Newsweek: We Are Not Alone
It may be kitsch, but there’s more to the current angel obsession than the Hallmarking of America.
Like the search for extraterrestrials, the belief in angels implies that we are not alone in the universe – that someone up there likes me. “It’s a New Age answer to the homelessness of secularity,” says theologian Ted Peters, of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Calif. “Most people think of angels as benign, pleasant and helping,” observes University of Wisconsin psychiatrist Richard Thurrell. “And it’s nice to have comfort in a cruel world.”
Much of the new angelology is lifted from Roman Catholic sources – though without much regard for church traditions. “Angels represent God’s personal care for each one of us,” says Father Andrew Greeley, the sociologist-novelist. But all too often these days, it is the angels – not the Lord – who get all the credit.
To some extent the church itself is to blame. Although the invocation of angels continues in some churches – especially in the vibrant Orthodox liturgies, where the faithful join the heavenly host in singing Lord’s praises – their existence is rarely remarked.
Children’s prayers to their guardian angels, like other popular Catholic devotions, have declined since Vatican Council II. Among many otherwise upright believers, angels have become optional accessories, articles of hope but not quite faith. “When I die,” says Lawrence S. Cunningham, chairman of the University of Notre Dames’s theology department, “I’ll be very disappointed if I don’t meet any angels.”