Jose Casanova, in his Globalizing Catholicism and the Return to “Universal” Church, made a really interesting point that will probably be stewing in my head for a bit: if I understood it correctly, the Catholic Church’s has, in the past couple of centuries, separated from the nation-state/church thing it had going for it and began to act more of a transnational civil society. The Vatican City, as a sovereign nation has zero power (with an average of more than 11 popes per square km ), but a ton of authority as a transnational organization. As such, it doesn’t really exert any kind of direct political power globally, but it still has so much influence amongst its people, who are not really bound by nationalist, ethnic or ethnic ties (well, there are definitely trends and results of imperialism are very visible). Furthermore, the Vatican’s support of religious freedom -and, recently, Pope Francis’s decry proselytization and his display of humility - creates a super positive image of the Catholic Church. If the Catholic church really wanted to take over er…umm…win over the world, it would probably just need to do more of that (and a lot of housecleaning, with such a long list of accusations ).
Travelling popes are more common, the Church has become much more inclusive and, if you were to put it in economic terms as Casanova did, they seem to have an advantage against the competition. Probably, thanks in part to imperialism, but that’s for another day.
Something that I really want to discuss, though, that has to do with imperialism and is an imperialism of sorts, is missionary work. I get really confused with all of this, especially when you add the religious freedom stuff post-Vatican II for the Catholic church (and stuff about being invincibly ignorant -I’m still getting back into the groove after years away from the church). Evangelization and missions are global disruptive forces. The same forces that build schools and hospitals destroy cultures and change people’s lives entirely (pencil-eraser theme). Anytime I read anything about Christianity and globalization, I always go back to Ivan Illich’s To Hell with Good Intentions, that Dr. Samson assigned to a couple of his classes. The modern world exports idealists who spread their message in contexts where those thoughts may not have the best of consequences, only to retreat back into middle America and away from those consequences.
To those that evangelize, what goes through their minds knowing they are ripping an entire aspect of someone’s identity, having the economic, military, and technological upper hand -it’s difficult to argue against the divine favor of those literally swimming in surplus, right? At the same time, I wonder what goes through the heads of missionaries that do go into places and don’t attempt to spiritually save, but still attempt to physically and idealistically save -are they helping in the physical world, knowing those they are helping are condemned according to Christian beliefs?
For now I’ll go back to my idealist cave as a Davidson student. I heard somewhere that the hermeneutics of suspicion disrupt hegemonic discourses.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_Vatican_City -area of Vatican = .44 sq.km/.17 sq. miles (Pope Benedict is still in the Vatican) 2/0.17=11.7 (this “fact” is entirely dismissable as it is inconsequential and misleading)