Blogs > Liberty and Power > Oh, It's A "Liturgical Celebration"

Feb 8, 2004 5:22 pm

Oh, It's A "Liturgical Celebration"

I said I was done with Boobgate. Well, I lied. Not lied exactly -- I hadn't yet seen this wonderfully entertaining column from Michael Novak (which I discovered via Greg Beato's intentionally entertaining roundup of conservatives losing their bearings).

I must first acknowledge my profound misunderstanding of the nature of the Super Bowl. I am eternally grateful to Mr. Beato, who valiantly attempts to fill the gaps in my knowledge:

Until this week, I always thought the Super Bowl was about gambling, drinking, and assaulting strangers instead of your wife.

The nation's conservative pundits have set me straight, though: the game is actually a seminal family event. Strengthening the bonds between parent and child with all its expertly choreographed spectacle, it's like a less gay, totally not-European version of The Nutcracker.

And it's not just a"seminal family event." No, no, as Novak informs us, it's much, much more:
For no other event during the year are more Americans focused together on the same liturgical celebration, especially as families, than at Super Bowl halftime. An NFL halftime should feed our minds and souls, and our sense of nobility and beauty, and remain forever a memory cherished by children and families alike.
As you probably know, Novak is very big on the religion stuff, as shown here:"Why does the NFL put our families through the sludge of an exhausted, desperate pagan culture that is going nowhere, and celebrates losers and freaks?"

In case you're not clear about the significance of the"pagan" part of this, Novak tries to illuminate it a bit further:

If the moral morons the NFL hires to produce these shows set out to dramatize the last days of the Roman empire in all its legendary sickness, what would they do differently? Who are these seemingly drugged, indifferent, writhing pagan figures they now throw around the platform? These are not living human beings in action, these are sacks of flesh, writhing, grinding, pawing, acting out no higher appeal than bodily functions. They evoke no virtues of the human spirit. It is as if they wish to suffocate any spark of Jewish or Christian womanhood and manhood. It is as if they mean to corrupt, seduce, degrade. A more radically anti-Jewish and anti-Christian assault, embodying the sort of Wagnerian images of pagan disgust and decay that enraptured Hitlerian audiences, would be hard for them to produce.
This man would appear to be off his meds. But here are my questions: Would Hitler have countenanced"anti-Christian" assaults, since he himself was a devout Catholic? Today's religious conservatives ought to remember (or learn) some history. Here's a U.S. newspaper article from 1933:
BERLIN, Feb. 23 (AP)--A campaign against the"godless movement" and an appeal for Catholic support were launched Wednesday by Chancellor Adolf Hitler's forces. They struck at two of his formidable opponents in the March 5 elections, the first at communists and the latter at the allied Catholic parties. ...

A campaign against the"godless movement" was announced by Bernard Rust, nazi commissioner for education and culture in Prussia, in an address Tuesday night before students at the technical university here. He said the details would be revealed in the next few days. In his speech opening the campaign for the reichstag and Prussian diet elections, Hitler attacked communists for the spread of atheism.

An appeal to Catholic nazis was printed Wednesday in Hitler's Voelkischer Beobachter, assailing the Catholic centrist and populist parties. It recalled the papal encyclical of January 9, 1928, which admonished priests to serve the religious interests of the nation and not to affiliate with political parties. Hitler, himself, is a Catholic.

"A campaign against the 'godless movement.'" My, my, how times have not changed -- and how some people seem not to have learned one single thing from history.

Back to my questions: Wasn't the appeal of Wagner to Hitler based upon what Hitler saw as the glorification of the Aryan (and more specifically, German) race, and also Wagner's personal anti-Semitism? (Let's have the debate about whether Wagner's anti-Semitism got into his operas some other time.) It wasn't really the"pagan" nature of Wagner, was it? And Novak surely can't be thinking of Parsifal. As one writer suggests, the Nazis themselves apparently had a lot of trouble with Wagner's themes:

It is difficult to believe that the National Socialists could find any sympathy with Wagner's Parsifal, a work that tells of enlightenment through fellow-suffering. A number of writers have claimed that Parsifal found favour with the Nazis. In fact, some Nazi ideologues seem to have had serious doubts about this opera and in 1939, apparently on the orders of Joseph Goebbels, performances of Parsifal were banned.
The subject is too complicated to go into here, but it would appear that at least some Nazis seriously misinterpreted Parsifal -- as does Novak, since many view the opera as a sermon on the virtues of Christianity. For heaven's sake, it's about the Knights of the Holy Grail.

So what is Novak thinking of? The Venusberg scenes in Tannhauser? But even there, Tannhauser himself says:"My salvation rests in Mary, the mother of God." And he says this when attempting to resist the pull of earthly desires -- and in fact, it is his faith that ultimately saves his soul.

Ah, I think I know what it is. It's probably the Sieglinde-Siegmund romance in Die Walkure. Yes, that incest business troubles a lot of people -- especially since they're twins. Well, obviously we need to make sure that mythological countries adopt anti-sodomy laws! I mean, we all remember that when you permit sodomy, you're on the greased slope to incest, bigamy, man-dog sex, and all varieties of perverted behavior.

I never properly understood the centrality of sodomy laws before. Especially in mythical stories, about people and places that never actually existed. Damn those pagans!

And I must ask Novak to send me a copy of what must be his favorite book: A Guide to Super Bowl Liturgical Practice Through the Ages: How You Can Ennoble Your Family With the Right Half-Time Service.

There is just so much about the world and its culture that I don't understand. I will endeavor to catch up.

(Cross-posted at The Light of Reason.)

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