02 June 2010

Dividing Christendom

I grabbed the book, The Dividing of Christendom by Christopher Dawson, off the shelf at a local bookstore while I was letting the kids dig through the children's section. As the kids were rummaging through Sponge Bob and Dora, I only managed to get a few pages in, so I requested it later through the library. Now I'm trying to plow my way through a book that assumes one is much more familiar with history than I am.

"Of all divisions between Christians, that between Catholics and Protestants is the deepest and the most pregnant in its historical consequences. It is so deep that we cannot see any solution to it in the present period and under existing historical circumstances. But at least it is possible for us to take the first step by attempting to overcome the enormous gap in mutual understanding which has hitherto rendered any intellectual contact or collaboration impossible. From this point of view the problem is not to be found so much in the sphere of theology, strictly speaking, as in that of culture and historical tradition. For the changes that followed the Reformation are not only the work of the Churches and theologians. They are the work of the statesmen and the soldiers. The Catholic and Protestant worlds have been divided from one another by centuries of war and power politics, and the result has been that they no longer share a common social experience. Each has its own version of history, its own social inheritance, as well as its own religious beliefs and standards of orthodoxy. And nowhere is this state of things more striking than in America, where the English Protestant North and the Spanish Catholic South formed two completely different worlds which had no mental contact with one another."

I guess I shouldn't expect my in-laws to "get me" after all these years. They do have a completely different view of the world, but what is so striking is that they used to be Catholic. Catholic within my mother-in-law's lifetime. My husband's great-grandparents were devoutly Catholic. His great-aunt was a Benedictine who was a teacher, artist and professor.

Remarkable how one decision can change the entire trajectory of a family. In this case, the loss of a child led the family outside of the Church. Many times it's divorce. Sad how hostility gets handed down from generation to generation and the faith of numerous ancestors is abandoned.


ArchAngel's Advocate said...

I think the fundamental difference in perspective between the 2 worlds is that the Protestant perspective is foremost an "I" focus ("I" disagree with the Church's teaching on A) and therefore centered on the self; and the Catholic perspective (including our Eastern Rite brethren) is a "We" focus (God, Church, Community, History, TRADITION (all caps intended to differentiate with "tradition"). We know that we have a conservator relationship with Revelation, and as such are bound to be more conservative and deliberate in making decisions, and therefore look at "the BIG picture" when making a decision, which drives our Protestant relations bonkers. Even the Holy Father acts (on major items) not by himself but in Communion with his brother bishops. We move as an organic whole, and if we encounter problems it is usually because some part of the Whole is out-of-sync with the rest.

I now put my soapbox away...

swissmiss said...

Your soap boxes are fine with me. I don't think most folks consciously think along these black and white lines...many tend to fall into the vigorously American independent way of things...you do what you want, I'll do what I want, can't we all get along. No one wants to follow their train of "logic" to its end.

BTW: Have you read any of Dawson? Next year in history we will be covering things from the Battle of Hastings (1066) up to the American Revolution...so I have a chunk of history to familiarize myself with (Reformation, Inquisition, Crusades, etc). So much for summer vacation ;) I've listened to the EPIC CDs four times and only small pieces are starting to stick in my brain. Have a list of Hilaire Belloc's books to get from the local CINO university. Then I actually have to read them.

Anonymous said...

I think one of the problems is how badly history is taught and told in popular books.
The continuation of black legend as history simply confirms in their prejudices those who want an excuse to do whatever they want.

And on that note- ages ago you told me about a history course you were using in your homeschooling; a Catholic one I think. Can you let me know what it is again.
I am looking at supplementing the Susan Wise Bauer stuff as we start on Vol 2. As our group is mixed I can't use a full on Catholic course in the group but I'm a bit worried about where Bauer will take us in this next book.

swissmiss said...

I used Roman Catholic History (Connecting with History). You can go to www.rchistory.com and check it out. One problem is that the second book of Connecting with History stops at the Battle of Hastings, where Wise Bauer's volume 2 goes from the fall of Rome to the Renaissance. Slight disconnect. I think you can find a book list on the site, but am in the process of gathering one for a friend of the same time period, so will send you one...may be a little bit before I get to it. There is also a Yahoo group for Connecting with History and a History Place group that list resources and have discussions from a Catholic perspective.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Swissy that's a huge help :)