Oddly, people across the country are reacting as though Indiana did something utterly unprecedented and unspeakable. Instead of calling it a “religious freedom law,” it is being described as an “anti-gay bill,” even though the words “gay,” “homosexual,” and “marriage” never show up anywhere in the law.
This is troubling—and not just for the reasons you might guess. It’s not because I think everyone should agree with this law. On its substance and wisdom, I think honest people can disagree. What’s troubling is the emotional virulence with which people are reacting to this particular law, when it is identical to protections offered in thirty other states and in the federal government. Indiana is just playing “catch up” here, legally speaking. We usually want states to offer legal protections roughly equivalent to those offered by the federal government. So why the uproar in this case?
Again, it’s fine for people to express disagreement with the law—if they know what’s in it. What I’m worried about is the single-minded, narrow, largely uninformed, self-righteous prejudice of those who are furious with the “bigots” that are assumed to live in Indiana and the glee with which they are welcoming the hysterical reactions against the state. “I’ve never been so ashamed to be from Indiana,” wrote a friend of mine on Facebook. Really? Nothing else was more shameful? Not the Indian massacres, not the popularity of the KKK right up through the 1920s, not the lynching of black men? The mayor of Seattle has banned all official travel to the state of Indiana. How about to any of the other thirty states that have nearly identical religious freedom protections?
This reaction is clearly being driven by one-sided media presentations of what’s happened in Indiana. What’s especially disturbing—and dangerous—is the degree to which Americans are showing themselves to be susceptible to the panderings of the crassest forms of political propaganda. A stable, vibrant democracy depends crucially upon its people’s ability to recognize and resist the allure of political propaganda.
Our Unexamined Metanarratives
French post-modern theorist Francois Lyotard is perhaps most famous for defining the postmodern age as one involving “incredulity toward metanarratives.” If only that were true.
Quite the contrary, it seems that we all have our own small group of metanarratives by means of which we interpret all news events. “White cops mistreating black men.” “Anti-gay homophobia.” “Male oppression of women.” “Threats against American security.” “Murderous Muslim fanaticism endangering the West.” These are just a few of the “grand narratives” into which we “fit” all big news stories: they are the “lenses” through which we interpret events. Lyotard would have been more accurate if he had said: “The postmodern condition can be characterized as a near-absolute domination by a series of largely unexamined metanarratives.”
One of the most dangerous aspects of being dominated by unexamined metanarratives is that political propagandists can use them to pull our strings. They pipe the tune, and we dance. They rejoice in pitting us against one another, because that is the way they consolidate their power. As the founders well understood, mob hysteria is one of the quickest ways of undermining a democracy. Mobs are characterized by undisciplined outbursts of emotion. People will do things as part of a mob that they would never consider doing as individuals.
And in the midst of the anarchy and disorder that usually accompany such hysteria, what often enough follows is some sort of tyranny. The mob gives itself over to some person or group that portrays itself as embodying what Rousseau used to call “the will of the People.” It doesn’t really matter what the people think; no one takes a vote. The mob just knows: it has a mind of its own. And what it “knows” is that it somehow represents “the Spirit of the Age.” You don’t want to be on the “wrong side of history, do you?” people ask. Or more menacingly: “Those people can’t be tolerated any longer; they’re getting in the way of the progressive march of history.”
To be honest, when I look back at many of the “grand movements” of history—the ever-increasing glory of the Roman Empire, the divine right of kings, “Manifest Destiny,” nationalism, eugenics, etc.—personally, I think I would have preferred to have been “left behind.”
The frog must jump out of the pan, before it boils.
We should not let the possibility or even the likelihood of “failure” make us timid. Witness is utterly different from propaganda, more fragile but far more enduring.
For centuries, the early Christians endured far worse than we might face, dying in the Colosseum to the taunts of jeering crowds — whose grandchildren would flee the moral chaos of collapsing Rome and flock to the underground churches. All the persecution that a government like China can deal its native Christians has not stopped the church from exploding there, and striking fear at the highest levels of a totalitarian government. The battered church in Poland led the movement that brought down the Iron Curtain, through sober, persistent resistance.
