Good Old-Fashioned Religion: Why Latin?

It seems, in the wider world, the move from Latin to the colloquial language in the Roman Catholic liturgy has been nearly universally praised by the wider world.  One of several main historical critiques of Catholicism have been based on Catholicism’s particular fondness for this particular dead language.  With the liturgy (and the bible), when under Catholicism’s charge, being entirely in Latin, Catholicism is charged with intentionally keeping the word out of the hands of the people in order to retain power over them.  This motivation,  I fear, was probably true for part of the church’s history.

But there are legitimate reasons to have a single language, not tied to any particular local area, for one’s liturgy.  This is especially so for a Catholic liturgy.  This is because the Catholic liturgy is centered on the Eucharist which, among other things, is a sacrament which is centered on both celebrating and causing a profound unity amongst Catholic participants.  Having the liturgy in a single language all over the world and cross-culturally encourages one to see the profound unity one has with the church all over the world: one in creed, code, and cult.

Also, in fairly well educated countries, there used to be little to the charge of making the liturgy difficult to understand.  Especially prior to the tragic downfall of classical language education in the west, people were largely able to understand basic Latin.  Further, many were educated in the Latin they needed to know in their religious education.

Over the history of being in Latin, the practice of the mass in Latin also became about being connected to the history of the church and its practices.

But the church isn’t just for the educated.  The church is for everyone.  So the church decided it was okay to have the mass in colloquial languages.  This way more people can understand the mass in a more profound way whether they understand Latin or not.

Nevertheless, for those that understand Latin, the Latin mass remains one of the most fulfilling kinds of experiences one can have in terms of Catholic liturgy.  Nevertheless, making the mass more accessible by allowing colloquial language in the liturgy has its cost.  The Latin mass is no longer as profound an expression of church unity.

What do you think?  Is the move to colloquial language mass last century a good move?  Is it worth the accessibility to everyone?  Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Check back every Monday Wednesday and Friday for new content!

Peace be with you
-JS

Why can’t we hug? Men, Touch, and Social Norms

Do you ever notice how little we touch each other as a culture?  I’m pretty sure I could count the number of times I’ve hugged anyone but my wife and my parents/siblings in the last five years on my hands.  But hugging is great.  The following blogpost will be from my perspective as an aspiring touchy feely male who feels deep discomfort with being touchy-feely.

In every culture there are norms for touching.  Usually there are different norms for nonsexual  intergender and intragender touching.  That is, usually the cultural rules that govern how and when men and women  are allowed to touch each other are different from the rules that govern how women are allowed to touch other women and how men are allowed to touch other men in polite company.  I’ll mention intergender touching norms briefly, but I’m more interested in discussing the norms for nonsexual touching amongst men.

Let me paint a picture that should sound familiar.  Two couples finish a double date and say goodbye for the evening.  The women hug goodbye.  The men hug the women goodbye.  The men proceed to shake hands.  Perhaps, at most, the men will bro-hug, which is a hybrid hug/handshake meant to avoid the intimacy of a hug.  Anything beyond a bro-hug, for anything but the closest of friends, is nigh out of the question.  The stronger taboos against touch for men with other men is confirmed by a recent oxford study.

But touch is a very important and fulfilling part of human life.  So let’s assume that the strong norms against male/male touching is a problem.  The question I think is interesting is this: What is the cause of the problem?  Maybe touch is too highly sexualized for men.

This seems to be suggested by the response a homophobic high school bully has to male touch.  The bully conceives of male/male touch as gay and thus as a thing he must struggle mightily against, worrying that such touch will awaken something within him.  A friend comes into the bully for a hug and comes away with a black eye.  This seems to assume that, at least for this one case, the bully’s reaction is connected to conceiving of male/male touch as sexual.

Then again, maybe there’s some other reason why male to male touching is considered more taboo than female/female and male/female touching.  I’m not sure.  But there’s one thing I am sure of.

Men need to start hugging more and becoming more comfortable with touch in general.  I’m tired of touch being unsettling.  We’re human beings.  Human beings are mammals and mammals are cuddly.  It’s time that men remembered this.  Next time you see me, give me a hug.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the social norms surrounding touch in our culture are out of wack?  Should we touch each other more?  Let me know in the comments

Peace be with you.
-JS

The Examination of Conscience: Anticatholic Guilt

I have been Catholic for several years now, and I’ve begun to have some guilt. This isn’t the ordinary “catholic guilt” that is highly reputed throughout popular culture.  I have anticatholic guilt.

