The Cult of Conceit: Why Are We Singing to Each Other?
A conversation demands that we include the other in the discussion. If someone speaks to you about himself, about you, about himself and you, but never really with you, you would call that person conceited. So have we become in our conversation with God: He humbles Himself to dwell among us under the form of bread and wine, while we ignore Him and sing about ourselves and to ourselves.
Of course, many traditional hymns also address the other believers rather than God. But a close look at such hymns (for example, "Now thank we all our God", "Praise, my soul, the King of heaven", or "Ye watchers and ye holy ones") reveals a crucial difference: the traditional hymns address others only to invite them to worship God, while most contemporary songs invite us to glorify ourselves.
The narcissistic tendencies of liberalism can be seen not only damaging religion but also education, with the same effect of turning our perspective from our heritage, tradition, and common culture crudely straight back onto ourselves. Diane Ravitch, in her wonderful book The Language Police, describes in the chapter "Literature: Forgetting the Tradition" how meaningful classics have been replaced by mediocre teen literature and god-awful multicultural pap that bores instead of stimulates:
There are so many superb novels, short stories, poems, plays, and essays to choose from that it is impossible for any student to read them all. But this fact makes it all the more important that teachers amke the effort to identify the writers and works that will broaden their students' horizons beyond their own immediate circumstances and reveal to them a world of meanings far beyond their own experiences. Great literature is "relevant" not because it echoes the students' race, gender, or social circumstances, but because it speaks directly to the reader across time and across cultures. A child who is suffering because of the death in the family is likely to gain more comfort from reading a poem by John Donne or Ben Jonson or Gerard Manley Hopkins that from reading banal teen fiction about a death in the family.
"Banal" is a great description for the multicultural and feminist trash taught in schools and the lame folk music sung in parishes led by liberal priests. Not surprisingly, as Father Scalia describes, it has led to a generation that is cruder, less educated, and more narcissistic, and recent studies have confirmed this. It has also led to balkanization instead of unity under the common languages of Latin (in the Catholic Church) and English (in America).
Fortunately, conservatism and a return to tradition seems to ascendant in the Church today. Young Catholics are turning back towards the beauty and dignity of Latin and the timeless Latin hymns. Is it any wonder? Compare the following Latin hymn (in translation):
Ave Verum Corpus
Hail, True Body, born of the Virgin Mary,
Who has truly suffered, was sacrificed on the Cross for mortals.
Whose side was pierced, whence flowed Water and Blood:
Be for us a foretaste (of heaven) during our final examining.
O Jesus sweet, O Jesus pure, O Jesus, Son of Mary,
Have mercy upon me. Amen.
To a narcissitic "hymn" popular with liberals:
We are called, we are chosen. We are Christ for one another. We are promise to tomorrow, while we are for him today. We are sign, we are wonder, we are sower, we are seed. We are harvest, we are hunger. We are question, we are creed.
Liberals: "Me, me, me, we, we, we." Thank God I live in the conservative Diocese of Arlington. But I have heard this self-centered liberal song in more liberal dioceses, such as the Diocese of Richmond and the Archdiocese of Mobile.
Is it no wonder that Generation Y is more narcissitic than other generations? They have had hymns like the above in church. They have had multicultural literature celebrating their ethnicity and race instead of their common national traits. They have been told that literature is more relevant if it relates directly to them, and they have given teen literature instead of classics. They get Judy Blume instead of Charles Dickens. They have had self-esteem classes nonstop since kindergarten.
Father Scalia says:
The myth of Narcissus provides a good lesson for modern liturgy. The handsome young man, so enchanted with his own looks, sat gazing at his reflection in the water. He could not bring himself to leave his image and so grew rooted to the spot, admiring himself. Too many current songs encourage us to do the same. We talk to ourselves and sing love songs to ourselves. Just as Narcissus's self-adulation rendered himself incapable of a relationship and therefore of love, so also these hymns of conceit cripple our ability to speak with God. If God sees that we are so smitten with our own presence, He may judge us unfit to enter His.
The solution, of course, is to get back to a time-tested tradition and heritage both in the Church and in society. In the Church, we need to return to Latin and traditional hymns (already many parishes are doing this especially in conservative dioceses). Latin is a great unifier in liturgy, especially with the diverse immigration. In schools, we need to return to our e pluribus unum values that have made our country prosperous and free and eschew divisive, banal multiculturalism. Let's return to classics, tradition, and renewed emphasis on our heritage both in schools and in the Church.