Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Take what you like..."

Time to expound a little on the rationale of this blog.

It is obviously a little disingenuous of me, titling the blog "The Potluck Catholic, and then addressing only one side of the meaning: everyone bringing a different pot to the table, to share.  The other side, of course, is that we share by eating--that is, we share by taking something from the table, for sustenance.

The first thing I would like to say--this to head off the charge that indeed what I proscribe is the cafeteria catholic paradigm--is that what is on the table at a potluck dinner is much different than what is behind the sneeze guard at a cafeteria.  A little bias in that image?  You bet! Even in the commercial world the cafeteria is a dying institution.  The variety of the buffet has seen to that.

But we are talking here of something entirely different: the potluck dinner.  This is a gathering of friends (or at the very least, people sharing a common interest), not a commercial transaction.  For someone to label another person a "cafeteria catholic" reveals only what the name caller surmises the nature of the relationship between the two to be: one offering his or her wares to another for a price! 

What I want to say, second, is that the potluck paradigm conveys the image of a community of believers who bring what they have made in their own kitchen out of their own experiences, and sharing it with them.  But we do not force each other to eat what we bring.  Nor do we feel the compulsion to eat everything that is set before us.

In this I am guided by a saying that I have taken to heart recently: "Take what you like and leave the rest."  This saying means two different things in the cafeteria versus the potluck paradigm.  When I refuse an entree at a cafeteria, I am voting against that selection.  Enough votes against by me and others means the item is removed from the menu.  But the real result is that some people who want the item are now deprived of it. (This has happened to me with my favorite meal: liver and onions.)

In the potluck model--now seen as the model for all the church through all its history--people's selection of one item, or refusal of it, means something only to the one choosing.

Here's my final point:  I want there to be different kinds of catholics, much more variety in belief and practice, many more choices before me.  I need that.

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