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!)*