Posted by: allenrachel | April 22, 2009

We have a new Archbishop…

…and everyone has an opinion.

Today’s online edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a profile piece on St. Louis’ new archbishop, Michigan bishop Robert J. Carlson (which you can find at http://www.stltoday.com). Of all the stories online today, it was the second most-commented on (after an outfielder-for-reliever Cardinals trade, naturally). I was pleased to get some news about our archdiocese’s new leader, but the reader comments were the real gold:

Take this gem from saintchuckmom – “Mindless sheep. It breaks my heart to see so many decent people incapable of growing up and thinking for themselves. Adults worried about being on Santa’s naughty list. Embarrassing. Congratulations on your new leader of judgement [sic] and hate. Stldoc is right on! The world would be more humane, civil and understanding without religion in it. And that’s all religions, including yours.”

A few people comment on her apparent lack of tolerance and contradictory statements, and she responds, agreeing that tolerance is a two way street and she should not be so general in her opinions. Still, she was not the only person to respond the appointment of a new AB with a wide-spread condemnation of religious belief. In fact, one other reader, Conny, observed with surprise that the Post-Dispatch “really attracts the Atheist crowd.”

The implications of saintchuckmom’s words, that I am at once a sheep and a child for having religious faith, are nothing new – but they still cause me to stop and cringe. Throughout this course, we’ve discussed a lot on the topic of atheism and theism, but have we really discovered any way to explain our faith to people like saintchuckmom?

I think we have, if her later post is any indication. Her first designation of “mindless sheep” and her latest post citing a wish that people will “think for themselves” shows intelligence and reason to be her priority. By becoming educated people of faith, in all disciplines and areas of study, we are able to engage in sound, logical dialogue rather than emotional, outrageous argument. That is the only way to discuss belief and issues of religion. When we stand firm on opposite ends of the spectrum, we’ll never be able to meet. When we come to the table with a willingness to share and a calm, cool intellect, we might be able to move this conversation forward in a positive direction.

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Responses

  1. Something about ‘remove the plank’ from your own eye first comes to mind when I think of what saintchuckmom has to say. Her argument sounds a lot like the New Atheist and I wonder if she is echoing what they have to say without a little of her own self reflection.

    Speaking of removing the plank from my own eye first, I have to be careful not to make the same kind of defensive snide remarks towards saintchuckmom. Part of my paper was on hope. One criteria for legitimate hope is not talking down to other people from a superior position. It is good reminder that faith is a lifestyle with humility, not something won in a debate.

  2. I used that expression in my Islam paper at the end in regards to dealing with the middle east and terrorists at the global political level. Actually that was a major premise of my project this year, we are so quick to use “others” as scapegoats and label people, to dichotomize away our cognitive dissidence that we grasp for surface explanations e.g. all religious people are children, or terrorists are fanatical and irrational, without analyzing underlying causes.

    I think people reach for these kinds of categories to put people in to claim a sort of identity over and against someone else, or some other group but if we are truly wishing to act as Christ we will loose our self in order to find who we really are.

  3. In a lot of ways, I can understand the hot-headed responses from people like ‘saintchuckmom’. I have become increasingly more frustrated with Church hierarchy. A lot of the slow bureaucracy can be chalked up to the kind of power structures we have created in our own faith community. I also think that it may have something to do with our reluctant attitudes toward political change as well.

    That being said, I don’t really understand why people insist on protesting or sending hate mail in about things like this. If you hate hatred, condemn hating actions, and call for justice against people committing them. There is not much purpose in kicking and screaming about a new bishop unless its someone who has a history of doing anything bad.

    In one sense, I share some unease with the Church formations of power. I think it is pretty political and, to quote Karl Barth, “there is something demonic in all politics.” However, this bishop is a person just like any of us, and had a childhood, a first communion, and maybe even a prom. Why attack this individual person when its really the position you are upset about? Is it not the case that this bishop simply wants to help guide people towards a good life?

  4. I agree, and as a person who has, at least for now, given up claiming any church or religious institution as her own because of power structures and inequalities within, its embarrassing for people who spout off about the evils of religion. If you are going to call religion evil, you better put a whole lot of other institutions under that same category. Even though I have problems with the Church, I also recognize the good that can come out of it; for the people within church communities, for those that benefit from service-oriented religious organizations, and a host of other examples of praise worthy activities. Yes, religion can be dangerous, but so can everything else.


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