Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lost Words

Over the years, Giselle has blogged a lot about the “Though Stopping Phrases” in LC/RC. The idea is that certain phrases stop introspection and analysis. They end arguments prematurely. They get stuck in people’s heads like a catchy song and they take over.

I think I’m seeing some of that with my RC friends. When I ask about the current crisis, certain responses come up over and over again:

“God draws straight with crooked lines.”

“God uses flawed instruments.”

“It’s hard to understand how God can let this happen.”

“We’re waiting to see what the Church says.”

There are answers to all of these, but people don’t say these things when they’re looking for answers. These phrases are like a concrete wall – the conversation smashes into them going 65mph, and it crumples and dies.

So why are these words so effective at stopping thoughts and conversations? I think it has to do with another fiendish aspect of Macielism. Maciel taught his followers that ‘time is kingdom.’ They weren’t to waste time on frivolous activities; they needed to work towards the ultimate goal of building up the Church through RC/LC.

People followed this directive with varying degrees of success. Some RC people I know feel perfectly all right kicking back and watching a stupid movie. Others are obsessed with only watching things that are edifying and approved. (Honestly, I think this is why two pretty mediocre films, Bella and Fireproof, have gained such a huge following among RC people. Both films have the RC seal of approval – so members can watch them without feeling guilty! They’re not wasting time by watching Kirk Cameron smash his computer- they’re growing spiritually! Meanwhile… those of us off snickering at the antics of Father Ted are just bound for the nether realms.)

Why is this utilitarianism so horrible? Well, when “Time is Kingdom,” Art, poetry and literature are some of the first things that get thrown out the window. Don’t waste your time reading Blake – go save some souls! Pride and Prejudice isn’t useful – read some of Maciel’s letters instead! Don’t watch The Scarlet and the Black or Keys to the Kingdom .  Gregory Peck’s moral lessons aren’t clear enough. Here, watch something Mediocre instead! Build the kingdom!

The thing is, great art gives us the images and words we need to think about our own lives. When I go to the zoo and see a tiger, Blake’s poem shows me a side of it I might have missed otherwise. When I see friends trying to make sense of how they got run over by the train wreck that we call “Maciel”, I can understand different aspects of the problem because of what I’ve learned from novels.

Art and literature help us understand our place in life. They help us work through problems. A passing acquaintance with Shakespeare or Greek drama can help us recognize our flaws and see our strengths.  Maciel stole that from his followers. He took their words, their images, and gave them these anodyne phrases instead. He denigrated their deep feelings and made them put on a shallow plastic ‘serenity’ mask.

Without words and images, we can’t think. We need rich language to deal with big problems. If you find that RC has taken your words, get them back! Read folktales and plays. Watch great movies. Take a long leisurely stroll through an art gallery. Settle down with a good poetry anthology. You can think around the easy (but untrue!) answers of the thought-stopping phrases. You just need to find the language – and sometimes the language of art and literature shines a clearer light than the language of philosophy and theology.

Now I’m off to attack the laundry monster in the basement… wish me luck!

*a note on the links—I linked all the books and movies to Wikipedia, not Amazon. I don’t want to make money off of suffering RC folk! (On the other hand, when I blog about YA titles, I’ll link to the Amazon widgets—not because I want you to buy them, but because Amazon really DOES have the best code for embedding nice pictures of book covers!)*


Jeannette said...

Oh dear, I think I know which list this is on:

Me and my "internet-assembled philosophy"...

Anonymous said...

Deirdre, I am a bit new to your blog (a few weeks). I follow things from Giselle’s page. I appreciate the few blogs I have read…

Your comments are absolutely correct, the only question I have is whether what you received as indications or teaching was actually in accord with the LC/RC spirituality or just some RC’s weird interpretations and we are taking it as authoritative. In other words are we building a straw man which is easy to attack?

