Sunday, January 6, 2013

Content to be 'Out of Step'

I think tolerance is a good idea.

I also think that "tolerance" doesn't mean making criticism of a government's policies a crime. At least, it shouldn't.

This puts me at odds with folks who are trying to save America from my kind. From their point of view, people like me are dangerous.

I'm a practicing Catholic.

As a Catholic, I must:
  • Support religious freedom
    (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2104-2109)
    • For everybody
      (Catechism, 2106)
  • Take an active part in public life
    (Catechism, 1915)
  • Contribute to the good of society
    • In a spirit of
      • Truth
      • Justice
      • Solidarity
      • Freedom
    (Catechism, 2239)
  • Submit to legitimate authorities
    • Refuse obedience to civil authorities
      • When their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience
      (Catechism, 2242)
    (Catechism, 2239)
If that's not what you've heard, I'm not surprised.

Assumptions About 'Those People'

If you've been watching American media during the last few decades, you've probably noticed that that serious Catholics and Protestants are often shown as:
  • Simpletons
    • Backwards
    • Mentally simple
    • Haters of science
  • Hypocrites
  • Self-righteous
  • Old-fashioned
From the establishment1 point of view, Catholics like me are worse than most.

The stereotype Catholic is plagued by:
  • Neurotic guilt
  • Aversion or hatred of sexuality
  • Being in a sexist institution
  • Being stuck in the past
    • With too many rules
  • Being authoritarian
  • Having clergy who were
    • Sexually repressed
    • Homosexuals
    • Pedophiles
Oddly enough, the Catholic Church is reviled because it's presumably run by and for homosexuals - and because it supposedly doesn't support homosexuals. Oh, well.

I pulled that list of media stereotypes from a post by Charles Pope, the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C. He's concerned about how Christians, particularly Catholics, are being portrayed. I think he's got a point.

Stereotypes, Action Movies, and Public Policy

A stereotype is "a conventional or formulaic conception or image." (Princeton's WordNet)

Stereotypes have their place. For example, action movies with stereotyped characters can devote more time to explosions and gunfire. Folks watching "The Terminator" don't expect the complexities of "Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola." I don't anyway.

I have no problem with stereotypes in movies. I like light entertainment to be just that: light. When I want trenchant characterization, I'll re-read Macbeth or Othello. And that's another topic or two.

When stereotypes are mistaken for reality: that's when I get concerned.

Five Stages of Religious Persecution

"Some thoughts on the five stages of religious persecution."
Monsignor Charles Pope, Archdiocese of Washington (November 11, 2012)

"It is rare that a respected segment of American life would become vilified and hated overnight. The usual transformation from respect to vilification goes in stages which grow in intensity. And hereby the Church, once a respected aspect of American life, along with the Protestant denominations has become increasingly marginalized and hated by many. It may help us to review these stages of persecution since it would seem that things are going to get more difficult for the Church in the years ahead. Generally there are distinguished five basic stages of persecution...."
I recommend reading that post. It's of particular interest to Catholics, but I think this is a situation where 'my end of the boat isn't sinking' isn't a sensible attitude: if it ever is.

Monsignor Charles Pope's stages are:
  1. Stereotyping the targeted group
  2. Vilifying the targeted group for alleged crimes or misconduct
  3. Marginalizing the targeted group’s role in society
  4. Criminalizing the targeted group or its works
  5. Persecuting the targeted group outright
I mentioned stereotyping earlier.

As Monsignor Charles Pope wrote, "not everyone engages in this stereotyping to the same degree." The problem is that "the general climate of this sort of stereotyping sets the foundation for the next stage."

Welcome to the Fourth Stage

Skipping ahead to the fourth stage, criminalizing the targeted group, here's a selection of recent headlines. I'm particularly concerned with what's happening in my native land, but there's trouble all over:
Maybe I shouldn't complain. Things could be worse:

Concerned, But Hopeful

I remember when an entrenched American establishment was collapsing. I've been over this before:
"...America is Okay - - -

"I like some aspects of today's America: the comparative prosperity many of us enjoy; immigrants continuing to bring new ideas and enthusiasm; and a degree of freedom.

"I particularly like being free to express opinions, even if the folks in charge don't approve.

"- - - And We Can Do Better

"This is far from Western civilization's, and America's, most tranquil era. If I was satisfied with the status quo, I'd probably be upset.

"Some of the reforms 'those crazy kids' like me worked for didn't turn out as advertised. I think we can do better.

"I also remember the 'good old days' when the establishment was a great deal paler, and nearly all male. I really don't want to go back to the 'good old days.' My memory's too good...."
(December 14, 2012)

"...Back in the '60s, 'the establishment' was mostly white, almost all male, and either WASP or trying to be sufficiently WASPish. I suppose there's a sort of sadly futile and misplaced valor in actions like blocking the door of Foster Auditorium: but folks who wanted to keep non-WASPs in their place were wrong, and were losing.

"Before that, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) chief counsel had said: 'After all, the KKK is an old American institution.'1 Instead of looking into the Ku Klux Klan's actions, HUAC went commie-hunting in the Federal Writers Project.

"Like I said, I don't miss the 'good old days.' At all...."
(February 12, 2012)
I am very concerned about the hostility toward faith that I see in America's cultural leadership. But I think we have a very good chance of recovering the right to act as if God matters.

Until then:
"...I'm content to be 'out of step' with whatever philosophies are popular today. I think it's more important to be in step with my Lord. That's why I became a Catholic. I'm content to be part of the Church that's rooted in eternity, under the authority my Lord gave Peter,3 marching through time toward a city that hasn't been built yet...."
(April 1, 2012)
More:
Related posts, getting a grip about:

1 America's 'establishment,' folks whose wealth, influence, or political power give them some degree of control over a society, aren't the pale men of my youth. Today's lot look different, have different preferences, and use different slogans: but they display the same unwillingness to endure views other than their own:

2 comments:

JohnL said...

Hi Brian
Your thoughtful discussion and opinions on the type of stereo typing of people with religious beliefs especially Catholic find a solid echo here in Australia as well. I cover more three score and ten years so I remember some of the 'good ol' days' when sectarianism was alive and unwell here. But this current form of sterotyping is more insidious and potentially more destructive of free speech and freedoms than even the spouters realise.

Brian Gill said...

John L.,

Thank you for your kind words.

I'm finally finding and dealing with comments. I'd blame it on Blogger: but the fact is that I forgot to check.

Sorry about that.

And - agreed, about stereotyping and hazards.

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