A black Cordelia moment on Monday.
There’s an encounter in Brideshead Revisited between Cordelia Flyte, the youngest daughter of the big house family, and Charles Ryder, the quintessentially bourgeois Englishman
“Cordelia Flyte: If you weren’t an agnostic I should ask you for five shillings to buy a black god-daughter.
Charles Ryder: Nothing would surprise me about your religion.
Cordelia Flyte: It’s a new thing that a priest started last term. You send five bob to some nuns in Africa and they christen a baby and name her after you. I have got six black Cordelias. Isn’t that lovely?”
Searching for someone in a hotel lounge, a woman called, “Father, can I have a word?”
“It will have to be brief – I’m meant to be meeting someone.”
“Would you say a prayer that my house will sell tomorrow?”
“Would you be content with Protestant prayers?”
“What do you mean? How do you know I’m not a Protestant? Anyway, why wouldn’t I want Protestant prayers?”
“Because some people in your tradition think we are not Christians at all; they would refuse us Communion”.
“Oh, I don’t hold with any of that stuff, besides I believe the Law of Unification. Do you know what that is?”
“Sorry, but I’ve never heard of it.”
“Well, there’s the Law of Attraction and it’s followed by the Law of Unification.”
“Is it? I’m afraid I’ve heard of neither. In the times in which we are living, I wouldn’t be inclined to believe too many people’s laws”
“Well, you’ll pray for me, anyway”.
A bizarre conversation – it’s no wonder two Catholic colleagues I met for coffee last week did not wear clerical collars.
Googling the Law of Attraction, it’s a piece of New Age pseudo-science, not far removed from the prosperity theology of some African Pentecostal churches – decide what you want and it will come to you. The Law of Unification and its applicability to prayers for the sale of property in south Dublin remains unclear.
The collapse of the influence of the traditional church has left a pick and mix spirituality, people blending whatever they want to tailor a religion that supports their lifestyle. Jesus the auctioneer and Jesus the estate agent slips just as easily into the process as any other sort of Jesus.
To an old Protestant, growing up on primary school stories of Jesus from the Bible, it all seems strange and alien. Charles Ryder would presumably have been unsurprised. Maybe I should have asked for five bob for the prayers