Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

... to those celebrating it today. We (Jean-Marie, Renee, Uncle Jack, and I) went to the afternoon service at Annunciation Catholic Church in upper northwest, DC. It was cold, and that might have deterred some of the parishoners, particularly the elderly. I'm not Catholic - I'm a long, highly lapsed Mormon - but I do try to attend Catholic services with my wife and daughter. In that I have always thought back to wise advice that Mary Ann Glendon gave me a long, long time ago, sometime around the time I got married - she told me that her husband, a Jewish non-Catholic, had always faithfully attended and sat through the Mass with her and the family. Mary Ann - I don't think she'd mind me saying this - told me how much that had meant to her over the years.

I haven't managed 100% by any means, but I've always tried to follow that - and to be certain that everyone in the family understands that we attend church together, and it's not just an obligation of those of a particular faith. However, I must admit that being raised in a non-liturgical calendar religious tradition - Mormons, like many Protestant groups, don't have a yearly liturgical calendar revolving around Easter, Christmas, etc., but simply treat the fundamental obligation of that of the weekly Sabbath - I don't really get all the Lenten rituals. However, I was careful to serve fish on Fridays - a couple of those adventures with salmon, catfish, tilapia, and tuna were quite impressive, thank you!

(I realize that to many of my Western European friends and colleagues, this tendency to attend church on Sunday is something between anachronistic and ominous - attending church is another symptom of America's right wing, religiously fanatic, , fundamentalist, etc., etc. I don't think very many of them are aware of how many of my law school colleagues, pretty much left wing or progressive to the core, also attend church or synagogue, especially if they have kids. Progressives in America are more secular than conservatives, of course - but not that much more so - people sort themselves to some degree into religious places where they feel most comfortable on all the social issues like abortion, etc. - so that my progressive friends - or, for instance, my mother in law - wind up at the Unitarian Church or more progressive Episcopal congregations or wherever, but especially if you have children, attending church in America is far from a strictly red-blue divide.

I myself am quite sympathetic to the tradition of European anti-clericalism - I used to walk down the Calle de la Inquisicion in Sevilla when we lived there, and I realized that if I had been European, I would have been a secularist not merely by "lapsing" from the religion of my upbringing in the American sense - not an inherently political position - but secularist by reason of afffirmatively rejecting the temporal rule asserted by the priests, which is inherently political. Liberal religious pluralism in America is genuinely the product of pluralism whereas, for profound reasons of history, liberal religious pluralism in Europe is necessarily much more bound up with the necessarily politically more aggressive history of anti-clericalism in places like France.

It's for this reason that I am simultaneously sympathetic to religious observance, and have an enormous respect for Catholicism, while quite undistressed by, say, Christopher Hitchens' anti-Catholic screed Missionary Position (although it also seems to me the author of Missionary Position is not exactly in a strong position to argue that the late Oriana Fallaci's writings are a model, as Hitch says, of how not to write about Muslims).

All this is made much more complicated, of course, by the entry of Muslims in sizable numbers into Europe, and Europe's post-religious inability either to comprehend such religiosity, or to assert - in the precise dualism of both offering and demanding - genuinely liberal religious pluralism of its new Muslim immigrants. Multiculturalist Europe is no longer a liberal Europe, and while it seems to me that many in Europe are coming to regret that, they appear to see no way back. I discuss some of this anti-multiculturalism stuff here.)

We're having Easter dinner at Tod and Tina Lindberg's tonight - they being spectacular cooks - so I count myself very lucky indeed. The Easter bunny did arrive at our house - we've been trying to scale back the chocolate and candy, and have compensated with books and DVDs instead. Buffy the Vampire slayer DVDs, to be precise, and trashy thriller novels.

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