I have an immense treat for you this morning. I happen to have a very clever friend who recently had an email exchange that she’s given me permission to put here–anonymously of course–in illustration of the great big cultural shift that’s going on right now, between what Carl Trueman calls the First/Second Worlds with the new overpowering Third World. These terms don’t refer to the kind of technological development or industry that a country enjoys, but rather the assumptions that people have about knowledge, truth, and God. Roughly (and I don’t have the book in front of me so I’m going wildly from memory), the 1st/2nd Worlds believe in some kind of objectively knowable reality–like God or the ancestors–and the 3rd World absolutely doesn’t, but rather appeals to the feelings, or “emotive self” to know anything. The following exchange illustrates this gloriously, besides being just very wonderful email writing. Enjoy!
I have to say, challenging the direction of the Catholic Church leads to far better email back-and-forths than challenging what happened to the Republican Party. At this point the Republican Party is, for all intents and purposes, a cult. The proof that the Church really isn’t one is in just how many people are now leaving it out of conscience over its leaders’ treatment of the LGBTQ community. Cult followers eat up power and cruelty. That so many have the inner moral courage to object to those with the power shows the Church is still doing something right.
People email asking what we hope to achieve in calling out the Pope’s cruelty. This was my latest attempt from this afternoon at a response:
The Catholic Church is the largest and most powerful religious organization on the planet. Where they lead others will follow. It’s time for them to admit the two thousand year old bigotry towards gay people the Bible holds is not in keeping with the teachings of Christ and has no place in the Church. If history is any guide, and it always is, the only way to change the Church is to make its current stance unsustainable and keep at it no matter what tools they deploy to distract and deflect.
People are fleeing the Church in droves over this. Their current position is already unsustainable. Now it is just a matter of how quickly we can get them to admit this.
When we first set out to promote marriage equality in earnest it only had an approval rating in the low twenties percentile. I remember having a conversation with David Carter, my longest lifetime friend and Penzeys COO, who more than makes up for my weaknesses as Penzeys CEO. Our sense at the time was marriage equality was a thirty-year project, but we agreed if our efforts could shave one day off that thirty years we will have done well. It ultimately only took fifteen years. We weren’t that entire difference by any means, but what we learned is once you show people something better, their desire for that better thing can overcome obstacles that at first sure seem to be mountains.
To me this Church project has that same thirty-year feel to it. But who knows? Change is inevitable. At this point the Catholic Church is not child safe. No one knows which four-year-old sitting quietly in a pew will go on to be that ten-year-old already fully understanding what part of the LGBTQ spectrum God has placed them on. For that child to sit unsupported through all the tales of hell and accusations of their love being sin, there can seem to be no way out. For any church to do this to a child that is exactly how God made them is nothing short of child abuse.
A church that is not safe for children has no future. Ultimately the choice will have to be a loving God and the compassion of Christ or keeping alive the bigotry of two thousand years ago. Both here is not an option. That better Catholic Church is inevitable. The only question is, how many more LGBTQ+ young people will be pushed over the edge before that happens. The Church leaders know what this is doing to attendance and membership. It’s time for them to find that same inner moral courage of those with the strength to leave and make the changes God is clearly forcing their hand to make.
But until that time it has to be regular pressure because that’s what history has shown to work. So, the Pope saying God believes gay love a sin while knowing full well God is actually the creator of gay love, is that a Jerk thing to do or merely a Dill Weed (oblivious, out-of-touch, naive) thing to do? This time both is an option. Vote with your dollars. Through today Jerk Pork and Jerk Chicken & Fish and Dill Weed are half-price with all dollars going to The Trevor Project, whose kind people save the very lives the Pope has now put so cruelly at risk. Click that link to give to them directly. They will put your money to good use.
And while our Jerk and Dill inventory is kind of depleted at this point, we are still well-stocked with our regularly $2.49-$5.95 Rainbow Spices for just $2 each and once again all dollars here go to the Trevor Project. Midnight is also your last chance for a free $3.95 Choose Love Magnet and $9.95 Embrace Hope Pin with any purchase. We added this free $13.90 combined value to nudge you into buying something that starts you supporting the Trevor Project and have you taking another step in supporting LGBTQ+ equality. You might not think you need a magnet and a pin, but these ones you do.
No coupons or codes are needed for any of these offers. Just visit us at penzeys.com. If you are planning a touchless pickup at one of our stores, you don’t need to pick up tonight, just place your order tonight and anytime in the next few days is fine.
I had hoped to share my recipe for Penzeys Curry roasted cauliflower here, but I’m already a good half hour past my deadline for these words. I promise to share my recipe this weekend when we bring the focus back to healthy for this, National Public Health Week. But on that very topic, please be sure every young person being raised in any religion that does not respect all the ways God makes people knows The Trevor Project’s 1-866-488-7386 Lifeline. A lifetime of regret sucks. Please do all you can to avoid it.
And a shorter, Pope Francis if you’re listening: Your Church needs to come with a toll-free number to stop your young people from killing themselves. Do you really envision this is what Jesus wanted the impact of his love for this world to be? Act Now. Your Time is Running Out!