Perhaps the future we face is the one that Cardinal George envisioned. Speaking of a future bishop who would someday die a martyr, George predicted, “His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” If we stand for eternity, then history is on our side.
We have reached the point in history when we either choose a side or a side will be chosen for us.
Indiana’s Memories Pizza Reportedly Becomes First Business To Reject Catering Gay Weddings
Memories Pizza is a nine-year-old shop in downtown Walkerton, Indiana, just a few blocks from John Glenn High School. It’s owned by an openly-Christian couple, the O’Connors, who decorate their shop with mementos of their faith in Christ. So how does a small business in a small town wind up making headlines around the world as the new avatar of Christian bigotry?
Perhaps, you say, they brought this upon themselves, seeking out publicity for their strict biblical views.
Some cursory internet forensics shows how it happened…or rather, how it was made to happen.
ABC-57 reporter Alyssa Marino’s editor sends her on a half-hour drive southwest of their South Bend studio, to the small town of Walkerton (Pop. ~2,300). According to Alyssa’s own account on Twitter, she “just walked into their shop [Memories Pizza] and asked how they feel” about Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Owner Crystal O’Connor says she’s in favor of it, noting that while anyone can eat in her family restaurant, if the business were asked to cater a gay wedding, they would not do it. It conflicts with their biblical beliefs. Alyssa’s tweet mentions that the O’Connors have “never been asked to cater a same-sex wedding.”
What we have here is — as we called in journalism school jargon — “no story.” Nothing happened. Nothing was about to happen.
If I were forced to mark out a story line, it would be this: A nice lady in a small town tries to be helpful and polite to a lovely young reporter from “the big city.”
In other words, Memories Pizza didn’t blast out a news release. They didn’t contact the media, nor make a stink on Twitter or Facebook. They didn’t even post a sign in the window rejecting gay-wedding catering jobs. They merely answered questions from a novice reporter who strolled into their restaurant one day – who was sent on a mission by an irresponsible news organization.
Next: ABC-57 anchor Brian Dorman leads the evening newscast dramatically with this:
Only on ABC-57 News tonight. We went into small towns looking for reaction to the Religious Freedom Act. We found one business, just 20 miles away from a welcoming South Bend…with a very different view.
Notice that his city of South Bend is “welcoming,” but that small-town business is not. It’s very different. That’s why ABC-57 “went into small towns,” as if embarking on a safari to aboriginal lands.
Not only did ABC-57 News create that story ex nihilo (out of nothing), but the next day, the station’s Rosie Woods reported on the social-media backlash against the Christian pizza shop owners.
“Our Facebook page has been blowing up with comments after we aired that story last night,” said Woods.
At this point, even my old Leftist journalism professors would be grinding their teeth and rending their garments.
You see, not only did ABC-57 manufacture the story with an ambush interview, it then doubled-down by making the reaction to the story into another story to give the sense of momentum, as if it were growing at its own impetus. Yet, everything about it is a fabrication.
Read the whole thing. Read it all because you'll go on to read about what has happened to this business since ABC-57's piece. It's abhorrent. It should remind you of what happened in Germany in the 1930's.
The press is leading this high tech lynching of traditional Christians all under the guise of tolerance and open-mindedness while proving to be neither.
It's a travesty and if you're one who sees it as anything but then know you are soulless.
Because Germanwings pilot Andreas Lubitz killed himself when he purposefully drove a plane carrying 149 other people into a mountain in the Alps, there has been an assumption that he suffered from “depression”— an assumption strengthened by the discovery of antidepressants in his home and reports that he had been treated in psychiatry and neurology clinics. Many patients and other interested parties are rightly concerned that Lubitz’s murderous behavior will further stigmatize the mentally ill.
It is certainly true that stigma may lead those in need to avoid treatment. When I was a psychiatrist at an HIV clinic, I was baffled by the shame associated with a visit to see me. Patients at the clinic had advanced AIDS, often contracted through IV drug use or sex work, and many had unprotected sex despite their high viral loads. Some were on parole. Many had lost custody of their children. Many lived in notorious single-room occupancy housing and used cocaine daily. But these issues, somehow, were less embarrassing than the suggestion that they be evaluated by a psychiatrist.
