Sometimes I think that one of the reasons I feel so disconnected from western civilization—and one of the reasons that I have such different interpretations of it from everyone else—is the fact that I did not grow up with any real knowledge of traditional Christianity.
Neither of my parents were Catholic or typical Protestant and I was raised in an area largely devoid of them. I was a teenager before I heard words like “crucifix,” “catechism,” or “penance,” and I was pubescent before I finally asked a friend “What is original sin?”
And because the notion entirely absent during my early enculturation, I lauged when they answered and took them for an utter fool for believing that anyone would consider the principle seriously.
But Christianity pervades this culture, and the academics of this culture. More to the point, Christianity seems to percolate through this culture’s own perception of what it is and why it does what it does. In short, there is a large blind spot in this culture, just where an ahistoricism intersects with “things that could conceivably be caused by the repressed Catholic consciousness.”
It happens so often that I’m reading social theory, finding an argument engaging and persuasive, until the chapter(s) on how it’s all down to Catholicism, priests, the inquisition, and sex. Freud invariably comes into it as well, but I’m pretty sure he had a crucifix tattooed on his ass.
Now, I don’t mean to suggest that Christianity has no historical consequence vis-a-vis the functioning of society or individual psyches. And maybe a lot of people really hate cultural materialism. But I sometimes think that very often other structural or systemic arguments are missed (arguments that would to me be more persuasive and that to me also seem far more obvious) in the theorists inability to consider alternative explanations whenever there is a possibility of appealing to the identification with and deep subordination to the history and culture of Christianity. But of course, they would say that not having been affected by it, I can’t possibly understand just how central it is.
I don’t. I suppose that’s one of the problems of social science in general: the etic view is impoverished, the emic view is inescapably blind and immanent.
It also makes reading the inevitable 10-20 pages of the Catholicism of social psychology in every work a damn hard slog for anyone that (still) doesn’t really have a really robust knowledge of Catholicism and Catholic culture beyond mere historicism.
And it’s the primary sin committed by anyone who tries to deploy psychoanalysis in the explication of non-western culture and society. I’m just sayin.