Friday, May 25, 2007

Mummified Mary

We now live near a Korean Catholic Church. Over the past week or so I’ve been watching the construction of this shrine. I was surprised to see a mummified Mary when I drove past yesterday.

This is one of those areas that is hard for me to understand about Catholics. What is it about iconography that is so appealing? I hate to say it, but this picture pretty much sums up the whole thing for me. Veneration of the dead through icons is not life giving but deadly.


John D Giotta said...

I'm not catholic (nor religious) but I have to question this resentment that Christians have against other Christians?

Obviously, God chose Mary over everyone else to birth Jesus. What's wrong with a little respect for the mother of your savior?

Christopher said...

Dear John,

I’m not Catholic either (obviously), but I both work with Catholics and have close family members who are Catholic. We love each other and have great conversations about our differences. I don’t resent Catholics, though I might resent being accused of resenting Catholics if I think about it too much.

Instead, let me reply by outlining why truth matters to Christians and why it is no accident that Christians speak about their differing takes on the truth.

First, even the non-religious are concerned with truth, even when the subject is quite trivial (thinking of your post on Hilton here). There is no end to the “loathing,” “hating,” and “venom” floating around these discussions, which tells me truth matters even in areas of little consequence.

But for Christians, truth has everlasting consequences. Therefore, the pressure to be truthful is turned up infinitely. Also, since truth has everlasting consequences, the most loving thing a Christian can do is to help another person, Christian or not, understand what is true and what is false.

Protestants generally respect Mary, calling her the mother of God, but we do not pray to her or consider her to be currently playing an important role in our salvation. We do not venerate her, or any other saint, as especially holy.

I am concerned that the Catholic teaching of veneration of the saints is a twist on truth which is ultimately deadly. That is, it is not the truth; it does not lead to everlasting life, and is therefore deadly. If I believe that this is a deadly misunderstand, then the most loving thing I can do is speak up on the subject.

And so, I do not resent (or hate, or loathe, or any such thing) my Catholic friends and family. But I do speak what I believe to be the truth in love.

As for this post on Mary, I thought of my Catholic colleagues as I posted it and even went to one that I work very closely with and explained to him that I was not trying to stir up trouble with my post. I merely saw a parabolic image as I drove home and it struck me as especially apropos to my understanding of the truth. His response, “No offense taken” (rough paraphrase).