I doubt that I will ever believe, as Elizabeth Scalia does, in the God she professes her faith to. I don’t think I can.
But as I have said before, there is a profound and beautiful core of truth to what the Anchoress believes, and I read her every day for the glimpses she vouchsafes us of that beauty.
In a former parish, there was a sister-liturgist who–eager to promote “sensitivity”–decided that the Gloria should be sung with the refrain “Glory to God in the Highest, and peace to God’s people on earth;” she was content to brutalize the ear, change a liturgical prayer that is not supposed to be changed, and disorient the people just a tad, in order that no one should be subjected to that troubling male pronoun, “His.”
I always thought it was a nonsensical point; why go to the trouble of training the people to avoid the “His” in that sung prayer, when it proceed to refer to God as “Heavenly King, Almighty God and Father,” and to Jesus as “only Son of the Father.” And of course, I got into a civil debate with her about it.
“You don’t understand,” she said kindly (because she was a very kind sister) “it’s important that we begin to think of God as having no gender at all, containing aspects of both mother and father, but not limited to our understanding as “Father.”
“Yes, mysticism if fine; I’m a fan,” I said. “But the prayer–which is liturgical and not subject for editing by you or me–makes enough male references throughout that it seems incongruous and silly, to enforce this clumsy and cold “Glory to God and peace to God’s people,” phrasing. It’s ick to my ear. And it puts God at a distance; it’s not intimate.”
To sister’s credit she remained kind but she did buckle down and let me know she wasn’t budging. “There are a lot of people in the world who have had bad fathers, they have bad memories, a lot of people find referring to God as “Father” to be distancing and hurtful. They cannot relate.”
“Well, sister, I happen to be one of those people who had a bad father and carries bad memories, and I like referencing God as Father; I happen to find great comfort and solace in having a Heavenly Father who more than fills the void left by my earthly one.”
She looked stunned. “You are the first person who has ever said that to me; that is not the usual perspective.”
“But don’t you think that’s a perspective worth promoting? Isn’t it a much better thing to tell people whose fathers have failed that they may be consoled by a Father who will never fail? Wouldn’t that be more positive, and ultimately more healing, than wrecking the liturgy to pander to neurotic sadness?”
This is why I continue to read Scalia, but have given up on, say, P.Z. Meyers. There is a profound and beautiful truth to what Meyers teaches as well, a truth arrived at by pathways easier for me to follow than the one illuminated by Scalia, a path that rejects the rigor of faith for a sharper, narrower rigor of another kind. But somehow, somewhere, Meyers has lost sight of that beauty, and has long ago ceased to teach his audience how to find it.
Instead, he wastes his time and talents mocking people like the Anchoress…and, yes, I see much to be mocked about them. I no longer care. Their various blindnesses and failings are trivial compared to their beauties and truths, which science cannot address, and may never be able to address — it is simply not the right tool to do so.
Not at all incidentally, I mind myself of Eric S. Raymond’s definition of “truth” , that truth is what makes the future less surprising. In what sense, you may then reasonably ask, do the Anchoress’ “truths” make the future less surprising? How may her words be unpacked as predictions?
I admit, I’m still struggling with how to express that. But in general, I think that people who think and believe as the Anchoress does are more likely to be, for lack of a better word, decent.