Friday, March 01, 2013

Because it's cheap and ill-mannered, that's why

Okay. As a Protestant, I really have no real investment in the status of the Papacy. But I also have no objection to it either; I have no objection to some Christians believing a need in an earthly guide like the Pope. And I have friends and relatives who are Catholic.

Obviously, some around me don't share that live and let live attitude. I've heard a few snarky comments or ugly jokes about the whole pope-resigning thing, and I admit, I find myself a bit angered by them.

It's the old "put someone else in that place" thing. If some of the comments were made about a religion that was perceived as a "minority" religion in front of some of these people, they'd be calling HR to report the other person. If someone made similar jokes about gay people or certain-ethnic groups, they'd go very tight-lipped and say "That's not funny" and explain to the person making the joke just why they are offensive. Why is it bigoted when it's said about one group, but apparently not when it's said about another?

And yet, because it's Catholics, it's OK. Because they're not "oppressed." Because they're "mainstream." And because, I suspect, because they have these pesky "rules" and commandments and stuff that put curbs on human behavior.

(Though, how "mainstream" is observant Catholicism any more? It seems to me that many forms of observant faith have to part company with a lot of what our culture is doing and saying these days. I've read a lot lately talking about how Christianity is, in many ways, a countercultural movement.)

But more than that: it's just shabby and tawdry and cheap and I think of it as below these people to make those kinds of cheap jokes. Life is hard enough without going around putting other people down. And it really doesn't make you look any bigger to other people, and I doubt it makes you feel any bigger in the long run. I know back in the days (and I still marvel at what an insensitive person I was for doing this) when I teased and sort-of bullied a kid lower on the "pecking order" than I was, I actually felt WORSE about myself for having done it.

The snark - that glib attitude that only what you think and what you believe matters - really gets to me. That unwillingness to consider any contradictions in your own beliefs and behavior. That screaming over the mote in the other guy's eye while blithely ignoring the beam in your own.

When someone's only response to a situation that is, for some people, a genuinely sad and concerning situation, is snark, I think less of them. It seems to me to show an unwillingness to step into someone else's shoes or to have empathy.

And yes, I understand the whole scandal with the priests. And yes, many of the higher-ups handled it VERY badly, in  my opinion: far better, I think, to encourage the men involved to confess, to repent, to face whatever charges they would face, and to deal with the consequences of their actions. But just because there are some people involved who did wrong, does not negate the valuable work done by missionaries and hospitals and brothers or sisters who teach or serve or....anything that the good people do. Because some members of your organization do wrong, does not mean every member is suspect. But that's how it's become, unfortunately. (And the thing is: if I suggested to someone that by the logic they are using, university professors or businessmen or athletes or who knows whom are suspect because a few of that group did wrong - I'd be shouted down.)

I pray for stability in the Catholic church for my friends who are Catholic. And whatever reason Pope Benedict resigned over (and I'm perfectly willing to believe that it is failing health - The Anchoress noted that he seems like an introvert, and I can imagine a position like that would wear down even the strongest introvert very quickly), I wish him peace and healing in his future days.

One thing I learn as I get older: being kind, not giving in to the snark, ultimately makes me feel better and more at peace with the world than going around spouting off like a perpetual adolescent. And it gives me greater strength to weather the storms that do come.

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