Religion and the Construction of Historical Memory

Philip Jenkins has a fine post at The Anxious Bench about the construction of historical memory: Established Since Recently.

Religions are after all masters (mistresses) of building traditions and memories. Not only do they stress traditions, but they usually give them an aura of antiquity, the suggestion of “this is what we’ve always done.” Religions never like admitting they begin at a specific point of time, still less within living memory.

And while Jenkins doesn’t address the liturgical renewal – ancient future – Reformational Catholic side of the Christian community, we are sometimes guilty of presenting a complex, multifaceted and sometimes confusing mishmash of of tradition as an overly simple and unified narrative. I look at church history and see “The Great Tradition of the Church,”  “The Rule of Faith” and “Catholicity.”  From a distance, that’s the pattern I observe (or which my mind, perhaps shaped by outside forces, creates). When I zoom to the pixel level, however, it’s not that simple. The general shape of the ecumenical Protestant liturgy that emerged in the late 20th century has been recognizably inspired by things of the past, but it’s not simply an artifact of antiquity. It is the result of the relatively recent shaping of ancient sources in accordance with a particular view of what it means to be a Christian.