I took my son to mass this morning at my local parish church. My approach these days to suburban Catholicism is not to expect too much and just to look for the good things in the mass.
And I was going very well until the sermon. The argument of the sermon was that Mary wasn't such a pure or special person, she was just an ordinary, confused peasant girl. This is because God favours the powerless, the marginalised and the broken.
This isn't what set me off. There's a saying that "In man's extremity is God's opportunity" - meaning that when we reach a low point it's possible that our egoistic self lets go and we become open to the religious experience.
But what do you conclude from this? I would have thought the conclusion would be that we shouldn't allow ourselves to become so comfortable and complacent that we live through a worldly, egoistic self alone. Nor that we should think that the truths of religion are limited to the rich and powerful and favoured.
But the priest went in a different direction. His conclusion was that we should identify with whoever seemed to be the most powerless. So he said that the modern equivalents to the powerless in the Bible are the Sri Lankan refugees and the Palestinians in the occupied territories.
So he arrived, by way of suburban Catholicism, at exactly the same conclusion that a secular liberal would arrive at, namely that the point of it all is to identify with refugees and Palestinians.
It seems to me, first, to be a ridiculously cut-down version of a religion. Second, I find it difficult to believe that we should automatically side with whoever seems to be most powerless, as if being powerless defines you as good. It's a bit like when a Marxist decides to support someone on the basis of their class ("He's the more working-class one, therefore he is in the right").
Anyway, I ended up doing what I tell myself over and over not to do, which is to walk out.
I hope this post hasn't sounded too light in tone. The falling away of suburban Catholicism is a serious thing. Someone I know who has attended mass for many decades every Sunday recently stopped attending; he told me he no longer believes. And I can understand this, as there is no longer much of a religious culture within the average suburban Catholic parish.
I'm not going to stop attending, but I no longer think I can rely on the church when it comes to my children's upbringing. I'm planning to set aside some time on a Sunday to go through things with my son myself.