A reader writes…

I read your blog faithfully and appreciate your insights and humor, though I haven’t commented since you’ve moved to Patheos.

I used to participate in the religion forum at Free Republic until I realized it’s the Mos Eisely of Protestantism. Catholic bashing has been an enduring feature of the place since its beginning, and they’ve recently driven away the Mormons in light of the Romney candidacy. So now they’re concentrating on Catholics again.

Christmas and Easter seem to bring out the nastiness in some folk, and trashing the BVM is a perennial favorite. So some folks posted a couple of your articles on Mary-phobia here and here.

I thought you might get a chuckle from the bizarre twists that certain people could put on them. Please understand that I’m not recommending you participate in this Internet drama in any way. Patrick Madrid used to try from time to time, but has apparently wisely chosen to shake the dust from his sandals.

Before FR, I generally thought of Protestants as fellow Christians who are wrong about some things, but generally allies serving the Lord. I was quite shocked to discover the animosity and weird ideas some of them harbor toward Catholicism. Your articles struck a chord with me because, as you’ve pointed out, our antagonists continually tell us what we believe rather than letting us, or the official documents of the church, inform them. And I have long argued that the only charge of idolatry that might possibly have any merit is, as you say, in regard to the Holy Eucharist, as that is the only “thing” to which we actually give the adoration due only to God.

The persistence in these false accusations tells me that we are attempting to reason with the irrational, and that is bound to fail. (That, by the way, is why “phobia” is the correct terminology, since it is an irrational fear.) But I wonder, nevertheless, if you have found some means of dealing with these attitudes. Somehow you managed to overcome them, supposing you ever harbored them in the first place, in your conversion from Evangelicalism.

Thanks for all the good work you do, and best wishes for the New Year.

The thing to remember about the web is that it tends to select for jerks, particularly on sites like Free Republic. People who don’t normally get a hearing in polite society because they are living in their mom’s basement writing angry screeds on the wall have been liberated by the internet to connect with one another, network their absurd theories and reinforce one another in their nastiness. So places like the Freeper site give as accurate a sample of Evangelicals as, say, Angelqueen give of Catholics.

To be sure, the sort of stuff you see there does represent a very common view of Catholics among many Evangelical, particularly when it comes to misconceptions about our supposed adoration of Mary, etc. But as I point out in Mary, Mother of the Son, there is actually a broad spectrum of Evangelical views about Mary and the super crazy hostility is actually out at the end of the bell curve. But it is true that the normal view of “the Catholic Mary” is that Catholics simply pay too much honor to Mary, that the whole Mary thing is warmed-over paganism, and that Catholics are playing with fire with the whole business.

That said, I have been gratified to see that the Evangelical response to Mary, Mother of the Son has been generally favorable. A huge amount of this is simply due to the fact that very few Evangelicals have had somebody to explain what Catholics are actually up to with all the Mary stuff. Once it’s explained, lot of Evangelicals see the logic of it and their fears are allayed. This is not always the case, of course, as the Freepers attest. But there is actually a much closer affinity between Catholics and Evangelicals then at any time in American history. Think of Kennedy having to make nice with hostile Protestants only 50 odd years ago. Or look at the close alliances formed in the prolife movement. Look at the widespread admiration of Evangelicals for JPII, B16, Mother Teresa, and lots of other Catholic figures. There’s lots more to Evangelical/Catholic relations than what you see from Freepers and their ilk.

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  • All of this just goes to prove John Gabriels (NSFW) Greater Internet ****wad Theory.

  • Stu

    Another regular poster here and myself were once frequent posters on the forum of a certain female opinion writer known for here biting wit. Similar to the situation noted above at Free Republic, we had to deal all manner of politically “right of center” individuals who obviously were allied with us on many political issues but at times had a strong anti-Catholic bias. In fact, my compatriot was actually banned for awhile for “posting while Catholic.”

    I believe our posting there was beneficial because we gave a sensible and educated voice to what the Church actually teaches and we provided an example of Catholics speaking up. I got many private messages from posters there, some lurkers, who either told they changed their mind about Catholics based upon what I have shared as well as timid or lukewarm Catholics who were invigorated and sometimes motivated to return to the Church.

    You have to go where the problems are to fix them.

    • Dave Pawlak

      Some years ago, my wife got into the same situation at what might have been the same site. Would the initials of the opinion writer be “M. M.”, by chance?

      • Stu

        AC are the initials.

        • Dave Pawlak

          Got it. She was raised Catholic, and is now a conservative Presbyterian. You’ve likely come across those who believe that Catholicism is too soft and liberal (death penalty, immigration, other social issues), and that you can’t be a good modern Catholic and a good conservative as well.

          • Stu

            Worse. There were plenty of 100% completely anti-Catholic fundamentalists.