Speaking of which, one of my readers writes me a loving Christian rebuke that spoke to my conscience, so I thought I’d run it and respond.
I hope one day to meet you and hear you speak in person, as I have grown to rely on your writing and clarity in times of doubt. I can’t thank you enough for opening my heart and eyes to the traps that have been set on the Left and (more importantly) the Right to defy Mother Church.
But I have to say something to you about the above-referenced post and your comments within the combox of it.
You will surely enter Heaven before me as Christ says in Matthew 21, but you will make it there in spite of your combox comments. Not because of them.
There is no excuse for what Governor Christie is saying, nor is there one for Mr. Trump. But you, Mr. Shea, are called to be perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect.
Even the pagans do as you are doing in the comboxes here. You will be liable to the Sanhedrin for these words. The wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.
There is no debate about it. Christ does not permit what you are doing here. Do you disagree? People more than respect your opinion. They look up to you.
I had initially posted this as its own comment in the combox, but deleted it within 10 minutes in favor of privately emailing you. I hope you will take it as a token of good faith that I mean to address you as a fellow sinner on the journey, not as one who is more righteous. For those who saw what I wrote within those 10 minutes after I posted but before I deleted it, I do apologize.
Again, I am not perfect and I know you don’t claim to be. And I do not excuse the words of the right. But I still felt I had to say this to you. If I have spoken too harshly, I apologize.
Let me start with a good old fashioned “Mea maxima culpa”. I think my reader is right. I have been surly and angry. I honestly do not know how to respond to the shameful cowardice and appeasement of Daesh that has dominated conservative Christian policy and discourse, so I fall into anger and have been quite nasty to a number of readers. I apologize, but I also confess that I am stymied at how to address anybody who gives the slightest excuses for this stuff–much less actively promotes it in the teeth of reality.
No. I’m not saying people are bad for being frightened by terrorists. But I am saying that we have choices. One is to not make excuses for leaders who are afraid of toddlers by spewing nonsense about child bombers sneaking through the extremely thorough vetting process.
Another is to stop repeating the lie that this vetting process is not, in fact, very thorough.
Another is to stop denying the fact that this baseless project of ginning up fear of refugees is, in fact, the strategy of a conservative leadership that has, for its own gain, chosen to completely cooperate with ISIS by treating refugees as threats instead of what they are: natural allies. The simple fact is, hostility to refugees is a yuuuuuuuge vote-getter on the right, as shown by the fact that the leader of the GOP field is giving the nod to burning the first amendment for Muslims–and that this has given him yet another bump in the polls. Likewise, Cruz has called for a total (and baseless) halt to accepting Syrian refugees, Carson has shamefully called them “rabid dogs”, and Rick Santorum has shamefully demanded that even Christian refugees be denied entry.
All of this gutless, disgusting, self-serving cowardice and contempt for the least of these in their hour of need makes me extremely angry, it is true. St. Thomas tells me that “if one is angry in accordance with right reason, one’s anger is deserving of praise.” I see nothing about the stuff above that is not worthy of anger.
And yet, I think that my reader has a point that my anger is not helping and is alienating potential allies. Thing is: I don’t know what to do about that. I honestly don’t. I wish I did, but I don’t. So I’m in the awkward position of wishing to repent, but not having any idea what that is supposed to look like. I am, frankly, sick and tired of excuses for all the stuff above, as I am sick of
reading Catholics spouting stupid memes about “If you had one M&M in a bowl of 100 would you eat any?” and
sweeping declarations that all Muslims want us dead and
utter refusals to look at information that shows how the refugee entry process works and
foolish repetitions of the lie that “liberals just want to let in everybody!” and
dumb conspiracy theories about Muslim Obama’s plan to destroy America and
foolish demands to know why Shia, Christian and Yazidi don’t move to Saudi Arabia, the epicenter of the ideology that wants to kill them and
grand pronouncements about our “civilizational struggle” that clearly suggest that we need to declare war on 1.6 billion innocent people and
closely reasoned biblical arguments from Real Christians proving with geometric logic that we have no obligation to help foreigners because they are not our neighbors according to some technical definition of some Hebrew word and
people demanding to know why “military aged males” are “running away” instead of “staying and fighting” (heedless of the fact that there is no “Good Guy Army” to join and the winner will either be the Butcher Assad or the Monsters ISIS or one of the Radical Muslim lunatics and
people demanding that “military aged males” be handed guns to go somewhere and fight for somebody, while simultaneously screaming that the people they want to hand guns to want to kill us all and should never be armed and
endless pictures of knights, paladins and Crusaders, demonstrating that Real Christians love to kill Muslims and don’t go for all that wussy peace crap from our Commie Pope and gay bishops.
I am besieged with this and much more insane junk all. day. long. It comes almost entirely from one political subculture and one only: conservative Catholics who hate Muslims, hate this pope, hate the bishops, hate the council, hate most of the Church, hate “liberals”, and hate me. It is only my faith in the Holy Spirit as the soul of the Church that keeps me from running off screaming into the night at the sheer ugliness and cowardice of the Greatest Catholics of All Time.
So when I hear “Your anger is making it hard for me to hear you”, what *I* tend to hear is self-pitying narcissism from people inclined to makes excuses for all of the above, not people who can see my point, but are just put off by my vehemence in fending off the assault. Result: I am unnecessarily hostile to people who don’t really mean ill. Folks like the guy who wrote the note above. That makes me feel ashamed of myself. So: mea culpa, not only to him but others in my comboxes.
I wish I had a better grip on how to deal with the immense tide of Crazy coming from so many people right now. Another reader writes:
Here is what I would like you to consider. Are your writings elevating our discourse? Are you contributing to the growth of understanding and enlightenment? Or do your writings infuriate people and cause them to obstinately defend their untenable positions? I can tell you from personal observation that the way you go about your work contributes in a small way to the level of anger and obstnate defense of foolish and immoral positions in our country. I would like to see you use your immense talents (and I freely admit that you are far more talented as a writer than I am) to invite people to growth rather than provoking them to anger. Please consider this plea.
I honestly don’t know how to answer that question, since I also hear from people who tell me they are forced to confront the lies they’ve believed and promoted, or they feel encouraged and less alone in the midst of the Crazy. Just yesterday I got a piece of samizdat from a fellow conservative (yes, I still consider myself one since I like to conserve things–though “conservatism” not longer does) saying, “I don’t recognize my fellow “conservatives” anymore. They are turning into crazed, rabid bigots. THAT scares me.”
I can’t argue with that. So my strong inclination is to say to legion of anti-abortion-but-not-prolife conservatives defending the morally grotesque–whether it’s torture or spitting in the faces of five year old “terrorists”–“I don’t *cause* you to defend untenable positions. You *choose* to do that–and lecture other people about Personal Responsibility”.
Can you see the dilemma I face? I honestly don’t know how to navigate in a world of postmodern conservative insanity that is constantly seducing Good Christians into morally appalling positions they seriously believe are compatible with the Faith.
So I wind up getting angry, being aware it *does* turn off decent people, but also being aware that it has helped other people and is, in party, something that Thomas tells me I’m *supposed* to be angry about: something he would condemn me for if I were *not* angry.
All of which is to say, Sorry for the mess. I am still under construction and I don’t have the blueprints available to know what the Architect is up to. I apologize for offending any person of good will, particularly my readers above, who both seem to me to be good people on the side of the angels. I ask your prayers that I get more light and become less of a jerk.