You see, I’m a convert to Catholicism from Protestantism, but a form of Protestantism that is full of anticatholic sentiment.  You know, the kind of protestant that doubts many Catholics are saved; the kind of protestant that thinks that if any Catholics are saved it is only by being unfaithful to Catholic teaching.  So as a faithful anticatholic, I contributed my fair share to Catholics leaving the church for protestantism.

Here is an example of the behavior I engaged in.  I was in a band for much of my college life.  One of my band mates was a fallen away catholic and, around easter one year, he began expressing desire to go back to the Catholic Church during the Easter season.  I inquired as to why, hoping to lead him in a Socratic way away from this decision that I thought worse than attending no church service.  He said that he just thought he would really like to engage in the sacrament of reconciliation.  I said something dismissive, again trying to manipulate.  He then seemingly dismissed the issue.  I don’t know if my friend has ever come back to the Catholic Church.

There are a number of cases like this where I subtly tried to influence people away from a religion that I ultimately didn’t understand.

This all results in what I call anticatholic guilt.  I’m deeply troubled by the prejudicial and irrational behavior of my youth in this regard.  I have discussed this in confession, but I can’t shake the feeling that there is some deep trouble in the world for which I cannot  make reparation.  That is, I’m not sure there’s any way for me to make this up to the people I’ve wronged in this way, and this deeply troubles me.

Tune in every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for more.

Peace be with you.
-JS

Rey’s Journey Doesn’t Echo Episode 4

Star Wars Episode VII is often accused of paralleling Episode IV too closely.  But it seems to me that Rey’s journey in Episode VII actually more closely parallels the journey of a character in another (less well respected) episode of the Star Wars saga.  Further, the parallel will make sense of the fact that everything seems to go so easily for Rey in the movie.

Rey’s journey parallels Anakin’s journey in Episode I  more closely than it parallels Luke’s journey in Episode IV.  Okay, so Rey’s journey starts out on a desert planet, where Rey is less than content with her life situation.  Rey even has her own twin sun moment (check out this podcast from loading ready run for a discussion of this moment and other interesting aspects of the movie) in the moment where she stares at the incredibly old woman cleaning parts and realizes she has to get out of there.

But she doesn’t lose her family.  She has a murky, confusing relationship with  her family which is keeping her on the desert planet.  This situation doesn’t change, and she must consciously give up her last connection to her family in order to leave on her adventure.  But the thing really keeping her from leaving the planet isn’t just a family situation.  She’s a slave.  This is exactly the situation with Anakin Skywalker.  It is, at the very least, much closer to Anakin Skywalker’s  situation in Episode I than to Luke Skywalker’s in Episode IV.

Let’s look at a few other parts of the Reys’ journey.  Luke is partially trained by Obi Wan Kenobi, but Anakin and Rey get no force training and are thrust into crucial situations in the struggle against the big weapon of destruction held by the enemy with no force training at all.

Nevertheless Anakin/Rey just succeed and succeed with little struggle (presumably due to their being incredibly strong in the force).  In many ways their journeys for the episode end when they find a trainer, whereas Luke’s journey for the episode is all struggle and ends when his trainer dies.

Now, all this is to ignore the fact that the journeys of all three protagonists closely parallel each other in many ways.  But I think that a close look makes it clear that Rey’s story in Episode VII is a self-conscious parallel of Anakin’s journey in Episode I.  What do you think? Let me know in the comment section below.

Check back every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for new content.

Peace be with you.
-JS

 

Good Old Fashioned Religion Part 1: Chopticks, Beer, and Liturgy

The last few months I’ve been on a huge Chinese-American food kick (you’ll be not so surprised to know it’s different from Chinese food: Check out the documentary “The Search For General Tso” for insight into the interesting history of Chinese-American food).  We even purchased an electric wok at our house so that I can stir fry all the time.  My wife and I each own our own pair of chopsticks and use them whenever we’re eating stir fry or rice based dishes.

I discovered something very interesting over the course of this time.  It all tastes better with chopsticks!  But on our ordinary understanding of perception this doesn’t seem to make sense.  How is the fact that I’m using a different implement supposed to change how the combination of noodles, protein, and vegetables effects my taste buds?  How is it possible for the same thing to taste differently with a slightly different delivery method?

