Saturday, April 03, 2010

Imagine there’s no Easter

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 4/4/10

On Holy Thursday, a secular political site I go to, feeling the turn in the seasons, but not wanting to draw on any specific religion, offered a version of John Lennon’s Imagine.

It infuriated some viewers, not because it was considered bad Easter religion, but because some viewers saw it as “communist.” More a Taoist or Tolstoyan anthem – themes from which Lennon drew on through the later parts of his creative arc.

But I’ve seen this again and again, including at the Olympics and at one very poignant 9/11 nationally televised memorial featuring Tom Hanks, Clinton Eastwood and Neil Young, where we mourned our deepest hurt and turned to Lennon’s Imagine to speak for the inner spirit.

We are a secular people and if, as President Obama did this weekend, we see Easter as a “celebration of mankind” then John Lennon might as well be its avatar. Because although distinguished psychiatrists like Barbara Hannah correctly in my opinion, see the “one world” thing as a childish and narcissistic delusion, it was only in recent times we came to see ourselves collectively as “mankind” (or “humankind” which is even more insipid).

But Lennon would be better than Marx. Better than Mao, who he very publicly denounced. Better than Bill Clinton or Al Gore or Michael Jackson or Barack Obama or any of a ghoulish host of global conquistadors (and what is enough to gag a horse, the self-proclaimed “world elders”) conceived by the Universe to speak on behalf of “mankind.”

But this Easter, I’m concerned about the Catholic Church. As the Archbishop of Canterbury said, the child predator scandal is vast and threatens even the character of Ireland. And in western Europe and even in Quebec’s oldest of North American churches, the congregations are thin and elderly. The only people who seem to go to church up here in the north are politicians.

My family lines are RC and C of E. The Catholics have mostly turned Buddhist or to science and the stone churches of the Boston Irish are now art studios. C of E has long been secularized and has substituted sociology for the sacred, but the RC side says it always was like that.

And there are 1,600 mosques today in Germany and almost as many in France, but they are politicized as well and some of them violently obsessed.

The only real religious people I talk to today are Southerners – generally Baptist – and Israeli Jews. Both peoples with a sense of place. (A place in nature, a “natural state” as in Tolstoy.) Invariably they are considered “right wing” here in the northeast, where religion is viewed as something like a hat.

But I see a future growing with them, possibly a future together. I see a future here as well among us New England Buddhists and hippies, who follow the gospel of Lao Tzu and Black Elk as we find it and the “no religion” religion proclaimed by Lennon in Imagine. It was after all the Christ who said to go alone to the Father and not listen to the rabbis the “elders” or any of the others in getting there. I see a future in this here, but it looks like a different future.