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Walker Percy on Seekers

"The polls report that 98% of Americans believe in God and the remaining 2% are atheists and agnostics -- which leaves not a single percentage point for a seeker" -- Walker Percy, The Moviegoer



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Blessings on Walker Percy! There's another wonderful line of his, from "The Second Coming," if I'm not mistaken. Roughly, it is: "What would we do if we were to wake up some morning and found that therre were no more Jews?"Theologically, what sense does it meak for someone to announce proudly "I've found God." Or for that matter to think, "Now we're finally done with the Hebrew covenant!"

This is the sort of poll finding that I am tempted to regard as either false or meaningless.

I could be wrong, Joe, but I think Percy was poking fun at polls, with their questions that allow only yes or no answers and have no room for the shades of gray that pervade serious issues such as the existence of God, and at poll responders themselves who believe they can answer such a serious question with a one-word answer. "Seekers" delve below the superficial, always searching for ultimate truth and, if they find it, always reexamining it in the light of new knowledge. Admittedly, it might be tough to craft a poll to capture the number of Seekers among us. ;)

Thank you Bill, I think that's it exactly.

My son, 10, hates church, but we've told him he has to continue to go to Mass with us until he can articulate exactly what his beliefs are and how they don't square with Catholic teaching.He may be getting close. On the way home from our neighbor's funeral the other day, he said he thought the only reasonable position to take on heaven was that you couldn't prove its existence one way or another, only hope it was true.I think an awful lot of us feel that way more days than we like to admit.

Jean--I'm sure your son is as astute and as articulate as you are. Does your parish have a children's or family Mass where the children are the lectors or at least do the readings? Active involvement (including altar serving and ushering) may be the hook that helps stimulate your son's interest. I've seen it work in my parish. The children's contributions at our family Mass can seem downright disordered and improvisational (and, if truth be told, humorous) at times, but I'm of the anything-that-works-as-long-as-it's-not-disrespectful school.My children are older than your son, but another hook for sustaining their interest has been particiaption in the music played at Mass. Does your parish have a children's choir? My kids sometimes play instruments at the family Mass, though my daughter's flute playing is for some inexplicable reason more appreciated than my son's pounding on his drums. (Actually, he gets to do soft background with his brushes, but, when he was younger, he would do a mean drummer boy rendition at Christmas.) When they aren't playing, they seem to appreciate the catchy music that is geared towards teenagers. I know some purists will say foul because there is not enough of a Scriptural basis for some of the music, but when I hear my kids humming or singing one of the songs OUTSIDE of Mass and a day later, then it passes my liturgical music litmus test with flying colors.Anyway, those are just a few suggestions. If you can get your son away from being pew-bound, it's possible his interest might increase.

Of course you are right about Walker Percy. I was not talking about him, merely giving somewhat intemperate expression to my animus against polls.

Back to Walker Percy. Do only us old foggies remember the extraordinary voice that was Walker Percy's? Orthodox, even conservative, and at the same time urbane and full of insight. We Louisiana Catholics who read fiction revere him. I hope he has not fallen off the screen.

Why not consider that seekers are a subspecies of agnostics? in other words there are agnostics who are content not to know and agnostics who are still looking.

Joseph Gannon:If your Nov. 12, 12:10 posting had anything to do with what I had said, let me clarify. I've had no "crisis of faith," but as I continue to read people like Rahner, Congar, etc., they repeatedly show me how poor my conceptions of God have been. This is particularly so concerning the Trinity. Or again, if onr thinks that the term 'God' refers to one special entity that is simply greater that other entities, he or she is confused. A striking way to make this point is that properly speaking the term 'God" is neither a noun nor a verb. It's a gesture toward the unnameable.In the end, I'm just saying that the process of "faith seeking understanding" is never finished. Should one decide that it is, he or she runs the risk of ending up with an impoverished conception of God. The condition of the believer should be that of the seeker. And of course, at least fo9r Rahner, even serious unbelievers who are trying to make sense of reality are closer to seeking believers than either of them are to the "satisfied," to those for whom God is not a mystery.

P.S. to the foreging. Friends of mine who knew Percy are convinced that Percy himself was always in the best sense a believer-seeker.

Bernard:We pretty much agree. I would say that "God" is in use a proper name but we do not know what that is that is designated by that name. Certainly God is not a god, because God is not any kind of thing and a god is a kind of thing--even if there are actually no gods as there are no unicorns. In these matters if find the most satisfactory account to be that given by St. Thomas as explained by Herbert McCabe.

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