Culture changes. Concepts that were once common become not just lost but incommunicable.
This and that monotheism, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, trains its young to bow to God, to revere God … to iterate that God is supreme, the boss, the ruler, the master … the owner: the Magician. The Jews dance around, chortling how much they love God. The Quakers pay their respects by trembling.
I can’t know what people used to mean. Everything must be interpreted, anything that must be interpreted can be reinterpreted. I’m skeptical that people ever mean what they say: literally. I certainly see that my contemporaries don’t mean that God is the boss when they say that God is the boss: they’ll drop God like a hot rock the second they suspect that God isn’t actually their slave, serving them!
All my adult life I’ve been amused (and amazed) to discover the utter degree to which people don’t mean what they say. Catholics say that they want to obey God’s laws, but they’ll do so only provided that they can equivocate them, rewrite them … interpret them out of existence.
Now there’s a problem with Catholics: they say that God says something, but you can only find Catholics actually saying it. But the Catholics still swallow their own words as God’s! The Church says it, so it’s God saying it!
The Catholics can point to something in the Bible, but scholarship seconds the obvious: the Catholics wrote the Catholic Bible. (There is no manuscript in God’s handwriting. There is no original. Protestants have Bibles in Protestant handwriting: Jews Jews’.) Even so, these days you can find few Catholics who seem to mean what they say. They too want lenient rules, easy forgiveness, a lot of latitude: they do Not believe in Original Sin … Sometimes Catholics seem indistinguishable from Protestants: in America anyway.
I understand the old fashioned Catholic view that if God is the boss it doesn’t matter if the slave (the human) likes what God says. If God tells the virgin to keep her legs crossed till she’s married, it matters not if the girl would rather not cross them: she’s supposed to stay a damn virgin: and, if she doesn’t, she’s supposed to understand what the consequences may be.
In the 1960s I made some such comment to my conservatively radical Catholic college room mate, Bill: Bill from a small small town upstate New York. He was astounded. Bill told me that I could be Pope! Clearly Bill recognized old fashioned Catholic doctrine when he heard it: and he didn’t hear it from his fellow small town upstate Catholic neighbors.
But I’d already encountered the phenomenon. I’d read an article in Look back in the later 1950s. I don’t remember the exact details, but accept the general idea: the author was sympathizing with Catholic girls who’d gotten knocked up and who now didn’t find Church doctrine that forbade abortion to be convenient. (I remember being astounded when my mother told me that Look was supposed to have an RC bias; Life was the big mag with the big Protestant bias. These days I assume bias, don’t know what un-biased could possibly mean … But as a teen it was a revelation to find an adult referring to cultural bias in a casual way: as though it were both obvious, and widely known!
Anyhow: I wrote a letter to Look. I pointed out that IF God has laws and IF the Church knows those laws and IF an RC then also know those laws … it doesn’t matter a damn whether the laws are convenient. Obey … or go to hell.
The author wrote back. He said that if God’s laws weren’t to serve mankind, what good were they?
That’s not RC bias: that’s American bias! That’s atheism talking. That’s secularism! That’s not Church talk at all.
I’m seventy-two, coming up o seventy-three. Bill is the only person I’ve ever made that point to who had a clue that what I was saying actually related to anything historical.
Understand: I never claimed that viewpoint for myself: I was claiming it for the Church! and for Catholics! I never said that the Church had any detail whatsoever about God right: I was emphasizing that the Church said so.
For myself, I’m against abortion if we want to live: if we want to wipe ourselves off the face of the earth (and the Church along with us), then I’m all for abortion, and for girls opening their legs: for the breeze, for me, for dogs.
I once astonished art gallery colleagues, a Jewish husband and wife team, by declaring that if convenience had anything to do with ethics, that if a woman could abort because the fetus complicated her life, then I wanted abortion accepted and expanded: I wanted it jutified to kill an inconvenient wife, an inconvenient roommate, an inconvenient neighbor …