Sort of describes me and JPII. Opposite Poles.
I've been doing a lot of thinking about a paragraph I wrote yesterday in which I said that somehow Archbishop Chaput and I started out exactly the opposite of each other in the political religious sense, and after experiencing the seventies and eighties, moved to the exact opposite ends of the spectrum. He is now where I started and vice versa.
Theologically I had moved from traditional conservative to a more progressive liberal by the time I left undergraduate school. I had great theology teachers who opened up a theological world I had no idea even existed. These men were not all Vatican II liberals, in fact, some of them would have been right at home in the Legion of Christ, but what they all had in common was a strong desire to pursuit theological truth and to give their students the means to do so themselves. In other words they had a commitment to doing theology, not teaching us the catechism.
I remember my last semester when I was taking one course called 'Christian Secularity' and another on demonology. My faculty adviser, who taught the Christian Secularity class, could not for the life of him understand why I would waste my time on a class on demonology. I tried to explain to him that demonology pointed to a much bigger cosmos than secularists were want to entertain and that I found the whole topic fascinating because historically it tied into my Clinical Psychology major.
I don't know that he bought into my reasoning, but the ironic thing is that the priest who taught demonology sort of cracked up in the middle of the semester and my faculty advisor wound up having to teach the demonology class. He was so not comfortable giving any credence to the whole concept of demonology, so it was fun to sit in class and watch him squirm.
I wrote a final paper on Padre Pio, in which I speculated on whether Padre Pio was a delusional psychotic or a mystic connected to an entirely different reality demonstrating untapped human potential. I opted for the human potential thing, and my adviser opted for the delusional psychotic. When I asked him why, he said mystics like Padre Pio scared the crap out him because there was no legitimate theology in which to place people like him other than atonement theology. Atonement theology was not at all about human potential, except in the dark evil sense of things. It was a theology he did not agree with and felt mankind, at least in the educated West, had move beyond it. His implication was that perhaps my fascination with Padre Pio indicated I had not. That wasn't true, I had moved considerably beyond atonement theology.
What he didn't know was the real reason I was fascinated with Padre Pio. I had had a couple of mind blowing alternate reality occurrences which rattled me to my core. I couldn't deny them because there were rational witnesses, but I also knew I had no world view which would contain them and the only one available was in demonology and mysticism. I was heavily vested in opting for the human potential explanation for Padre Pio and not at all interested in affirming the delusional psychotic explanation. I may have been a little delusional, but I was not psychotic.
As I kept experiencing these occurrences of an alternate reality I found myself being driven into quantum physics, other spiritual traditions, searching for any Catholic theologian who even began to address any of my concerns. Not surprisingly I found myself reading Teilhard De Chardin and Thomas Merton and even some tantalizing references to things Padre Pio himself had experienced which led me to believe that he saw the cosmos much differently than his followers would credence. Things which affirmed my own experiences. Things which ennoble and affirm humanity and our place in the cosmos rather than denigrate humanity as victims of an ontological first mistake.
I began to see Jesus and his teachings in an entirely different light. I saw Him as teaching a world view in which mankind would be capable of effecting change in this reality by extending our consciousness into other realities, but the key to it was the two great laws, love of God, and a ego less love of one's fellow man. These are the same teachings which are the ground of all effective spiritual traditions.
I also learned something else. Catholic atonement theology, with it's emphasis on fear of hell and the active involvement of the demonic, is the perfect mental framework to create the very fearful things it seeks to control. That which we fear is that which we attract for ourselves and our societies. This is why I sometimes cringe when I hear some of the advice given to people on EWTN. Neither Jesus nor his followers were terrified by dark energy. They understood the real power of love and the effect that love has on the greater universe.
Back to Archbishop Chaput. Politically I turned left during the Reagan years for two reasons. The first was the farce of 'trickle down' economics. Rather than wealth trickling down, it was kept in the family by one corporate take over after another. My own company underwent a raid by T. Boone Pickens when he attempted to corner the silver and gold markets. Although the company managed to fend off the takeover bid, it eventually cost us 10% of our work force of which I was amongst those who drew the short straws. So you could say I was trickled down and out.
The second reason was Reagan's blatant use of the fear card. People seem to forget that under Reagan the real war between the Soviet Union and the US was fought with money being pored into military armaments. While it triggered a recession in the US, it bankrupted the Soviet Union, and unfortunately for the Russian people, organized crime was the first beneficiary of Western style capitalism. The fear card always attracts the darkest elements. The Bush years are a Reagan de ja vu. The fear card has wreaked it's havoc again.
So while the Church and American culture was moving to the right, back into the politics and theology of fear, I was spiritually and theologically moving away from the coercive politics of fear and into freedom based in integrity and love. I don't know that that exactly makes me a liberal and it sure doesn't make me a pragmatist, but it might make me a Jesus follower and I've found that's a good place to be.
For another interesting take on this same time frame check out today's post on Bilgrimage in which Bill Lyndsey addresses a reader's comment about what happened to Vatican II? Personally I think it's become another victim of the interests playing the fear card.