Saturday, March 29, 2008

Operating systems and faith?

I've switched parishes to a nearby Jesuit-run church; amazingly enough these priests (or at least the community they serve) make the liturgy a priority in the life of the community, with God being a priority for the liturgy. It isn't traditionalist, and it isn't the Brompton Oratory, but it, shall we say, "feels Catholic". One of the best things to happen to me in the last year is that, while I still notice that the altar servers are wearing jeans and sneakers, and that some hymns are sung in the "First Person Divine," that the priest omits the word "men" from the Nicene Creed, and so on, these things do not have their old stinging effect on me. Part of it may be that I sense that these loose threads nevertheless rest atop a bedrock of serious Catholic worship. A prettier Mass would depress me more, if I had reason to believe that its ultimate end was perverted.

The priest who gave tonight's homily is a new associate. He is a Jesuit's Jesuit; a man for whom every fiber in his body seems to exist in order to support that massive, Baroque-styled brain of his. He gave a full-flung extended analogy this evening between faith and--get this--PC operating systems. I was titillated, though I felt somewhat embarrassed that I was likely the only one in the congregation thinking, "I wonder if God uses Linux?" Father is a Windows man himself.

One of my bad listening habits is that I will latch on to something interesting from a homily or a lecture, and interiorly go my own way with it while tuning out everything else completely. If faith is an operating system, which is which? Perhaps Catholicism is Windows, with its centrally controlled, hierarchical structure; its need for periodic reform; and its traditional "Windows 95" interface, akin to the noble Roman rite of the 4th century--simple, but not sloppy; friendly, but not frivolous.

Linux is Protestantism. Sure, when you get right down two it, there's a core, and you can build what you like around the core. But break compatibility with the core, and you forsake the right to call yourself Linux. Of course, that doesn't stop some people, but what are you going to do? Linux is a world that juxtaposes the wildest postmodern bending of truth and reality (and windows) with the most rigorous and unyielding (at times brutally merciless) orthodoxy. Over 300 currently managed Linux distributions and counting.

(You could compare Linux to the Orthodox Church, too; after all, it is rather Byzantine, yuk yuk yuk).

Where does that leave Macintosh? I have to give it to the Mormons. Note that in its current form, MacOS it has similar underpinnings as Linux (see above). And Apple, like the LDS, understanding the difficulty of winning marketshare in its flagship product, has instead extended influence through emissaries of various kinds; one envisions lots of iPhones on bicycles. I think the allegory also sticks where Apple's image is concerned: tightly managed, hanging from every word of Steve Jobs, at the same time beloved for its cultural output and vilified for its lack of transparency and its alien mystique.

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