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Religious Cliche -- Writer's Poke #222

I suppose it's inevitable. When you go over the same ideas again and again, they become rather cliched. Their meaning and value, assumed, never questioned.

In the forward to The Best American Spiritual Writing 2008, editor Philip Zaleski claims, "Everyone recognizes the figure of the religious hypocrite, mouthing prayers or offering devotions with no attention to inner meaning." Is it fair to call such people hypocrites? I would prefer to call them victims. When you've been told your whole life that the Son of God (who is actually God -- or a part of God -- himself) gave up his human life to forgive the sins of humanity, is it hypocritical to act as though you possibly can understand what this means?

A few lines later, Zaleski seems to acknowledge that even the "average schlep in the pews, ignorant of theology and innocent of mysticism, praying with half his mind on his girlfriend or his gold game, has nevertheless amassed, week by week and year by year, a bank of [religious] wisdom." In other words, you might not be able to explain what you know, but you've absorbed the knowledge nonetheless, and that's what counts.

But beyond the cliche, what do you really "know"?

Is it possible to go beyond the cliche? If so, how?

"I think my whole generation's mission is to kill the cliche." -- Beck


  1. Victims? Very possibly. But as you believe there is nothing inherently negative in "compromise" (and I tentatively agree) so I aver that there is nothing inherently negative in the word "Hypocrite". I believe that derivatively it simply conveys the meaning of "playing a part". Thus one may be victimized into playing a part that he believes without objective reason, a "truth" that may or may not be objectively true.


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