Kiss me, I'm Catholic.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Le Sabot Post-Moderne On Romanticism

Whilst poking around in the archives of Le Sabot Post-Moderne, I found this striking post:

Christianity -- A Religion for the Romantic

We prayed together as a group today, and I thought afterward about the words we spoke. Christianity seems to me to be the last bastion for the romantic, for those with OJ Berman's "streak of the poet."

In our postmodern, irony-soaked world, where else does one utter words like duty, dedication, sacrifice, holy, courage, boldness, Calling, King, grace, or honor, and do so without irony? In the community of faith we speak these words with facility, when even in a military context they often sound archaic or awkward these days. The South still retains something of this spirit, but its unique identity is waning. The real respository of the poetic spirit is in the Church, and I consider it an honor to be a part of it.

The comment box takes the thought further:

Just to quibble, I like "poetic" much more than "romantic", as the latter has always had overtones of fancy and unreality. Your point is a wonderful one though. The church is also the only place where people get together to make music on our society, generally speaking.
-Paul Baxter

I was just thinking today how much our culture has lost its taste for truly romantic language. I mentioned to a group of teens that my wife is pretty. They thought it was funny that I would use the word "pretty." I guess they would think it's hip to be more aloof and only use words like "hot" or "sexy." I hadn't thought of it in the context of the church, but you're right...the language of the church is romantic too...


I chose the word deliberately, though I think your choice is a very suitable one as well. I'm thinking of the feeling a boy gets reading "Charge of the Light Brigade" for the first time and imagining himself in the battle. That sort of romantic sentiment is alien to our daily lives these days, outside of the church. In the church one can still get excited about having mission and fighting the Good Fight.

Obviously the word comes with overtones of 19th C smarminess, but I'm still not willing to surrender it. :)


And just think, "pretty" is one of the more neutral words. Imagine if you had called her "lovely" or "gracious."

I had not thought of this. Neat.

Just saw "Master and Commander" -- don't know if you have the opportunity, but if you do, by all means take it in (this from someone who sees three new movies in a good year.) That movie portrays just what you're saying here. A naval frigate is a beautiful, graceful thing -- and it's made for blowing people and stuff up and making them bleed all over the deck, and also for gaining victory for King and Kingdom. There is something highly "romantic" about 19th century naval warfare, even when it is not sugar-coated, something that is lost in a church culture that is *all* about inviting people in for coffee and singing songs with guitars and then hugging each other. That "something," whatever it is, is felt in moments as you described, but I think needs to be recovered to a greater degree.

I loved this post, but I wasn't sure if its insight, well, made any difference. It is thrilling to realize that the Church is the "last bastion for romantics" - I keep gleefully promoting the Romantic and Imaginative Theology site in the hope that it will jar people into that realization. But how many heathen Romantics are there to entice into our bastion? Cynical postmodern culture is no more Romantic than it is Christian. The Romantic longing, that instinctual - and I venture to say, un-killable - desire of the human heart remains: look at the success of Tolkien's great Romance, in both book and film. Some of the fans miss the point entirely: those infuriating people who write slash fiction about Sam and Frodo, or Wiccans and pagans who think it's all some sort of eco-manifesto... But the larger problem is the inability to carry over concepts like "duty, dedication, sacrifice, holy, courage, boldness, Calling, King, grace, honor, lovely, gracious" into "real life." They grasp the thread of Romance, but do not follow it...

The seed of faith inside of us that Romanticism awakens will only be brought to light by an encounter with the full Truth... Lewis's heart was prepared by Phantastes and Wagner and myth and Northernness, but he needed Tolkien to tell him what it was all about. We have to play Tolkien to our neighbor's Lewis, or all our subtlety will be wasted. And now I have - for the moment - exhausted my thoughts on this elusive and numinous subject.

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