Andrew Sullivan posts a letter from someone who claims to be a Cultural Catholic.
Andrew doesn’t like the idea at all and proposes an acid test for being a Christian [a believer in the resurrection and the message of the gospels etc]. In a later post – in which a reader claims that a Catholic must believe everything or nothing. Andrew refines that to a belief in the creed. I presume (not being a Catholic myself) that Andrew is referring to the Nicene Creed.
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God. Born of the Father before all ages. God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God. Begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father. By Whom all things were made.
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. And He became flesh by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary: and was made man. He was also crucified for us, suffered under Pontius Pilate, and was buried. And on the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. And of His kingdom there will be no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Who together with the Father and Son is adored and glorified; and Who spoke through the Prophets. And one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. And I await the resurrection of the dead. And the life of the world to come.
It’s interesting that both Andrew and his correspondent reject the idea of a cultural catholic, but each sets the bar for Absolute Catholic at a different height. By his correspondent’s rules, Andrew would be excluded.
When I lived in New York, Joe Faglione once asked me how, since I am not a Christian, I could justify celebrating Christmas. My answer, after a period of reflection, was that Christianity is woven through every element of the culture in which I live. You cannot understand western civilization unless you understand Christianity. I recited The Lord’s Prayer everyday at school and spoke the Nicene Creed in church. I don’t remember that I ever believed them. Non credo!
In this regard, I agree with Andrew – if you don’t believe in the resurrection, you are not a Christian. But the trappings of Christianity – decorating the tree, singing Once in Royal David’s City, ashes to ashes, til death do us part, reciting the creed – are a part of who I am.
Culturally, I am a Christian even if, by Andrew’s test and intellectually, I am not Christian.