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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Where are the Normal Christians - Mary E. Williams

So, I would have posted this on, but in order to comment you have to connect your social networking profile, or pay them.  Since I am unwilling to do either, I am left without a voice on my favorite e-publication.

Anyway, Mary Elizabeth Williams, whose writing I typically quite enjoy wrote a piece this morning that sort of bothers me.  My better half speaks often of a persecution complex often seen amongst the fringe.  I didn't see it on the left, but I see it now.  The gist of the article is that Mary E. Williams is pissed that "the news every night" makes Christians look to be a part of the Lunatic fringe.

Tell that to an Atheist buddy.  Go ahead.  The fact is that fundamentalist religions are an easy target, but every political debate, every political speech, appearance, or pundit ends his time with "God bless America," or some rehash of the same principle.  There is very little discourse in this country that isn't saturated, either overtly or subtly with god-loving Christian themes.  Every speech that Obama makes is positively flush with justifications about being a faithful Christian.  And whether or not he is, he has to talk that way because Amercan politics absolutely demands it.  On the other hand, Jews are very private about their faith, and you're not invited.  So you don't hear all that much pontificating on the subject.  Get us started about profanity, and promiscuity and you'll get an earful.

The fact is Mary Elizabeth Williams has mostly leftist friends.  I imagine she lives in New York or D.C. and as such, she is one of the few people she knows who is an outspoken progressive, and also devoutly Catholic.  But this isn't beyond the pale.  I mean, the Kennedys were a Catholic family, and to this day, the Kennedy name is enshrined in leftist politics.

She's a bit miffed that people like Santorum give the church a bad name, not to mention child molesters and the authorities that shield them.  But Williams' faith is not Catholic in the more conservative sense.  Frankly, I think Santorum actually is a lot more true to the tenets of the faith.  Look, if you wanted reform, it's not like you don't have a plethora of options.

That said--there is a cultural aspect to religion that we don't talk much about.  I associate as a Jew, even though, by any meaningful definition, I'm not one.  It's perfectly acceptable to associate as a Catholic, if that's how you were raised.  But to wail about perceived injustices based on those who are actually practicing the faith, well-it seems like you may have missed the point.

Of course, I like and respect the writer, so I'm not trying to start anything.  And as a piece, if her attempt is to turn the dialog to what Catholics can do to rehab their image, that's perfectly fine.  However, the piece is long, and rambling, and it isn't entirely clear what she's on about.  Particularly given that the opening paragraph is a whiny rant about being tarred and feathered for belonging to the faith of kooks like Santorum.  But Santorum isn't a kook!  That's the thing!  He's a bread and butter, believing Catholic!

She goes on to complain about atheism rallies and their condescension, which I totally agree with.  Atheists don't need a congregation.  If you're going it alone, then...go it alone. She also talks about how she learned about evolution in Catholic school.  Again, I admit I speak from ignorance, but this must be a very progressive form of Catholicism.  At some point, I think cultural adherence to a faith is wrong footed.  There are three, maybe four branches of Judaism, and each branch except for Reform Jews completely disavows the other branches.  But with Christianity there are some 25 major brands to choose from! 

At anyrate, this was all to say, I don't think Christians are persecuted.  Not by the American media.  Too bad, so sad.

She closes on a very interesting point, maybe the actual point of her article.  She depends on religion for hope. Quoting another of the faithful "'Without hope, what I see around me is all there is. I can’t move forward steadily and with resolve without my faith.'"

Mary, I'm sorry that you don't see any hope without your faith.  I just don't see it that way.  The whole point of humanism is hope.  A hope and belief in the power of what human beings can do for each other, every day.  Without help or hindrance from any external force, and to quote from The Grapes of Wrath, "Why do we got to hang it on God or Jesus?  Maybe, I figgered, maybe it’s all men and women we love; maybe that’s the Holy Sperit -- the human sperit -- the whole shebang."

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