I guess the conversation started last Thursday in my class on Europe’s Reformations. The professor was talking about the Hussite heresy and how John Huss was burned for his heresy. The heresy was of teaching communion in both kinds. I didn’t understand what that was, so naturally, my questioning mind asked the question, “What do you mean by communion in both kinds?” as well as “What was all the hub-bub about communion in both kinds?” The professor naturally assumed a Protestant up-bringing. Quite accurate. He explained to me after class how the Hussite heresy, while it affirmed transubstantiation, taught that the bread was only the body and the wine was only the blood. Hence, it was in contrast with the Catholic theology that taught that the wafer becomes both the body and the blood so there is no need to distribute the wine which also became both the body and the blood to the masses.
At this point it clicked into my head why the Hussite heresy was so dangerous. It had taken an extreme position on the nature of transubstantiation in its interpretation of the fathers of the Church and the scriptures. It was advocating for something entirely unnecessary. Hence why we can see the Catholic Church considered it to be a distortion of the faith fairly limiting the miracle of transubstantiation mind you, not quite hitting the nail on the head.
Move over to yesterday and now my professor’s the curious one. He was asking just before our class started that day as to what my prior church background was. (He had asked me on Thursday if I had taken communion before. “No,” I replied.) I told him about how it was extraordinarily low church. Sure, we would have communion but it was only ever just a cracker and some fruit juice. Much to the extent that I had always thought of it as just a mid-church snack. I mean, sure, I might have tried to pay before taking communion to make it seem more than just a mid-church snack, but as a symbol, all I could ever see it as was something relatively meaningless.
My professor responded telling me about his own personal high church background as a Lutheran. They’re impounded into and ingrained with the traditions of other churches from Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics, etc. They know what the other traditions teach and how they differ from other traditions. Everything is so ingrained into you that you start realizing why these things become important. Faith becomes a center-piece in the high church and not just simply a side dish that you work out yourself. He also admitted his own dismay as to how in recent times, America has fallen into a decadent state where it no longer values traditions and other cultures. It is unfortunate because the United States is supposed to be a cultural melting pot.
He went onto discussing a video we saw in our previous class that day on witchcraft and heresy in the Atlantic and was pointing out a failure of the video on Cortez and the fall of the Aztec Empire is that the video kept showing scenes of this church setting in modern day Mexico City where Catholics were praying. That’s not what the Aztecs did. In America, we have this ignorance of beliefs discussions. We don’t seek to understand other’s beliefs, we don’t seek to respect each other’s beliefs, and we just don’t discuss beliefs. Even in modern religious studies, the beliefs of the religions we study are almost never discussed. When they are, it’s quite minimal.
Then I got side-tracked and started asking about pirates and The Pirates of the Caribbean. My distracted mind was curious about how accurate the pirates are depicted in films. Of course, it resorted in another interesting and related point. We love to fantasize about everything and turn everything into this romantic ideal that we can find quite acceptable to our states. It is a similar thing with pirates. We glorify the pirates out in the Atlantic. The Islamic pirates out in the Mediterranean, who’s glorifying that?
There were pirates, then there were privateers. Pirates generally had no interest in going back to the crown. They were in it for themselves. Privateers on the other hand had the appropriate license from the crown. They were in it for the government while the pirates were in it for themselves. One could accurately assert that Captain Jack Sparrow might have been the only “real” pirate in the film. But this is mostly in the Atlantic. The pirates in the Mediterranean are hardly ever discussed or fantasized about. Why not? They were Islamic and nobody in the west wants to glorify the Muslims. Instead, what we’ve done is westernized Orientalism with Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves or Arabian Nights but we hardly ever note their religion as a part of it. Indeed, religious idealism has become a lost cause in America.
But overall, it seems as if we’ve made heroes out of villains, villains too quickly out of potential heroes, de-religiosicized history and culture, and have nullified how beliefs really play a central factor in our daily lives. We have also scandalized people based on our precepts. For Americans, we simply don’t talk about beliefs any more. It’s something that really needs to be changed.
(Pirates also probably didn’t use electric guitars on their ships.)