I once took an Ed Psych class back in the day I was thinking about becoming a teacher. One of the things the class pointed out was that our brains tend to function in such a way that we process new information according to how it fits in with what we already know (or think we know).
So, for instance, the prof told a story about an award-winning teacher he knew who taught a unit on the Reformation to a bunch of inner city kids. My prof sat in on the class and observed for a week as the teacher clearly worked through the events of the Reformation and laid out the facts concerning Luther and the other major players of the day.
As the unit was winding up, the teacher asked the kids if they had any questions. One young girl tentatively raised her hand and the teacher called on her. Hesitantly, she said, “But… what about the March on Washington? And Selma? And the Bus Boycott?”
The entire week, every time he had said “Martin Luther” she had fit the name into the only framework she had and heard “Martin Luther King”.
This happens, by the way, constantly. And it causes us to, among other things, simply not see and hear things we do not know how to process. I discovered this upon becoming Catholic. There were any number of biblical passages which simply didn’t fit the constraints of what I “knew” from my non-denomination Evangelical theology. So I had simply not seen or heard them.
Jesus remarking on not getting out of prison till you pay the last farthing. It was just one of those things Jesus said. Who knows what it means. Moving on…
Paul speaking of fire testing each man’s works. Moving on…
Paul saying that we fill up with our sufferings what is still lacking with respect to Christ’s afflictions. Paul says weird stuff sometimes. Moving on.
“This is my body.” “Sinning against the body and blood of the Lord…” Weird. Moving on.
It is important to emphasize the mostly unconscious nature of such acts. The person doing it is typically unaware they are filtering anything. They are certainly not saying “NO! IT CANNOT BE!!!” They simply have no idea what to do with the data. There is no framework for it, so it is dropped without a thought, just as you would ignore and delete an email from a stranger saying something incomprehensible.
What happens to change such situations is that something helps us make a connection (often partial, mysterious, and intriguing) between what we know or think we know and the new information. In my case, I established enough trust in the Church’s teaching to be able to take her word for it that the passages comported with her teaching on such things as Purgatory, sharing in Christ’s sufferings, and the Eucharist. Suddenly those passage fit into the framework. They had a context. They made some sense.
I mention all this because something similar is happening in this article from Reason on the silence of the NRA re: the shooting of Philando Castile.
One thing I will give the Libertarian naifs at Reason: their ideological framework leaves them still believing the mission of the NRA is to defend the second amendment and not to incestuously support and profit from arms manufacturers by stoking terror of the Brown Other in the hearts of white gun zealots. So Reason is genuinely surprised by the NRA’s silence. Such naivete is quaint, but needs to be outgrown since the NRA’s cynical silence and lucrative prostitution to lies is why it fights to maintain our gun death toll of 33,000 each year. The ideological imperatives of Libertarianism drive them to address the Castile shooting (which is more than you can say for the NRA). But when they address it, it is totally from a second amendment perspective, not from the perspective of race–which is clearly what the story is really about. Like my blindness to Paul’s Catholicism, they are blind to what the NRA is really doing. So props to Reason for at least *saying* something. But boos for still being so blind to what the central issue really is. How much of Reason‘s blindness is culpable, I don’t know. But I think the NRA is not blind, just flatly dishonest. It is a criminal organization with an ocean of blood on its hands for the sake of filthy lucre.
“Here we have to ask ourselves why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.” – Pope Francis, Address to the US Congress, September 24, 2015
The reason this “just one of those things Francis says” for millions of American Catholics is not because it is not Catholic teaching, it is. Its roots go as deep as “Love your enemy” and “Turn the other cheek” and “Peter put up your sword” and, above all, “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
No. The reason Americhristians cannot hear it is because they do not measure their actions according to the framework of the gospel, but according to the framework of American right wing culture war narratives. Like the girl in the class, when they hear such things they are fitting what they hear into the only framework they have, Fox News culture war narratives about “liberals” and “conservatives”, not “gospel” vs. “world”.