There are a few possibilities.  The first, and most troubling, way to understand how chopsticks make it better is by appeal to the theory-ladenness of observation.  That is, it is often argued that our theories or views of the world change the way we see things in a very real way.  As an example of how this is supposed to work, consider how two different people might experience a series of magic tricks.  Suppose that Bobby believes sorcery is real, but Penn Jillette believes that there is no such thing as sorcery and in fact has a very sophisticated theory of how magic tricks work.  Watching the same magic trick might result in Bobby and Penn having very different experiences, but only because Bobby and Penn have different theories of what’s going on in the situation.  While Bobby might see the trick and experience a person appealing to occult powers to engage in augury, Penn might see the trick as a clever combination of slight-of-hand and and theatrics.  Penn and Bobby, in virtue of having different theories of how magic works, will have very different experiences of the magic trick they witness.  Or think of the way that your experience of accidentally touching someone’s hand is different when you think of the person as a possible romantic partner compared to when you do not so think of them.  Perhaps this is why stir fry tastes better with chopsticks.  Maybe we think about eating with chopsticks differently than we think about eating with a fork, and this makes us experience eating with chopsticks in this different and more pleasurable way.

It’s also possible that this is an ordinary case of the interaction of our different senses and other more ordinary ways in which our sensory perceptions can be altered.  Cold lemonade tastes better when you’re hot and thirsty.  Sight also seems to have a big effect on how we experience things like touch.  Think about those television shows in which people are required to reach their hands into boxes and feel things in the dark.  When a person looks about to die of fright from touching a teddy bear while blindfolded it’s reasonable to think they are having a different experience from the one you have when you touch a visible teddy bear.  This could be why stir fry tastes better when eaten with chopsticks.

Or perhaps, it could just be something subtle about the method of delivery that physically makes the flavors different when eaten with chopsticks than when eaten with a fork.  To see how this might work consider Trappist beer.  Trappist beer is a complex malty beer brewed by Catholic monks.  Now, it’s said that the best kind of glass with which to enjoy Trappist beer is a chalice.  The story goes that this type of beer was developed and the only implements that were around, historically, with which to test their beer was a chalice.  It’s further thought that it’s something about how the narrowing top of a chalice traps the scents of the beer in the chalice which effects its bouquet, but perhaps there are other facts about chalices that effected the development of trappist beer in such a way that there are all sorts of subtle aspects of chalices that effect the flavor of the beer in the correct way.

In any case we should see that it’s perfectly reasonable to think that stir fry tastes better when eaten with chopsticks.  But who cares?  What does this matter?  Well, there is an interesting fact about religion which I’d like to talk about in connection with this issue.  Now, I’m a Catholic, formerly a Baptist.  I’d like to talk about an issue in the Catholic liturgy and the issue of getting people to connect with the worship.

At around the time that 60’s and 70’s folk music was beginning to leave its indelible mark on Christian music and evangelical worship, there was push in Catholicism (this is a first-pass attempt at history, so give me a bit or a break here on details) beginning to move toward this folky kind of worship.  My reconstruction of what happened was something like this.  People looked at evangelical protestant worship and saw what I experienced when I was in the evangelical movement.  They saw people really engaging with the worship emotionally and coveted that for their catholic services, which were perceived as somehow stuffy, boring, with music that is dirge-like.

So parishes  began paring down the liturgy.  The specifically catholic aspects of the liturgy began to wane.  Now, when you pick a random Catholic parish on a Sunday, you’ll find something somewhere in between the old fashioned Catholic service of days of old and a modern evangelical service with folk music and visual and olfactory sparseness.

For example, my parish (due partially monetary constraints) consists of a large open room with a stone floor, with temporary pew seats throughout.  There are no icons.  There are no statues (apart from the one crucifix in the center of the room).  There aren’t even any kneelers.  It’s just a big open room, with a piano and a very evangelical-style worship leading team.  Compare this to another parish in my town.  This parish has intricate architecture which integrates beautiful statuary.  There are kneelers.

Now, I’m not here to judge newer parishes for failing to put out the incredible mountain of cash it would take to make every parish like some of the more beautiful parishes in our various areas.  It’s very expensive (although, I wonder if priorities are where they need be in some cases).

The point I’m trying to make is that even with roughly the same ingredients (Catholic liturgy remains largely the same from parish to parish), Catholic liturgy is better and more fulfilling when it’s done in an environment that moves the other senses as well.  The same liturgy is experienced much differently depending on the environment in which it takes place (as a side note, I have never experienced a liturgy performed in latin or ad orientem but have long dreamed of doing so for the same reason).  It’s better when it’s served in the chalice which was the vessel for tasting it over the many years it was developed.  Catholic liturgy tastes better with chopsticks.

