Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fundamentalism Internet Catholic style

One of the defining characteristics of fundamentalism, at least as popularly portrayed, is that of self-righteous judgement.  These are folks who, with a King James Bible in one hand and a rod of righteousness in the other, go around declaring how sinful everyone else is.  Nobody is as righteous as The Fundamentalist.  All are spiritually inferior, don't know the Bible, don't believe the Bible is the Word of God, don't love Jesus, whatever.  Such self righteousness is what one thinks of when one thinks of a Bible toting fundamentalist, correct?

Well, the world of Internet Catholicism has its own brand.  Sometimes it's similar to your run of the mill fundamentalist where some Catholics insist theirs is the only proper interpretation of Magisterial Teaching, and everyone who disagrees will burn in Hell.  But there are also other forms as well.  Perhaps the most common form is that of intellectual fundamentalism.  This is a sort of 'the rest of the Christian world just isn't as hip and cool and sophisticated and intellectual as I am' approach to Christian living.

This Internet Catholic Fundie approach would balk at the thought of declaring others to be spiritually inferior, or suggest that others do not love Jesus as much as they do.  But in a tradition that boasts the likes of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Moore, St. Aquinas, they can at times be, well, a little on the snobbish side when it comes to insisting that others just don't shine in the light of eternal mind the way they do.

To that end, the Internet Catholic Fundie is quite prepared to call stupid those who think differently, to embrace stereotypes and promote unfair caricatures of other Christians who don't see things as brilliantly as the ICF.  Suddenly, you realize it isn't the spiritually pure, but the intellectually superior to whom the world belongs. The one who can analyze philosophically, who can line up his intellectual reasoning with Thomistic flare, those are the ones called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

I know, most would never admit such things.  They don't have to.  Watch how they react to others who disagree with them.  Count how often the ICF rushes to embrace 'he's an idiot.' Tally the times in which an ICF embraces the critiques of fellow Christians given by those firmly planted against the Faith.  Heck, see how often a cool, hip, sophisticated ICF rushes to embrace a stereotype of those who just aren't as cool, hip, and sophisticated as they are.

Case in point.  Marc Barnes, who can rattle off a witty retort to a host of non-Catholic views with the best of them, has at times fallen into this trap.  Without realizing it, he has embraced some sweeping, at times inaccurate, portrayals - not of those against the faith or against his viewpoints, but of those who stand beside him but are not fully in his camp.

So in this little blog piece, in which Marc turns his attention to the hypocrisy and falsehoods associated with our modern takes on sexuality, he includes this little dig, not at those pushing animal sexuality above all things, but against those who are trying to save as many young people from the slime pit of modern sexual ethics:
Or look at the general “Christian” response to the sexual culture, incarnated in abstinence-education programs: Sex is dirty thing, a dangerous thing, an evil thing. Perhaps this is not intention of those running such programs, but it is another affirmative response to the death of sex.
You see that?  First, I can honestly attest that fundamentalists today don't think sex is dirty or unclean.  There may have been a time, but it isn't in recent memory.  Second, Abstinence Education, no matter how effective you think it is, doesn't teach sex as a dirty thing either.  Those are stereotypes promoted by the same forces for sexual decadence that Marc  appears to be lambasting.

But rather than stick to his guns and go after the enemy of Christian teaching, he can't resist jumping on those other 'not-me' Christians and not just criticizing them or critiquing their methods, but fully embracing the meanest and most inaccurate portraits used to paint as vile and contemptible losers anyone not embracing the modern sex culture.  In other words, the ICF does overtime when it comes to shooting fellow believers in the back in order to demonstrate the superiority of the way I would do it.

The irony?  Not even fundamentalists nowadays are that careless.  In fact, one of the things that helped me in my journey to Catholicism was the fact that Protestants, Evangelicals, and even some fundamentalists were beginning to realize that to attack the Catholic Church was, in our post/anti-Christian culture, to essentially attack Christianity.  They realized that shooting fellow Christians did little more than give ammo to forces all about destroying the legacy of the Christian Faith.

So here we have Mr. Barnes, jumping in and lambasting those not-hip/not-him types by embracing a false stereotype when those same types have been learning, in some cases, that they cannot do the same thing to their fellow Christians who are Catholic. Those other types actually spent the years I was a Christian praising, even if at times reluctantly, those aspects of Catholicism with which the agreed.   Pro-life?  Sure, Catholics rock!  Or so they said.

And yet the ICF, always out to show he or she is really the hip, cool, intellectual Christian who Jesus would want to party with if he were here, will pull out the best anti-Christian stereotypes, use it on fellow Christians, and then cry all the way to the Eucharist because other non-me Christian types just aren't as into it as I am.

Lesson learned.  When in a world of rising anti-Christian hatred, when calls to once and for all put the kibosh on all this right to be a traditional Christian garbage are beginning to increase, don't aid and abet the enemy.  Don't feel the need to take the worst things said about Christianity and Christians, endorse those things, and magically think because you are just all that and a bag of chips, the anti-Christian forces aren't applying them like a laser straight at you.  Fact is, if you think non-sex-culture Fundamentalists have a bad reputation in the country, it isn't anything compared to the lousy reputation regarding sexuality that Catholics have.  Every sperm is sacred anyone?  If you want to proclaim the True message of the Church's teaching about a subject like sexuality, you will increase your credibility by not positing yourself as the only valid interpreter of that teaching by celebrating the unfair and untrue caricatures applied to other Christian traditions.

For bonus example of other approaches the ICF embraces, Leah Libresco has had a series  of  posts that originated as thinly veiled attempts to apply philosophical, ethical, and theological arguments for why football is a bad thing.  This type of 'that which I loose should obviously be loosed, that which I bind should obviously be bound, and of course things I like or don't like are the measure of really pleasing God' is another symptom of fundamentalism - trying to use the tools and language of our Faith to support those extra curricular activities I do or don't enjoy.  But since Leah is still in the journey, I'll cut her some slack.  More telling are those in her comboxes who try to take their own personal dislike of the game (it's obvious), and with all the best academic and scholarly jargon, attempt to establish  profound universal explanations for why everyone should agree with them, under the auspices of 'clearly it's what really profoundly ethical types would think.'

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