The LC’s put a great effort in knowing and appreciating art and literature. Their formation is full of classical studies and art appreciation, tours of museums, etc. The goal being to find that which true, good and beautiful in everything. They are encouraged to ready poetry. I know an Irish LC that is a fan of Yates. A LC father works inside the Vatican with the Vatican Museums, a few years ago they were promoting a piece of religious art of a famous young Russian painter…

With respect to movies, all though the LC’s see only a handful every year, many of them are the classic action movies (Bourn Identity, Spiderman, etc) or the typical animations (Toy Story, Incredible, etc). They even have see Matrix and analyzed it. All the LCs have seen The Scarlet and the Black or Keys to the Kingdom and would heartily approve them.

Perhaps a thoughtful LC would ask how much time we dedicate to media each week, even to the good media. It’s not an issue of good or bad, but of moderation, so that I complete my other obligations (as you said – attacking the laundry). Nothing wrong with Beethoven, better then gangster rap, but I don’t think we should listen to either for 9 hours a day.

It seems to me that if you were receiving the kind of things you state in your blog (time is kingdom so never watch movies, read books or go to art museums), it was not what the LC/RC spiritually teaches, but rather someone’s over zealous interpretation of that spirituality.

Other critiques of the LC/RC spirituality may be justified, but I think this one is a critique of some LC’s or RC’s interpretation of things – not the thing itself.

And of course, your comments correctly point out their mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Much af what Anonymous @3:58 is true. It is a tragedy and reminds me of the scene in the Scarlet and the Black when the Nazi's family is enjoying the arts.
Some in the LC and Regnum Christi have been exposed to the arts and are aware of all the most beautiful things in the world - in religion, philosophy, theology of the Body. Some know human nature and psychology well.
Despite all that, they can be cruel and we have seen the way they communicate. Many people have experienced various types of abuses in their interpersonal, pastoral contacts with this group. How on earth is that possible given the priveleges they enjoy?
It shows all the more that the LC system is insidious, powerful and
can cause fundemental changes in a person that education, exposure to the arts and religion will not rectify. As long as the system remains - it seems that it will be the reference point and whenever something else is the reference point instead of God and the human person (in reality - not just words)there will be tragedy. This is especially true when is it is not recognized and accepted but rather the opposite presentation is flaunted. That is the reason it has caused so much confusion and that the system needs to go.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Anon 3:58 says: It seems to me that if you were receiving the kind of things you state in your blog (time is kingdom so never watch movies, read books or go to art museums), it was not what the LC/RC spiritually teaches, but rather someone’s over zealous interpretation of that spirituality.

Other critiques of the LC/RC spirituality may be justified, but I think this one is a critique of some LC’s or RC’s interpretation of things – not the thing itself.

This is one of the big problems with dealing with Anecdotal accounts – For every person who had problems, there’s another who says “That wasn’t my experience. You were the problem, not the movement.”

But we don’t see these complaints from members of Schoenstatt, or Communion and Liberation, for example. So they’re useful because they highlight what makes RC so odd. Also, you’d think that a movement dedicated to charity would try to address the complaints of all these wounded souls. After all, maybe the methodology is most harmful to people of certain temperaments and backgrounds. If this is the case, shouldn’t there be a longer discernment process to establish if a person is a good fit?

Even if the founder hadn’t been a child-molesting, embezzling, lying, adulterous, plagiarizing pornographer, the movement would need to address the people who’ve been hurt. If shunning isn’t an official teaching, it still needs to stop; if people are being overzealous in their interpretations of the rules, their spiritual directors should help them get rid of their scruples!

BUT, now that we know that the founder was twisted, what seems more likely – that some people are just overly sensitive and need to get over themselves, or that the twisted man developed a twisted methodology?

Given the lack of a charism, the fact that some RC members feel that they aren’t allowed to have good movies and literature might seem like a pretty minor problem. But these people have mistaken Maciel’s teaching for the Church’s. To heal, they need to move out of the narrow world of Macielism back into the wider world of the Church. And that doesn’t just mean tossing out his prayer books and taking down his picture – it means letting go of the rules and disciplines that aren’t appropriate for Catholic laypeople. It means recognizing that the ‘Real Catholic’ position isn’t always the most restrictive. It means letting yourself read a good novel. (See this thread( )on Giselle’s blog—scroll down to see where it veers of into the discussion of books and reading in RC)

Also, I *DO* know some RC people who take a laxer view towards these things—but they’re usually the ones who indulge in a lot of Chesterton!