For my clinic patients, it was shameful to be mentally ill. But to engage in antisocial behavior as a way of life? Not so bad.
I think my patients were on to something. Bad behavior—even suicidal behavior—is not the same as depression. It is a truism in psychiatry that depression is underdiagnosed. But as a psychiatrist confronted daily with “problem” patients in the general hospital where I work, I find that depression is also overdiagnosed. Even doctors invoke “depression” to explain anything a reasonable adult wouldn’t do.
For instance: Act completely blasé, then lock the pilot out of the cockpit, and deliberately crash a plane full of people.
I don’t know what that is, but it’s not depression.
In the hospital where I practice, a small but regular population of patients are young men who sustained gunshot wounds during or in proximity to gang-related activities. Now paralyzed, they are admitted for pressure ulcers or urinary tract infections. These men were accustomed to getting their needs met through intimidation and even murder. Now they are dependent on nurses and aides for intimate care, and it hasn’t made them any nicer. They terrorize staff by throwing urinals and food and sexually harassing them. When I am asked to evaluate for “depression,” I see hopelessness, entitlement, and rage.
And it’s not just antisocial behavior that is explained away by calling it “depression.” I’m often asked to see patients with poorly managed chronic diseases; for example, diabetics who neglect to do fingersticks to draw blood and test their blood sugar. Recently I did a consultation for a patient who is on dialysis and ignores the low-salt “renal diet” prescribed by her doctor. Her insistence on eating chips led her nephrologist to wonder if she were depressed; after all, wouldn’t a mentally healthy person give up junk food to save her own life?
We are experiencing the effects of a culture that can rationalize away any behavior and, as a result, minimize evil.
We may never know why Lubitz decided to not only end his life but the lives of 149 other people in any secular sense but... we should all agree that what he did is inexcusably wicked.
Or is that in and of itself wicked?
I can't help but think of Elizabeth Scalia's Strange Gods, Unmasking the Idols of Everyday Life (I wrote about that book here). Every attempt is being made to mask our need for God and particularly His Son Jesus Christ. In His place we are putting every sort of substitute and paying the price.
Most non-Catholics will take up the fashionable cry, “Who are you to judge?!” whenever anyone disapproves of anything these days. If the prevailing philosophy in our society is relativism, then “Who are you to judge?!” is the logical response to make. If there is no such thing as truth then there is no such thing as right or wrong. If there is no such thing as right or wrong, then we may do as we like and you are not to judge me and I am not to judge you. Live and let live.
Catholics insist that we can make judgements. We make an objective judgement about an action but we do not make a judgement on the person or on the eternal destiny of their soul.
This is the distinction that many secularists and Protestants fail to make. They think that if you judge an action to be wrong, that you must therefore judge the person, condemn the person, isolate and finally eliminate the person.
Catholics should be able, however to step back from judging the person and separate out the action from the individual.
Consequently, Catholics are able to make judgements about much more thorny moral issues with objectivity and a shrug of the shoulders because while we judge an action we do not judge the person’s guilt. We do not make a definitive judgement on the person’s guilt because we do not know al the circumstances and motivation.
Most non-Catholics do not understand these distinctions and therefore misunderstand Catholic judgements in two destructive and opposite ways.
Firstly, when they hear us make a judgment about the objective right-ness or wrong-ness of an action they think we are making a judgement on the culpability of the person, and not just the person’s culpability, but also their worth as a person, whether they are a nice person or not or whether we like them or not. So if I say, “Living together before marriage is wrong.” All they hear is a personal judgement and rejection of the person. No matter how much I make the statement objective and non judgmental they hear otherwise.
Secondly, when we do not make a judgement of the person they accept it as condoning the action–which we might very well wish to condemn. So when Pope Francis rightly said he did not judge the gay person the world heard him saying that he did not condemn homosexual actions. Wrong response. He was simply being Catholic in not judging the gay person’s culpability, but if anyone had said, “So Hoy Father does that mean you approve of gay sex?” He would have immediately corrected them.
