“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Since there have been a few negative reactions to my anticlimactic journey’s final post, I thought I’d take a moment to clarify. Following that, the world is free to agree or disagree with me.
In short, some of my final Day 46 remarks offended a few of my Catholic readers. I’ve read it over a few times and have decided to talk about three areas of the post to clarify my thoughts and language. Clarity is always helpful–after drinking beer and eating no food for 46 days, I hope folks will understand that fatigue was certainly setting in. That I didn’t get grumpy and blatantly attack the neo-prohibitionist denominations out there during this journey is a minor miracle.
In addition to putting up 46 generally pensive posts, as well as conducting countless interviews and writing a whole lot more on my own time, it’s easy for me to have forgotten what I said, did or wrote where. Further, many blog posts, and certainly all of these, are basically short, first-drafts. On top of this “part-time” project, I have a family and full-time job.
Offensive Statement #1
“Some Catholics have construed the spiritual element of my journey to be my willingness to give penance.”
This wasn’t a broad-brushed indictment on the Catholic church. This was a statement made in response to comments or emails I’ve received in the last few weeks. People alluded to my willingness to give penance in this way. But as I’ve said from the beginning, this isn’t why I took on the project. The second part of the opening paragraph explains why: “my historical study into this beer legend.” As I said, I had an “openness to spiritually-thrust enlightenment.” But that wasn’t the primary reason for the project. The media hasn’t been helpful. I’ve been clear about my intentions, but some TV stations and print publications sidestepped my clarity. Or they used sub-headers like, “and he’s doing it for religious reasons.”
Not exactly. I clarified that whenever I was live somewhere, whenever I could fit it in.
Offensive Statement #2
“I believe that God forgives when we ask it, and not for the number of Our Fathers or Hail Marys we lift up or for simply attending confession.”
I don’t have a problem with Our Fathers or Hail Marys or confession. I think they have value. I simply stated that “I believe that God forgives when we ask it” and that “Confession and forgiveness can happen anywhere.” If someone wants to dispute that “maintaining an open communication line with God” is a lousy idea, I’d like to hear their arguments, though I’ll be honest, I’m not likely to buy them.
One piece of this story that really didn’t make it to the blog was my time at Conception Abbey. It was an amazing, eye-opening experience, and I wrote 14 pages while I was down there. I acquired a new respect for the Catholic church while I was there, but only posted a short piece of video to cover that time. I wasn’t going to post 14 pages on a blog and I didn’t know where to start to distill it down.
Offensive Statement #3
“Confession and forgiveness can happen anywhere, and the key is more about maintaining an open communication line with God, and not in donning a suit and nodding off for an hour on Sundays. Sitting in a church doesn’t make one a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes one a car.”
Just because this project started with a group of Catholic monks, doesn’t mean that my thoughts are limited to the Catholic denomination. As I’ve said before, I don’t care about denominations. The common denominator among them is Christ. That’s the part that I personally choose to focus on. So it’s important for me to point out that people don suits in all churches and don’t necessarily take Christ seriously in their lives.
I grew up in a small town where everybody knows everybody, and occasionally my mom forced me to go to church. There, I found people who surprised me. I’d seen them in other contexts, and the church didn’t seem to “suit” them. That’s a problem I’ve had with Christians all my life. Some of them are poseurs. And that cuts across all denominations.
The aforementioned words by Socrates sum up my view on life. I asked a lot of questions about God and the church when I was a kid, and I shied well away from them both for a long time. Not everyone who was brought up Catholic stays there. They call themselves “recovering Catholics.” For some, it happens the other way around. Some come to God having been brought up with no church background at all.
We are all different. Thank God.
I still interrogate life and God and the church. If I’m to crack on this denomination or that, it would be the ones who pretend that Jesus didn’t drink wine (or wine with alcohol in it) or don’t acknowledge that the Bible contains 27 references to wine as a blessing or 20 references to the loss of wine or strong drink as an example of God’s curse.
I’m a nice guy, but some things need not be sugar-coated. During Day 46, I had more in my head than I had contained in the post, and for that, I’m sorry.
Unfortunately, these issues distracted a few from some of the “meat” of the post, in which I challenged myself to continue “always on the path, always growing.” I mentioned that I had discovered as so many from cultures all across the globe had before me, that there is a lot of value to fasting. My experience reinforced my beliefs that today’s culture of excess breeds waste and gluttony. I discovered that my body (and probably yours too) is capable of so much more than I could ever fully realize.
With any luck, I’ll have the good sense to apply these tidbits to my life.