Thursday, May 14, 2009

I find the Eucharist more than a little difficult to swallow....

I don't know why I was thinking about this, probably because PZ Myers touched on in on his blog a few days ago and it got me thinking. Thinking about communion. If you're not familiar with communion, the specific meaning I'm talking about is the church meaning, I.E. the ritual of eating a wafer and drinking wine during a ceremony, and more specifically, a Catholic ceremony.

I grew up in a Baptist Church and we certainly took communion. Once a month, I think. However, we had no delusions that what we were putting in our mouths was nothing more than unleavened bread and grape juice (Baptist don't like the alcohol). It was symbolism, you see. Something we supposedly did because Jesus asked us to, so we'd remember him.

The reason I was thinking about this is because I read that Catholics, or at least some Catholics (I especially don't expect the young Catholics to believe this), believe that when they put the bread and the wine in their mouth a miracle happens. And that miracle is that the bread ACTUALLY turns into Christ's flesh, and the wine ACTUALLY turns into his blood. Its called Transubstantiation but you and I might call it "fantasy cannibalism."

So my questions are:
1. Can I possibly be understanding this correctly?
2. Do people actually think this happens?
3. Why the hell would they want it to?
4. Has it never occurred to anyone to spit it out and test it?

To me this seems more like an idea that witches would have. I apologize if that offends any witches, I confess, I don't know much about you, save what I read in Harry Potter.

Now I hate to bash on religious rituals too much. OK, that's not true I'd love to, but I won't. When I was religious I used to say "Faith and Ritual are like love and sex. They're not the same thing though people often mistake the two. However, when they're together they make each other better." So I get it. I understand why people get baptized and raise their hands during worship, and even speak in tongues and handle snakes. We think it heightens the experience, essentially. But It really just makes me wonder if instead of heightening the experience, it IS the experience. I've had the typical church camp experience so I know what it feels like to have a professional band play the four right chords that tug on those specific emotions that are so vulnerable in teenagers (or just the downtrodden), to make us think that there's something wrong with us that only Jesus, Mohammed, Yahweh, Buddha, or Joseph Smith can fix. Hell, I've been in the professional band that knows those chords and exploits them. That's the power of music and I could post a whole other way-too-long blog about that, but I digress. Does anyone else feel like its possible that religion uses rituals of all different kinds to replace reason with emotion?

On a much better note, Harper is almost a week old and we had our first night that was just our little family last night, and we did just fine. I swear, she gets cuter everyday. She's so ridiculously expressive. We're about to take her to Target so we can get out of the house a little bit and so that she can learn to love Target, that's one of those really important things that we're trying to instill in her. I've made her 3 different mix CD's for sleeping to now. If you'd like a copy, let me know and I'll post a drop site for you to download them.

ADDENDUM>>> I made a "best of" from all 3 sleeping mixes and you can download it here and it includes such hits as:
The Golden Age - Beck
To Sheila - The Smashing Pumpkins
Christmas Song - Mogwai
El Condor Pasa (If I Could - Simon & Garfunkle
Georgia On My Mind - Willie Nelson
Lake Michigan - Rogue Wave
Mirrors - The New Frontiers
The Tower Of Learning - Rufus Wainwright
Lord Can You Hear Me - Spiritualized
The Film Did Not Go 'Round - Nada Surf
Hallelujah _ I Know It's Over (Medley) - Jeff Buckley
Say Yes - Elliott Smith
The Tourist - Radiohead
Summertime - Sam Cooke
The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us! - Sufjan Stevens


  1. I want a copy! Little Haper has such good taste :)

  2. ha . ok raised catholic. never once thought the cheap red was being churned into jesus blood. thats creepy. but i can completely see some of them believing that. I wouldn't put it past "us".

  3. I've always thought the belief of transubstantiation (good grief, what a long word) was a little, well, unique. I personally don't believe it either, growing up in the exact same churches that you did and what an excellent question about spitting it back out and testing it.

    When the Israelites were in the desert, they were being bitten by snakes, so Moses asked God for relief, and God told him to make a bronze serpent and hang it over the door of the Tent of Meeting. Anyone who was bitten would look at the snake and be healed. However, they were healed not because of the bronze snake, but through their obedience by following God's plan.

    The problem came when they started to worship the stupid snake. So...the bronze snake was removed and death by snakebite made a rousing comeback.

    It's all the rage.

  4. I don't think youth has anything to do with this one. Some believe some don't. Neither born again believers nor bat shit crazy knows age limits. You can call them either and some people are going to agree on either side.

    But do Buddah & Mohammed also have those 4 chord progressions? Because if there is a Muslim version of Grammatrain i want to hear it.

  5. I was raised catholic, altar server and all that jazz. I had heard of people reallly believing that sort of thing, but I never knew of anyone personally. For the most part, my whole family and our friends never felt it would really turn into blood and body, i just always understood the symbolism.

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  7. I was raised Catholic too (stopped believing when I was about 5 which is around the time you should stop believing in fairy tales). I didn't think people actually thought it /physically/ turned into flesh and blood, but "became" the flesh and blood in a more... supernatural way. Don't know how to phrase.

    I think the act of belief can be a ritual in itself for many. (ie, forced, done out of habit, and not genuine.)

    [edited to fix typos]

  8. I don't know about an Islamic Grammatrain, but I do believe there is a D.I. Talk.....somewhere.

  9. I agree with your hypothesis that ritual becomes the experience. It is sensory, it is here and now. It is how humans express thought and feeling. I think ritual, entered into with open eyes, can be a great and powerful thing. Graduation ceremonies, weddings, funerals- all ritual. All moving. All valid. I don't believe in Shinto, but I really like some of the ritual reverence for nature, and (when I remember) I try to do the symbolic bow and clap towards the rising sun in the morning, not because I believe some kami is watching and demands it of me, but rather because it helps me remember to be thankful for the natural world around me. When people start believing that the ritual is intrinsically powerful, that's when all hell breaks loose. The big flap over transubstantiation falls into that category. I like your blog. I got here by way of your phyrangula comment. Come visit me some time when you aren't busy with new baby duty :-)

  10. never heard of transubstantiation, but boy am I glad I have now! I'm joining the catholic church right now to get my cup of Jesus blood and Jesus jerky. And the whole time I thought it was just wheatthins & grapejuice. This takes playing with your food to a whole new level... It's like worshiping your food or something.

  11. Rituals are inherently different than understanding something (but were intended to mix). I think people need to seek understanding first. Jesus wanted to internalize who he was so that we could live out his call and hand on our lives.

    People resort to flat bread.

    People sitting in a room and coming to grips with the complexity of Jesus and the simpleness of his call would be much more transforming if they had the full picture.

  12. This is unrelated to this post, but I played Jasper Shine Honesty the other day while he was sleeping, and he immediately woke up and wouldn't sleep for the first five songs. I can't tell if he's a fan or just curious.

  13. ok, im just not as educated as Seth to comment back on all this stuff going on so im going to let him handle the verbal jousting and just pray, even though i know you hate that LOL!
    BUT i would love the copy of the cd for our baby girl, something to pass on from her cousin. Tell me how :o) Love you!

  14. wait--my pregnancy brain is in full force and i just saw the link to get the music lol nevermind, i got it! i think....

  15. the music link isnt working for me :( boooooo