In the coming months we’ll speak more about Catholic spirituality and how it relates to the worship of evangelicalism and the worship of other religions as part of a series of posts focusing on good old fashioned catholic liturgy and what it’s like.

Check back every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for new content!

Peace be with you.
-JS

2 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Batman v Superman

Spoilers!

Perhaps I’m late to the Batman V. Superman lovefest that occurred in the reviews for the movie.  Wait, there wasn’t a love fest?!  Wait, the movie only got a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes?!  Wait, the movie made $900,000,000 and no one seems to like it?  Everyone hates it?  What’s wrong with it?  Well, there are two sequences that are fairly universally panned which everyone seems to get wrong, and these are the scenes I most often see appealed to by BvS haters.  In this post I will show that everyone gets these two sequences wrong.

The Martha Scene

“Save…Martha…”  Batman finds out that he and Superman’s mom’s have the same name, and Batman and Superman  instantly become friends.  That’s how this scene works.  So stupid, right?! Wrong! This scene comes after Batman has come to think that Superman is an alien that cares very little for human life.  For Batman, Superman seems to be an amoral creature who caused the equivalent of 12 9/11’s, blew up congress, perhaps indiscriminately killed a bunch of people in Africa, and could do much worse at any moment.  Superman is an alien with no connection or care for humanity.  Batman says as much in the fight over and over.

But Superman starts telling Batman he should save Martha.  This leads Batman to get even angrier.  Batman has seen 20 years of Jokers and Two-faces playing cruel tricks on him and emotionally manipulating him by appeal to his loved ones and their life or death.  This is when Lois Lane comes in and informs Batman that Martha is Superman’s mother.  This piece of information, along with it’s being shouted by Lois Lane, gives Batman all the information he needs to put together that he was wrong.  Lois Lane, the sole survivor of the attack Superman supposedly perpetrated in Africa, is deeply in love with Superman.  He thus puts together that his conception of the Africa case was wrong, and that Superman has at least one person that he cares for or loves.  Second, he finds out that Superman was willing to lay down his life so long as Batman saved Superman’s human mother.  Superman has a human mother who he loves just as much as any other human loves his/her mother!  Batman has put together that he has deeply misinterpreted the situation with Superman (and probably that Lex Luthor is to some extent behind it) all from the facts he becomes privy to in the end of the fight scene.  He then realizes that he’s been blind with rage and ignoring the clues all along that Superman is not such a bad guy.  This is when he drops his spear.  Their having the same mother only caused Batman to pause to figure out Superman’s evil plan, but then Lois Lane’s barging in saves the day and gets Batman to wise up.

For a beautiful youtube video that actually takes the “mother’s have the same name” thing to be a very touching and beautiful moment but which also holds the popular misinterpretation while getting the emotional force of the scene down beautifully, follow this link.

That Floating Dirt Doesn’t Mean Superman’s Alive!

This really annoyed me.  Everyone was all up in arms that they took away Superman’s death with the floating dirt.  But, and I’ll keep this one brief, when have you ever seen dirt float over a coffin when the person inside in fact turns out to be alive.  Dirt floating says nothing about the individual inside the coffin.  It says everything about an individual outside the coffin exerting some force pulling on the coffin.  All the floating dirt in the end of the movie indicated was that someone is stealing Superman’s body.  And yes, everyone knows that Superman is going to come back, but this scene did not in any way indicate that Superman is currently alive in the casket which we are zooming in on.  Superman is still dead at the end of the Batman V Superman movie.

The movie has its flaws, but it is beautiful and I was moved by the Martha scene.  Now, you can hate BvS, but don’t  hate it for the wrong reasons.  If you’d like to talk about it, leave a comment.

Come back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for  new post!

Peace be with you.
-JS

Welcome to my Blog!

Hello everyone!

My name is Jonathan Sonantis.  I am the quasi-Kierkegaardian pseudonym  for a person who wrote a short chapter in Evangelical Exodus.  You should check it out.  If you like (or if you hate) Catholic conversion stories, you should check out the book.

This blog is for me, Jonathan Sonantis, to muse about all sorts of topics, from philosophy, to pop culture, to broader cultural issues, to Catholicism, to anything my little heart desires. For example, in the coming days I will be talking about the Catholic liturgy, Batman V Superman and western social norms regarding touch.  Stay tuned if you would like to have some interesting discussions on a potpourri of topics.

I will update this blog with new content every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  I look forward to chatting with you.

Peace Be With You
-JS