Stewart Lee, who is rather better at diagnosing problems than proposing solutions, that not as a rule being part of the standard job description for satirists, doesn't spare the Catholic Church in his general savaging of Christians in his 90s Comedian show. Still, unfair and spectacularly offensive though his diatribe often is, he is rather on the money when he points out one of the odder characteristics of Catholicism:
What I really like about Catholicism – my favourite thing about it – is the way that it combines a search for a profound spiritual meaning with a love of kind of inane seaside tat. And you don’t often see those two things working as a team, do you?In an odd way, this juxtaposition is probably a curious manifestation of the classic 'both...and' dynamic that underpins Catholic thinking, and of the sacramental understanding of the world that is the hallmark of the Catholic imagination. Whatever its origins, though, there's no denying that it can manifest itself in decidedly bizarre ways.
Via a recent post by Teresa Nielsen Hayden at Making Light I found myself the other day working my way through the Kitschmas lists at Ship of Fools. Trust me: this stuff is terrifying. Not the least frightening thing about them is the fact that, as Teresa observes, someone must have thought that each and every one of these things was a good idea.
What appeals to you most? A Saint Sebastian pin cushion? A Blessed Virgin memory stick? A Christmas Tree topper based on Our Lord? Flogging Jesus Christmas lights? A Nativity kitchen timer? A glowing gravestone, powered by solar energy? You can get them all, and much worse...
Well, if you go to the site where you can buy this decidedly peculiar statue, you might start to understand, although you'll doubtless first be drawn in, appalled, by the fact that there's a whole line of these absurdities: Jesus surfing, or skateboarding, or rockclimbing, or on a rodeo bull, or performing a rather nifty bicycle kick.
Above all the statuettes, though, you'll see a link to a message from the company's founder, Eric Dyson. It seems that Eric had been just an average Joe until the death of Pope John Paul II, shortly the death of Dyson's own father. Struck by this, Dyson was paralysed with emotional distress, fear, and confusion, and he wondered why God was leaving him alone, why he was taking our guides.
From inside me I heard and felt a response. It came from nowhere and everywhere. It was simple, but profound.'I am ALWAYS with you.'And with this warm, inspiring, comforting message, I also had an image of Jesus the Christ on a motorcycle riding across the open roads of America!
Like Peanut Butter and Jelly
Ok, boys, when you meet Jesus, be sure to call Him Mr. Christ
A few years ago I was in the Nation Bible Society's bookshop on Dublin's Dawson Street -- the National Bible Society being an Evangelical Protestant organisation, rather than a Catholic one -- when I saw a series of books with titles that left me stunned.
Moses takes a Road Trip: And Other Famous Journeys... David Drops a Giant Problem: And Other Fearless Heroes... Jesus Makes a Major Comeback: And Other Amazing Feats...
I have to admit, though, I still think Paul Hits the Beach: And Other Wild Adventures is an absolutely inspired title.
I'd been drawn inside in the first place by the window display featuring Bibleopoly: The Family Game of Fun and Faith. Yes, I'm not joking.
I know, I shouldn't judge. But it does rather smack of Ned Flanders, doesn't it?