All I want for Christmas

“Charity” is a word thrown around in the Catholic blogosphere. And it’s thrown around a LOT. Yet even during Advent, Catholic bloggers can’t seem to fathom the possibility of being authentically charitable.

I don’t typically refer to this particular blog in my posts, as it’s usually too easy a target what with its nationalistic and quasi-fascist tendencies. But a recent post over at The American Catholic is worth pointing to because of its demeaning recklessness. Such recklessness is nothing new, especially to this particular author who recently made the astonishing claim that Archbishop Oscar Romero hid weapons in his church “underneath the blessed sacrament” and participated in “terrorist” activity, even going so far as to imply that Romero and other Catholic clergy and religious deserved to be killed.

But the Christmas post in question seems to be good natured, does it not? The author posts a cute video of two charming hillbillies who sing about the celebration of Christmas in what the author calls “a much more simpler time” (sic). The video clearly and deliberately pokes fun at Appalachian poverty (“Christmas grape”) and invokes the old image of rural Appalachians treating farm animals “like part of the family,” allowing them to live in the house (and God knows what else, har har).

I’ve been through this before many times on this blog, describing the origins and cruelties of Appalachian stereotypes as well as who benefits materially from them. I’ve also pointed to the fabrication of the american rural stereotype and its use by the Christian Right in the united states, including Catholic blogging personalities. Agree with that analysis or don’t. But is it not painfully obvious by now that Appalachian humor such as this video demeans people? Is Mr. Edwards completely oblivious to his own recklessness and to the kind of cruelty in which he participates?

Unfortunately, he is not oblivious. His post has received comments pointing out how offensive it is and that he owes his readers an apology. His response? Delete said comments and simply laugh at those he has offended.

When does “charity” begin to really mean something for Catholics on the internet, especially for those Catholics who misguidedly pine for a (fabricated, constructed) “simpler time” before “Christ” had been violently removed from “Christmas”? Sadly, it does not seem to cross their minds that Advent might be a good time to start showing a little bit of charity and humility, especially when called to acknowledge a deeply offensive mistake.

We’re into the second week of Advent, folks. It’s a good time to ask: how is your “faith-filled” blogging different than it was two weeks ago? The sad truth is that this season has little effect on us and the various practices that constitute our lives. You know what? All I want for Christmas is a new Catholic blogosphere.

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  • David Raber

    Thanks for the reminder.

    It’s almost a commonplace in explanations for the rise of Christianity that the Christians’ way of caring for each other, and “charitable” activities in general, were very attractive to religious seekers at the time. Whether taken as a natural explanation or in terms of the working of the Holy Spirit, I think it must be true. “They will know we are Christians by our love”–and vice versa!

    There has to be a way to “stand up for what you believe in” without being scandalously offensive–but I’m afraid that looks more like bearing a cross than waving a banner.

  • Morning’s Minion

    The dominant American Catholic blogosphere is a problem. It does not represent American Catholics, let alone global Catholicism. But on the site you mention, I think there are more egregrious examples – I’m thinking particarly of all the pro-military stuff and the glorification of war when the Church calls for “no more war”. I’m thinking about the American nationalism when the Church calls for a world political authority. And I’m thinking especially about the tendency to equate theological orthodoxy with adherence to a particular American liberal tradition that these guys mis-name “conservative”.

    But let’s be fair – there are some thoughtful contributors and thoughtful posts on that site too.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    Charity in the blogosphere is a charity case. The main activity is “admonishing the sinner,” charitably of course.

    Speaking of Appalachia, here’s a photo for download I took at Hawks Nest, WV.

  • brettsalkeld

    To me it seems that many of the problems in the Catholic blogosphere could be resolved if we remember that we are dealing with people with whom we are in communion in Christ.

    We act as if all we know about one another is that that other is gravely wrong on a matter of great importance. That is a recipe for disaster. If we remind ourselves that everyone out there is only doing this because they care deeply about the Church, it will be much easier to deal charitably even when we profoundly disagree. We should be able to look everyone in the Catholic blogosphere in the eye and wish them the peace of Christ before we receive the Eucharist.

  • Michael Denton

    Michael I:

    I think you’re touching on an interesting question: when does humor cease to be humor and cross the line so that it ceases to be charitable?

    I’m curious: do you think jokes involving stereotypes are always uncharitable? Or does it depend on the stereotype?

  • Michael Denton


    Very beautiful picture

  • Michael J. Iafrate

    Michael Denton – I think it depends on a lot of things. But usually when the humor is at someone else’s expense, it should be questioned.

  • Michael Denton

    What is the standard for the questioning though? Is it that it causes any offense or that it causes too much offense?

    • Michael J. Iafrate

      Michael Denton – I don’t know. What do you think?

  • Michael J. Iafrate

    There has been some concern about my use of the term “quasi-fascist” in reference to the American Catholic blog, and a call for me to apologize for using the term, as it seems to appear “uncharitable” and “hateful.”

    I do not apologize for saying that the blog has “quasi-fascist tendencies.” Let me explain. I have in mind certain contributors at that blog, not the blog as a whole. I characterize said contributors’ views as “fascist” not to be mean or insulting or sensationalistic, but because their views clearly resemble the characteristics of the historical political tendency of fascism, broadly understood. That is, I am not simply looking to compare said contributors to Hitler or whatever other narrow understanding of “fascism” folks might have in mind. And since said contributors write for a particular blog, the latter can rightly be said to have “quasi-fascist tendencies.” Despite the focus on the word “fascist,” I used the prefix “quasi-” and the word “tendencies” very deliberately.

    I hope I am being clear. But let me point out that I find it really strange that some contributors at that blog feel free to invoke the various totalitarianisms of history, e.g. communism, Nazism, fascism, etc. when it suits them (such as when they post about Hugo Chavez) but when those on the left do so, we are simply being “insulting” and “hateful.” If we cannot use a political term like “fascist,” a political term with a definition, without getting bent out of shape, then we risk allowing fascism to continue to appear in new forms, even “american Catholic” ones.

    Happy Advent to all those with fascist tendencies, quasi-fascist tendencies, and anti-fascist tendencies alike!