Thanks for being kind enough to cook. Thanks for making us possible,
P.S. If this email did not come from us directly but was forwarded by a friend, would you please consider signing up for our email list? A business is only as good as its customers and you would make us even better. Please come help shape a world filled with every kind of very kind people. Thanks!
To which my friend wrote the following response:
You are clearly not Catholic, or at the very least, haven’t been inside a Catholic church in the past fifty years. This ongoing ad campaign is based on some kind of fantasy about Catholic teaching and preaching conjured up out of ignorance, as well as your own overwrought sense of self-importance. I suggest you turn to the Qu’ran for your next sale. It’s been around nearly as long as the Bible, and it also has some choice words about LGBTQ+, which Muslim countries throughout the world have long interpret edto mean that LGBTQ+ people should be punished by execution. Maybe you could do Middle Eastern spices, and your campaign could be about spearheading penal code reform in Iran? I’ve spent hundreds of dollars at your store over the years, on myself and on others. No more. You don’t seem to realize that you are at least as ignorant, and perhaps more attached to hatred, self-righteousness, and intolerance, as those against whom you rail in your sales campaigns. A sales strategy that cynically exploits the divisions between people is repellent to me, but, judging from the way things are going in our country, it should work very well for you. Unsubscribing.
To which Bill replied:
We are located in the States. The problem here isn’t Islam it’s the Catholic Church and those that follow its lead. But even if you want to compare numbers every year more LGBTQ people here commit suicide than have been executed in Iran in the entire forty plus years since their revolution. It really seems like your response to this needless hurt the Church is causing here and around the world is to simply holler “squirrel.” Please have a heart. These are real people being caused to needlessly suffer.
To which my friend replied:
Thank you for responding. A couple of things:
- You defend your spurious accusations against the Pope on the basis that “We are located in the States.” Your sense of Catholic Church’s power in America is exaggerated at best. Can you name an example of the actual influence the Catholic Church has on social policy in the U.S.? Gay marriage is legal. Abortion is legal. The death penalty, in many states, is legal. To suggest that the Pope — who has vocally supported same-sex civil unions — is causing LGBTQ+ teens to commit suicide because they can’t have Catholic same-sex weddings is overreaching. The Pope doesn’t actually have the power to reverse doctrine. Please educate yourself about Catholicism. You are repeating history and parroting lines straight out of the anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant Know-Nothing movement of the 19th century.
- You say that “every year more LGBTQ people here commit suicide than have been executed in Iran in the entire forty plus years since their revolution.” Can you provide a data source for this extraordinary assertion? Further, can you provide evidence that Catholic teaching on same-sex marriage has led to a single teen suicide?
- If you think people are leaving the Catholic Church because the Pope just said the Church won’t bless same-sex weddings, then you haven’t been paying attention for the past fifty-plus years. Way more people left the Church when Pope Paul VI upheld the Church’s doctrine against artificial contraception, and when his successors upheld the doctrine (related, as it happens, to the ban on same-sex Catholic marriage) that divorced Catholics can’t have subsequent Catholic weddings, and more again because of the sex-abuse scandals. People are going to keep leaving the Church, and not because the Pope said gay people can’t have sacramental Catholic marriages. People are going to keep leaving the Catholic Church for exactly the reason that you are whipping up hysteria among your customers: Catholicism — like other traditional religions, including Islam and Orthodox Judaism — proscribes its believers from doing all the things they want to do that they believe will make them happy. There’s no place for traditional morality in our modern relativist society, with its emphasis on individual happiness. This is why people leave the Church, LGBTQ+ or otherwise. Your attitude is very much founded in the Anglo-Protestant ethos of our nation’s founding: the right of the individual to seek their own happiness as the most important thing. The Catholic Church teaches that it is not the most important thing. Islam and Orthodox Judaism, likewise. Traditional religion, with its emphasis on communitarianism and solidarity, will always have an uneasy place in American culture.
- You admonish me to “please have a heart.” Really? You don’t know me. To assume that I’m heartless is just about as baseless and wild as your assumptions about the power of the Catholic Church over the lives of American LGBTQ+ teens. It defies logic to assume that, because I disagree with your illogical statements, I don’t have a heart.
- I am not hollering “squirrel,” as you put it. I am trying to point out your bad faith in drumming up sales by creating false hysteria about the insidious power of the Catholic Church in America.
As I said, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars at your store. Your response is to insult me and suggest I lack compassion. Not only is that silly, it’s also a bad business strategy. People who know something about American history and the Catholic Church also love to cook, and also might even have hearts. You might want to take a look at the response of the US Catholic bishops to the crisis at the border for the past few decades. You might want also to read up on the response of the Catholic Church to the early days of the AIDS crisis. What you find might surprise you. You clearly don’t want the business of people who disagree with you, so you can rest assured you no longer have mine. I’m sure that’s not a big deal to you. What should be a big deal, on the other hand, is the fact that you are stirring up bigotry and hatred against those who are not like you, and also that your Catholic-bashing is doing literally nothing to protect LGBTQ+ teens from suicide. Educate yourself.
