Buyer’s Remorse or Remorse over Buyers?

Alan Jacobs warns converts who would be apologists:

Waugh is one of those converts in whom Catholics take great pride. If I were in their position, I would do everything in my power to prevent the world from finding out that he belonged to my communion. If the rightly administered sacraments are presumed to be instruments of grace, it appears that Waugh, at any rate, was invulnerable to their power. I would appreciate it if my Catholic brothers and sisters took the unremitting nastiness of the man more seriously. I have yet to hear one say that when Waugh took the Sacrament he did so unworthily, though I do not believe, given his gleeful and freely expressed hatred of almost everyone he knew, that anyone could reasonably say that he did so worthily.

He believed that by becoming Catholic he had ensured his own salvation, and from that elevated seat taunted his friends who remained Outside: “Awful about your obduracy in schism and heresy,” he wrote to the Anglican John Betjeman. “Hell hell hell. Eternal damnation.” Only some wholly unacquainted with Waugh’s views would think he was joking. Betjeman certainly didn’t.

2 thoughts on “Buyer’s Remorse or Remorse over Buyers?

  1. Old life religion does not approve of conversion narratives. Why buy or sell, when you stay baptist the way you were born? And “common grace” teaches that you still get many of the same benefits without changing companies. The distance between “common grace” and God’s desire to save the non-elect is not so great as you might think. You don’t have to believe in justification by grace alone to be justified by grace alone. And your idol gods don’t have to be real for you to receive sainthood. Romanists recite the Apostles Creed. Anything more than that leads toward enthusiasm and revivalism.

    Woody Allen’s assumptions. First, that being Jewish is first and foremost defined by questioning another Jew’s faith. His mother Rose tells his father — “You don’t pray, you don’t fast,” … In prison uncle Ben studies the 6th Psalm with a priest. But he doesn’t associate it with Judaism, even if it comes from the Hebrew Bible and is recited by traditional Jews every morning and afternoon. (I am reminded of Abraham Heschel’s lament that a Jewish woman once told him, “I wish we Jews had something as beautiful as the Christian psalms.”)

    In the 6th Psalm, King David observes that those in Sheol cannot thank God as do the living, so he hopes for God to preserve him in life, so he can properly serve God while living. Christians have read the “saving of the soul” parts as referring only to securing one’s place in the afterlife. Echoing the Christian interpretation, Ben complains: “The Jewish religion doesn’t believe in an afterlife. I have to know that it all doesn’t just end.” Ben does indeed convert to Catholicism in order to keep his future options open much to the consternation of his mother, Rose, who cries: “First a murderer, then a Christian.” She throws in a critique of Judaism, as well — namely, that it’s too bad that the Jewish religion doesn’t have an afterlife: “They’d get more customers.”


  2. More buyer’s remorse:

    It’s not a mistake that so many of the young Catholics I know are converts and, more often, reverts, myself included. Bougie Catholicism, it turned out, is thin gruel. We deemphasized the challenging, the mysterious, the confounding. We raised up the comfortable, the simple, the commonplace. And now eighty to ninety percent of teenagers stop practicing the Faith after Confirmation, because what does Catholic-bourgeois syncretism have to offer that the secular mainstream doesn’t—with fewer rules?

    Every last one of my Catholic friends have watched friends and, most distressingly, family members leave the Faith or cool their practice of it to a respectable but emetic lukewarmness. These apostates and cultural Catholics aren’t patronizing crack houses or getting body piercings or quitting their jobs to become buskers: They are successful, respectable Americans. Indeed, part of achieving that status is, very often, not being seen as uncomfortably religious.

    And so young Catholics who take the Faith seriously—and who wish to raise children who take the Faith seriously—regard this state of affairs in our culture and in their own families and they wonder: What, exactly, do we gain by conforming our politics to a mainstream ideology or pragmatic coalition? What, exactly, do we gain by muting those aspects of our tradition that are most dissonant with the prevailing culture? Not only have we gained nothing enduring from this strategy, but we have lost much—our distinctiveness, our patrimony, and, we suspect with anxious grief, a great many souls.

    Rejecting any compromise with bourgeois respectability, this cohort then feels free to explore the depth of the Church’s intellectual and theological tradition—including the treasury of social teachings that open up horizons well beyond what everyday Republicans and Democrats can view. This exploration comes with risks, of course. The rejection of the boundaries of respectability opens up some frontiers better left unexplored. And the embrace of radicalism can easily become a prideful end-in-itself that relishes shock and transgression.


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