So can we judge? Yes. We can judge whether an action is objectively right or wrong. We do so not out of our own personal opinion, but based on natural law and divine revelation.
Do we judge the guilt of the person, rejecting or accepting them because of their decision? No. That’s not for us to do either in this world or in the next.
Stuff that ought to be inwardly digested by every thinking and sincere believer yet likely to be ignored by every non-thinking relativist... and sadly, lots of folks who are simply misinformed and care little about changing that state.
Remember that the crowd that cheered Jesus also condemned him.
Remember that the voices praising him also called for his death.
Remember that those who loved him and promised loyalty also abandoned him, denied him, and betrayed him.
And if you want to know who did that, just look at the palm branches in our hands.
We are guilty.
While we may not want to admit it, Christ’s Passion goes on today. Our betrayal of him continues, in ways large and small.
How often do we praise God on Sunday…and damn Him on Monday?
How often do we shrug Him off when things become too difficult or the rules too hard or the demands of the Christian life too taxing? How often do we treat love as just a sentiment for greeting cards, and not a command for living?
How often do we see suffering in the faces of those in need, and simply turn away?
Christ continues to bleed and weep and cry out, “Why have you abandoned me?” He cries out today to us. Whatever you do to the least of these, he said, you do to me.
What do we do?
We encounter him on the subway, step over him on the sidewalk, and go out of our way to avoid him when we feel like he might make demands on our time.
At the office, we make jokes at his expense, or spread gossip about him at the water cooler. We suck up to people who are more popular, or attractive, or influential at work – and barely give the unimportant person who answers the phone the time of day.
Whether we realize it or not, we see Jesus every day, read about him in the papers, hear about him in the news. He is everywhere there is someone who is small, or neglected, or disrespected, or discarded.
He is with the unwanted and unloved, the bullied and abused.
“Why have you abandoned me?”
Do we hear him?
We find ways to justify our choices. But it can’t be denied. Whenever we choose death over life, sin over the gospel, popularity over integrity, indifference or disdain over love – in short, whenever we have turned away from Christ – we who claim to believe in him have, instead, betrayed him.
We have said, “Give us Barabbas.”
We have said, in effect, “Crucify him.”
And we have done it with palms in our hands and the echoes of “Hosanna” in the air.
We need this Sunday to remember that.
Here's hoping we'll each take a minute today to ponder the day's meaning and be changed in some way by that pondering.
I came across this story today and was immediately saddened by it:
On Jan. 17, 2014, University of Pennsylvania runner Madison Holleran committed suicide. She was 19. Since this tragedy, the sports community has struggled to address the root cause of Holleran's death: mental health.
To gauge the current climate inside locker rooms, FOX Sports interviewed more than 25 female student-athletes along with NCAA officials and mental health experts. Though these student-athletes told stories of resilience, they also revealed cautionary tales for the well-being of young women in college sports.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, women are "nearly twice as likely" as men to develop depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Add in the stress of sports commitments and you have a dangerous combination. The majority of women interviewed pointed to eating disorders related to their sport as the top issue.
"We talk about [body image] every day,"said a group of University of Southern California lacrosse players. Anorexia or bulimia is twice as rampant among athletes versus the general population of women, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).
The pressures of women to gain muscle in training but stay thin to uphold a standard of beauty outside of sports is irreconcilable. "I've never met a gymnast who was in love with their body," a former D-I gymnast revealed.
In sports, the private issue of women's body image becomes public. Dartmouth volleyball player Alexandra Schoenberger's trainers would hook her up to a machine to track changes in her body fat percentage, which sounded like the sports equivalent of the "jiggle test."
A D-I swimmer recalled men wore T-shirts that read "Whale watching" in reference to her team. Even in the coverage of Holleran's death, many were shocked to see the media use photos of the young woman wearing a bikini, taken from her Instagram account.
