Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

On Replacing My Boat, er, My Religion

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | May 22, 2007

OK, so my boat is totaled. It turns out that my little 15-foot West Wight Potter sailboat suffered sufficient damage in the mishap of May 6th for the repairs to exceed the worth of the boat. The damage is mostly cosmetic, but I’m up against the body shop syndrome with a vengeance. Now I have to take the settlement check, which results in immediate cancellation of my insurance. So I also have to look for a new boat.

The world of boating is much like the world of religion for those not strictly guided by Revelation. Boats, like man-made religions, are an astonishing collection of compromises. They are all an uneasy balance of comfort, speed and stability. Some people like their religions equipped with high aspect rigs that respond quickly to every changing breeze; others prefer very traditional lines with complete interior refits. Some want a flat planing hull so they can stay far out ahead; others insist on a roomy cabin with plenty of ballast.

Religions, like boats, come in all shapes and sizes, with widely varying claims and capabilities. And when you have a bad experience with a religion, you total it and go buy another one. At least that’s what you do if you don’t believe any particular religion is ordained by God. Such a religion would not be a collection of compromises. The perfect religion, obviously, would be the one designed by God. Sadly, there hasn’t been a perfect boat since the Ark.

In any case, now I need a new boat. The Christian lifestyle calls for something reasonably modest and, in my case, something that can be towed behind a fairly small car. I once bought a larger car to tow a larger boat, but then thought better of the whole thing. (My wife won’t let it happen again.) My Potter, which really was a cute little boat, had a tiny cabin into which you can squeeze to get out of the rain, or even sleep overnight (if you’re young and spry). We didn’t use the cabin much (though that’s where the porta potti was). So maybe we don’t need a cabin, which would open up more cockpit space, and reduce the cost still more.

I’ve been knocked down a peg or two by religion from time to time, and knocked down when sailing more often than I care to admit; I find I like it less with age. So a little ballast might go a long way, instead of just a centerboard. On the other hand, one does yearn for that occasional turn of speed – or at least the illusion of speed that you get when you’re being blown along in a small boat very close to the water. Then there’s my existing two-horse short-shaft outboard; most sailboats require a long shaft. Indeed, there always seems to be a shaft at work in everything we try to do—but still, it’s fun to make plans about most of the things we love.

But it’s not very much fun to choose a new religion—or at least it shouldn’t be—and I’m very glad I’ll never have to do that. Never. And if you think I’m stretching an analogy just to talk about my boat, please remember that I didn’t invent the analogy. God did, when he sent the flood, selected a disproportionate number of fishermen for his disciples, preached from a boat, and founded a perfect religion which came to be known as the barque of Peter.

Our Lord even walked on water just to get a ride on a boat. So I’m just being Christlike here—honest.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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