Years ago, I read a novel, a manuscript, from a young Roman Catholic writer. The novel was set in a city--I don't remember where--in the late 1950s. The story was comedy, and I remembering thinking that I should be laughing harder than I was. Truth is, reading it for someone other than the writer was something of a burden, and an obligation, which makes for particularly heavy burdens.
That I remember that manuscript means it wasn't as bad as I'm suggesting, and it wasn't. Still, I don't have any memory of the plot line. What I remember best and probably won't forget is the bizarre--and, well, humorous--prejudices held by the characters for that cult of unwashed Protestants all around and the host of peculiar rules good Roman Catholics lived by to swear off sin and worldliness.
If all of those madcap orthodoxies hadn't been so silly, they would have been tragic. Who on earth would want to walk down the paths of that much self-righteousness?
Well, we did. My people. Roman Catholic exclusivity--"stay the hell away from people who aren't like you"--wasn't a whole different in my tribe. I remember calling them "minnow munchers" after all. Truth be known, my parents chafed when my sister dated a guy who went to a different fellowship, despite the fact that his family used the same three "Forms of Unity." Marrying a Roman Catholic could have meant banishment. Sometimes did.
A summer ago we had a great time at my sister and her husband's 50th anniversary.
I'm not surprised at what Pew discovered when it asked married couples about their respective faith traditions. The uptight Roman Catholic world of that manuscript is has gone the way of all flesh, as has a good deal of the exclusivity that once characterized my own wooden-shoed people.
That era we're not likely to see again.
The Roman Catholic world that made that manuscript funny is gone too, finished. My own adult children don't think Garrison Keillor is all that funny. They don't giggle at the peculiar joy of all those dark Lutheran jokes. That world is largely gone.
Look at the numbers. Amazing. Will the world of the millennials be different than the world of "the greatest generation"?
You best believe it will.
Will that world be better?
And without a doubt, no.
Beneath our cultural differences rests our mutual humanity, for better and for worse.
So help me God, as you always have. And will.