To which Bill replied:
Who has hurt you to be this way? The internet gives you every possibility to connect with the world of transgender young people and all the stats of the heartbreak set in motion when they are forced into believing who God has made them is a sin. Why do you need to hurt others to feel okay about yourself?
Bill, your assumptions are really getting wild.
You launched a sales campaign based on the premise that the Pope is to blame for the suicides of LGBTQ+ youth in America, because he reasserted longstanding dogma that the RC church cannot perform same-sex marriages.
I believe your attribution of blame to the Pope is misplaced, and is based on a misunderstanding of his role, of the actually quite negligible power of the Catholic Church in American society.
Because I disagreed with you, you assume that someone has “hurt” me. Has it occurred to you that others may disagree with you not out of trauma, but on the basis of logic alone? What’s more, my disagreeing with you has nothing to do with what you believe is my “need to hurt others to feel okay about [myself].” I am asking questions, not hurting people. As Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
I asked you for sources, and you vaguely pointed me to “the internet.” That’s not convincing.
You’ve also flipped the script from focusing on hypothetical gay youths who want to have sacramental Catholic weddings, but who are denied this by Catholic church teaching, to, now, “the world of transgender young people.” You are conflating a lot of things in this email, and none of it makes much sense.
One last thing: asking for documentation is not hateful. What is hateful is your inexplicable decision to take time out of your life to repeatedly insult a formerly loyal customer.
There’s no point in me searching out information for you when you are just going to blame the Iranians or whatever batshit you want to wing out next. If you want to find it you will find it but you don’t.
This is called a tautology. You need to accept that people can disagree with you in good faith without being bad people. You also need to do some actual research before you start making false assumptions about philosophies with which you’re clearly unfamiliar.
It’s absolutely tragic and sickening that a single LGBTQ+ life should be lost to suicide. It’s also not directly attributable to Pope Francis. Both of these things can be true at the same time.
For you to refuse to present evidence because “you are just going to blame the Iranians or whatever batshit you want to wing out next” is a tacit admission that your argument is just plain weak. As are your repeated attempts to evade my questions and revert to insulting me, a complete stranger, who, again, has given you 100s of dollars of my hard-earned money.
Your ad campaign is based on false and misleading information about the Catholic Church. The Pope has repeatedly spoken of LGBTQ+ people with love and compassion. The RC church can’t perform gay weddings. Pope Francis’s inability to reverse 2000 years of church teaching in order to make people happy does not mean he does not love LGBTQ+ people. Again: both of these things are true. No amount of selling spices is going to change that.
About love: Up until now, I believed your company stood for it, and against hatred and division. Heck, I even have your “Kind” and “Heal the world” magnets and bumper stickers on car–and it’s a Subaru!
But, because I expressed disagreement with your campaign– which I believe is divisive–you’ve been vicious to me. To use your formulation, who has hurt you that you would need to hurt others in order to feel okay about yourself? Where is the love?
I sincerely hope you’ll leave me alone now, and focus on selling spices only to people who agree with you about everything.
There is nothing good faith in what you have sent me. You feel it’s okay to hurt people who aren’t like you and then string together nonsense like it means something. I don’t believe you fit the traditional definition of a good person.
And finally, my friend:
Nope. I’ve hurt no one. I’ve disagreed with you, and explained why I think your ad campaign is divisive and hateful.
For the record, I’m a lifelong Democratic voter. When right-wing people viciously attack those who disagree with them, you call it hate. When you do the same thing, you seem to believe it’s compassion.
You don’t know me. But, because I expressed disagreement with your ad campaign, which I believe is based in ignorance, and in the kind of anti-Catholic bigotry that saw churches burned and immigrants attacked in the 19th century, you’ve deliberately and repeatedly attempted to hurt me through baseless insults and attacks on my character. Does this behavior make you “the traditional definition of a good person”?
To be clear once more: I disagree with your ad campaign.
As a longtime customer, one feels that one has some kind of buy-in with a company with which one identifies, and feels it’s a legitimate response to contact that company when it does something that one believes is misguided.
On the basis of my disagreement — which I’ve put in historical and theological contexts — you suggest that I’m a bad person.
If a bad person is someone who thinks your arguments are specious and your behavior bizarre, then I accept that.
I will not stoop to your level and insult you. I don’t know you personally, and I have no basis on which to insult your character, the way you persist in doing to me — a COMPLETE STRANGER and LOYAL CUSTOMER. I think your attacks are totally unhinged, but that’s between you and your therapist, and I will not judge you based on them. Nevertheless, if this is “healing the world,” one can only say, with the ancient Greeks, “Physician, heal thyself.”
Rest assured I will not buy from you again, which should satisfy you, since you’ve made it clear that you don’t want people who disagree with you as customers.
I will also be sure to forward this exchange to my social circles (and, mind you, as a grad-school educated lifelong Democrat who works in higher ed, my social circles are your prime buying demographic).
Please don’t contact me again.
And there you have it. What a lovely time to be alive. Have a nice day!