So first I read the headline, Onward G.O.P. Soldiers, of a New York Times editorial on the Bush/Cheney's harnessing of religious right for their campaign - the full church/state separation thing blurs when it comes to vote-getting (incidentally it's appearing a week after the story was broken by other papers). Then I read the following passage in the current novel I'm reading, David Lodge's How Far Can You Go?. The context is a chapter discussing the changes in the Catholic church and society in general in the 60s (e.g. the rise of the effective contraception with the Pill, the permissive society, and their effect on a group initially 'spiritually innocent' in the 50s
These developments were not, of course, universally welcomed. Evelyn Waugh, for instance, did not welcome them and wrote furious letters to the Tablet saying so. Malcom Muggeridge did not welcome them and wrote a polemical piece in the New Statesman in 1965 urging "Backward, Christian Soldiers!"... What people needed from the Catholic Church, according to Muggeridge, was its "powerful pessimism about human life, miraculously preserved through the long false dawn of science"
I'll leave the commentary about the actual quote, interesting in it's own light for another time and simply note the sublime juxtaposition: 'Onward' versus 'Backward' for the 'Christian soldiers'.
The novel has been entertaining so far, I guess I'll review it at length when I'm done with it. It's a wry comedy, looking at a group of young catholics coming of age in the 50s and their progress through the social upheavals of the 60s and 70s. It has much to say about Catholicism, traditional mores, modernity, birth control etc. Of course, I'm quite partial to anything that touches on Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene (a struggling catholic with some of my favourite novels see "A burnt out case" and "The power and the glory") and David Lodge is peerless when it comes to the 'novel about academic life' or campus humour (well add in Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim and Jane Smiley Moo, Tom Sharpe Porterhouse Blue). This is a different novel from his Changing Places/ Nice Work/ Small World) academic satires but it's full of sharply detailed observations.
I guess I'll have more to say later about Catholicism in general, the English catholics in particular, and other musings on the ongoing competition between religions (case study Ghana). Stay tuned.
File under: catholicism, religion, irony, literature, observation, whimsy, serendipity, toli