Christianity is a mythological system. We Catholics endorse it as our own. As a people we organize our life and meaning around this history of symbols, this skein of stories, and the fabric of rituals that make it present. These images excite our emotions and increase our sense of a common destiny. We thrive in the liveliness of the truths they represent, rhetorical truths that have deep meaning for us, not empirical facts that purport to prove the supernatural.
Like all mythological systems, Christianity has its version of the world’s creation and an explanation of life as we experience it. So, we have pictures of, and stories about, God molding something out of nothing, creating all things including humans, and setting them up in a lovely garden. But then those ancient ancestors of ours rebelled, so much so that we end up with a godforsaken mess that requires a new divine intervention. That saving action happens when a virgin unites with the Divine Spirit to bring forth a God/Man who saves all those who believe in Him. From this flows the community of those people who find their lives made coherent by, and energized in, this myth.
The mistake occurs when people proclaim the rhetorical as empirical. At that moment orthodoxy, hearing a call and seeing its opportunity, rears up. That orthodoxy creates authorities that shall protect itself from heretics. Those authorities fulfill their mandate through indoctrination, threats, and the presumption that following the myth requires adherence to their interpretation of it as if it were actually true, in all its parts. A true believer must personally realize the myth’s purpose by living out the official version. In this wise, the hierarchy becomes omniscient, an idol of its own creation; following it means attaching oneself to a pseudo-god. Sadly, with this substitution the Almighty vanishes as does any further search for, and every-day attempt to find, that real God: why keep seeking when obedience to ecclesiastical leaders assures salvation?
Few Catholics dispute that the current church is wallowing in a frightful pool. Some blame the scandal of pedophilia; others point to an overall obtuseness about the human condition; I would note especially its self-definition that urges the protection of orthodoxy rather than the guidance of its members to life in God. A church that fails in that latter task should fold up its rule books, fork over its flabby religious credentials, and, like fabled nomads, dismantle their tents and slowly fade away into the darkness of irrelevance.
Through a lifetime of prayer and thought, I recognize the actual fact of Jesus. He reveals the myth; he also shapes the person I may become. I know that living as Jesus lived fits me well. He knew in his bones that we could be more than we seem to be. For no reasons of our own, we participate in a Life overwhelmng in its vitality and energy, its love and hope. We need only to move over and let that Life course through us. He leads, not through the mythology about Him; He accompanies us into that Life that calls us all.
I love Christ will all my being. I love not the fabrication of the myth, nor the definitions of the theologians and priests, but the God/Man who infuses my being with Life, the one in whom “I live, and love, and have my being.” In embracing my life I love Him.