The Romance of Religion: An Interview with Fr Dwight Longenecker on His New Book
The Romance of Religion calls on us to be the sort of soldierly saints we find in some of the great stories.
As we search for truth, beauty and goodness we are searching for God who is the source and summit of beauty, truth and goodness. The battle is great and the quest is long because we are constantly warring against ugliness, lies and evil. Everywhere we turn Satan falsifies and lies. He offers artificial beauty, distorted truth and counterfeit goodness. To find real beauty, truth and goodness is a lifelong battle.- Fr Dwight Longenecker
GREENVILLE, SC (Catholic Online) - (Note From Editor in Chief Deacon Keith Fournier: Fr Dwight Longenecker is a friend. He is also one of the great writers and communicators of our age. I highly recommend that our readers buy this beautiful book. Then buy more to give away! Then, recommend it to others. As those who read my articles regularly know, I reject the phrase \"post-Christian\" to describe our age. I prefer Pre-Christian.
I think we waste too much time bemoaning the state we are in and end up losing heart. This is a new missionary age and we are invited to respond courageously to the moment. The men and women of this age, like those of every age, have a hole in their soul which only God can fill. We have the privilege of helping them respond to the longing within. To follow the quest which we are all drawn to by divine design.
One way we can do this is to give them books like this one. The Romance of Religion is a delightful work which will be around for a long, long time. It is the kind of book we need - if we really want to help the men and women of this age respond to the longing within them for truth,beauty,and goodness. It invites them to embrace the romantic adventure home to the God who is Love.)
Catholic Online caught up with blogger and author Fr Dwight Longenecker to discuss his latest book The Romance of Religion.
CO: Why the title? What is the Romance of Religion?
DL: I don't mean 'romance' as in Valentine's Day with a box of chocolates and a schmoozy dinner. Instead I'm referring to the 'romance' of the great stories, the great quest and the great adventure.
I'm trying to address the fact that so many people in our society see religion as a dull routine--a list of rules and regulations to observe and a list of doctrines to be believed. Of course we mustn't get rid of the rules and the doctrines, but they are the map for the journey. They are not the journey itself.
CO: Are you saying people should be "spiritual but not religious"?
DL: I'm saying exactly the opposite! The new book makes the point that being spiritual without being religious is like playing tennis without the net. We need rules, ritual, regulations, doctrine and dogma to provide the rule book for the game. Without that we are lost on the journey or the game descends into chaos.
Here we are as human beings attempting to go on a journey into this vast, unknown realm called the supernatural or the spiritual. Do we think we can embark on such an adventure without a map, or without consulting the experts? How foolish is that?
Religion provides the map, the experts, the consultants and the guides for this journey. Through religion we learn how to travel, learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before and we learn how to read the signposts and avoid the dangers of the great journey.
CO: But what about the failures of religious people? What about corrupt popes, pedophile priests and the pews full of hypocrites in church?
DL: My new book confronts that question too. I admit that the religious adventure is just that--an adventure--and as Bilbo Baggins says, "An adventure is something that when you are in the middle of it you wish you were at home in front of the fire!" In other words, great risk and dangers are involved.
There are many failures who travel with us. We are failures too. Envision this like a great battlefield. There are casualties on the field. Many are wounded. The medics are busy trying to patch them up. Others are still up and fighting. It is our task to focus on the enemy and to fare forward in the noble fight.
CO: The sub title of the book is 'Fighting for Goodness, Truth and Beauty.' Why are these three so important?
DL: Goodness, Truth and Beauty are like a little Holy Trinity. You cannot have beauty without truth and goodness. You cannot have goodness without beauty and truth. You cannot have truth without beauty and goodness. The three also reveal God's trinitarian truth, and they open us up to God.
As we search for truth, beauty and goodness we are searching for God who is the source and summit of beauty, truth and goodness. The battle is great and the quest is long because we are constantly warring against ugliness, lies and evil. Everywhere we turn Satan falsifies and lies. He offers artificial beauty, distorted truth and counterfeit goodness. To find real beauty, truth and goodness is a lifelong battle.
CO: Some would say that it sounds like you believe in "Fight the Good Fight, Onward Christian Soldiers and all that old fashioned stuff!\"
DL: I don't know why those people would call it 'old fashioned'. It's the stuff of the Sacred Scriptures. It's the stuff of the lives of the saints. One of my favorite saints, St Theres of Lisieux said, "Sanctity! It must be won at the point of a sword! You must be a whole saint or no saint at all!"
The Romance of Religion calls on us to be the sort of soldierly saints we find in some of the great stories. We are not triumphalist and proud, but we are more like Cyrano de Bergerac--a musketeer with a monstrous nose and a ridiculous visage. We are like Don Quixote--a foolish old man who rides out with a saucepan on his head for a helmet. We are like Reepicheep the mouse in the Chronicles of Narnia--noble and brave but also a little bit foolish and absurd. This is how we fight, claiming St Paul's noble and paradoxical words, "It is when I am most weak that I am most strong."
CO: How do the great stories fit into your book?
DL: I'm very interested in the function of myth in our culture. "Myth" is popularly understood as just a make believe story--a fiction--a fairytale. However, myth is more complex and meaningful than that. A myth is any story that incarnates the truth in such a way that we experience the truth in the depth of our being. A story that acts as a myth may be a fictional story or it may be something that really happened.
I show in The Romance of Religion how the stories in the Bible are, to use C.S.Lewis' words, "a myth that really happened." This is therefore the story of the Bible, the story of the saints and it can be the story of our lives. Through the practice of religion we can live out the great stories and become "heroes." Through the romance of religion we can have lives that connect with the greatest story ever told, the story of the carpenter King--Christ the Lord.
CO: Where do we obtain your book?
DL: It is available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It is also available as an e-book through those outlets. It is also available at all good books shops, and if readers would like an autographed copy they can get one through my website dwightlongenecker.com. They should make sure they add a note in the comments section so I can sign it for them.
CO: Thanks for taking time to be with us today Fr Longenecker!
DL: Thank you for the invitation!
Fr. Dwight Longenecker\'s latest book The Romance of Religion explores the relationship between faith and myth and encourages readers to embark on the great adventure of following Jesus Christ.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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