Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Weekly Rant

Our books just came in the mail, so Snuffles and I are now on a reading binge, meaning we don't have time for little things like posting essays in a vain attempt to gain approval from total strangers on the Internet. Lucky isn't posting either because she's pouting; apparently, she's upset both because Rocky the Space Mouse hasn't written in a while and because I said something insensitive, though I have no idea what it is because she isn't speaking to me. That's four becausees in one sentence, which should earn me a medal or something.

Because I discovered during Lent that I can start lively arguments in the combox by ranting incoherently (ah, the Internet!), I'm going to throw in a rant now: it starts conversations and it's easy, which means I can more quickly get back to my reading.

The other day, when I had had too much caffeine, it occurred to me that one of my least favorite things, besides they used as a singular pronoun (curse you, HarperCollins!), is the phrase "felt needs," which has become an ugly fad among Christians these days...or a few years ago, maybe; I'm not good about keeping up with fads. Anyway, a church is going downhill when it starts worrying about "felt needs," a term suggesting warm fuzziness and arbitrariness, and hinting, just slightly, of sexual molestation. Get your hands off those needs!

When I was in the process of becoming Catholic, my new parish (to remain unidentified) did its best to irritate me by sending a nice, friendly couple over to welcome me. Upon discovering that I was a catechumen, they asked me why I was converting,* so I began by saying, "A few years ago, I went looking for the Church."

Thinking I hadn't completed my sentence, the female half of this couple said, "That meets your needs!"

I replied, "No, I went looking for the Church." Were I as weighty in person as I am in my writing, I would have added, "And to hell with my needs."

The problem with felt needs is that word felt, which indicates that felt needs are perceived, which indicates that they are in all likelihood different for each individual, which indicates that a church could not possibly cater to all of them, which is probably why we have in recent years made the rate of schism worse with a plethora of niche churches. Besides that, felt needs are probably for the most part not needs at all, but wants. Why in blazes should a church cater to those? If all I cared about were my felt needs, I wouldn't be Catholic; I'd be at some Charismatic church where I can get an emotional high every week, where the donuts are fresher, and where there are lots of attractive young women.** I am by nature a romantic idealist: if I thought it were either healthy or permissible, I would dress like Oscar Wilde, fill my house with decorative flower arrangements, and wheedle my life away reading sappy romantic girls' fiction, but even I know better than to put any stock in my felt needs!

Where was I? Ah, yes: C. S. Lewis once said, "If you want to be happy, don't try Christianity. Try port wine."*** Every time I have quoted that, the people to whom I have quoted it have misunderstood it, so let me explain: Christianity is not about making you happy. It's not about meeting those needs you keep feeling up. Rather, Christianity has much to do with making you better. Felt needs involve making you comfortable, but the process of becoming better will make you uncomfortable. If we work to meet felt needs, there's a good chance we'll miss real needs.

*Yes, my fellow former Protestants, I said converting. Deal with that.

**Is it just me, or are all the hot women either Charismatics or baristas?

***Lewis here appears to indicate that Christianity does not blend well with port, but I have generally found otherwise; perhaps he selected a poor brand. I have also found that Christianity goes well with white zinfandel. There is some indication that certain sectarian biases go well with certain adult beverages; for example, I understand that Calvinism is good with scotch and that Russian Orthodoxy is excellent when mixed with vodka. From my own experience, I can say that, sadly, Baptist denominations are unpalatable with anything but unfermented grape juice.
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