Bottom line, mental health is a matter of safety, not only because of suicide risk but also the detriment to long-term physical health. Eating disorders are common causes of heart problems and osteoporosis. Anorexia and bulimia have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness according to ANAD. More women have eating disorders than breast cancer, yet every major women's and men's sport has a pink ribbon campaign while mental health issues go unnoticed.
So where do these student-athletes go for help?
The piece goes on to chronicle how most student-athletes do not avail themselves to on campus psychological services because of the stigma associated with mental illness which I'll admit is problematic but there's an additional service I think most of these women are ignoring that is even more detrimental.
I wish someone would do a study (and perhaps they already have and I'm simply unaware) of the effects on the human psyche not having a religious foundation is having on these women, particularly those who struggle with body image and how others see them.
This bald paunchy guy with a big nose, no butt and buck teeth has overcome these 'failings' by coming to believe (late admittedly) that I am created by God, with all my flaws, for divine reasons and that my focusing less on what I look like and more on understanding those reasons and pursuing them with vigor brings the kind of contentedness and fulfillment I'll not find anywhere else.
How would most women cope with notional concepts of body image should they adopt the same mentality?
I think this to be a fair question but one society will ignore because of the stigma religion now has in this culture. Or... because... I'm a guy and a religious one to boot.
My faith, I would like to think, has always been strong and my relationship with Christ has grown deep (in spite of my missteps and imperfections). But curiously as I grew older (and even after converting to Catholicism), I encountered a world that wanted to tell me that it was time to truly “grow up”. Religion is a myth. A fairy tale. A lark promising to explain the inexplicable while surreptitiously corralling free spirits. Professors in college, columnists in smart, fashionable magazines, authors of well-praised books sought to disabuse me of my “simple” notions of faith. Surely in the age of the Human Genome Project and the internet and space travel and evolutionary psychology – surely, it was time to retire the well-worn security blanket of God, to be finished with this quaint, silly, ridiculous, little faith and march forward as a liberated adult into the dazzling freedom of autonomy, personal fulfillment and assured happiness.
But I am not so sure.
You see, the myth, the fairy tale, the lark I believe in says something just a bit more complex, offers something a touch more extraordinary, presents something a whiff more brilliant than the cardboard cut-out caricature of faith erected by its haughty, “enlightened” skeptics. In fact, it has always struck me that the most vocal critics of faith never seem to be talking about any faith that I have ever known or practiced. Perhaps in the midst of their considerable wisdom and insight, there are a few things these skeptics should honestly consider.
I originally wrote about The Passion of the Christ the week it opened in theatres. I stated how excited I had been before I saw the film and how disappointed I was afterwards. Many supported me in my views, many opposed me. Sadly, the majority of the latter were abusive. It was a sobering experience.
Months later, I have watched Mel Gibson’s version of the death of Jesus Christ on the newly released DVD. I still believe that this work should have been different in various ways. Yet now I have seen, or allowed myself to see, what lies at the very core of The Passion. The Eucharist.
The epicentre, the quintessence of the Christian faith, was no symbolic act but a literal instruction. “Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you.” And “Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all men so that sins may be forgiven.”
What had been a barrier has now become a bridge. A connection between a broken, smashed and needy creature like me and his perfect and glorious creator. The great paradox of God. In so simple a matter as a wafer is the most wonderful gift in all the world. Given at a very great price indeed.
All of it should be read, and when read, these pertinent paragraphs should leap out at the reader:
Any spiritual journey is part intellectual, part emotional, part visceral, part supernatural. The path winds and turns and around each corner is revelation and wisdom. I’ve read a great deal of theology and have enormous respect for the great reformers. I love and know my Bible, including the passages that will surely be quoted to me by those who regret my swim across the Tiber.
Do not tell me about historical failings or current problems because I’ve heard them all. I’ve met lapsed Catholics and lousy Catholics as well as good Catholics and glorious Catholics. Not relevant. It is the truth of a belief, not the failure or success of alleged followers to live up to that truth, that is of importance.
I’m a miserable sinner. But at least I know it. Please pray for me. Or, if you can’t, try to tolerate me.