  God does indeed provide."  And he was serious.

My friends, there's a word for all of this stuff, a word only lit majors know, a word that sums up Est and beaming out forgiveness so that your enemies start to cooperate with you and parking spaces and butter tubs being the sort of things we would set our hearts on.

And that word is Bathos.

And it's related adjective - Bathetic.


Jonathan said...

I'm so glad to find out there's a word for that, as it's a pet peeve of mine! I will start using "bathos" all the time until I catch that look in my wife's eye that suggests it's time to find a new word to overuse.

Maggie D said...

That homily made me laugh out loud. I love the word "bathos"--I wish more people knew what it meant, so I could use it in conversation. It's such a great word. What other word is there for so much of modern culture?

Tom Leith said...

Moving from an improvised salsa bowl to Divine Providence is reverse Bathos. Is there an English Major word for that?