Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Last Respectable Bigotry

     This being the Easter season, Christians must expect two things:

  1. People who only attend Mass on Christmas and Easter will pack the churches;
  2. The tide of anti-Christian bigotry among our “elites” will swell, as it does every year.

     Item #1 puzzles me. It always has. There’s a Sunday once in every week. If your faith matters to you at all, you should put in an appearance at Mass. Why only on Christmas and Easter? Are you there to worship, or to show off your new coat, purse, and shoes?

     Item #2 isn’t puzzling at all. Christians are notable among religious faiths for being (mostly) adherents to Christ’s dictum from the Sermon on the Mount:

     You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust. For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? do not even the publicans this? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? do not also the heathens this? Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.[Matthew 5:43-48, Douay-Rheims translation]

     Even when we depart from the wisdom of the Redeemer, we tend to feel really guilty about it. [“Catholic Guilt” is good for some things.]

     But from the scoffers of the elite, we get derision, slanders, and baseless accusations. We get demands that we cleave to their notions about marriage and abortion rather than ours. We get proclamations from graceless academics that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and Redeemer of Mankind, was “a drag king with gay desires.” We’re condemned for not being “tolerant” of homosexuals and Muslims who routinely desecrate our sacred services and despoil the consecrated Host. We’ve even been accused of being the real murderers of Christ, because some of us, some of the time, depart from His teachings.

     But we do little more than dissent. We certainly don’t do what the Muslims do – and it’s well known how reluctant our “glitterati” are to mock them. The Redeemer wouldn’t like it.

     Anti-Christian bigotry is the last bigotry to be practiced openly in these United States by persons of high public repute. (Note that last qualifier: though members of the “alt-Right” have been trying to resurrect anti-Semitism, these are not “persons of high public repute,” unless it be bad repute.) In part it’s an artifact of the coastal sociocultural “bubble,” which generally excludes Christians. In equal or larger measure, it’s because Christians don’t exact a price for such calumnies. We don’t boycott or hold street protests. We certainly don’t behead.

     No, it’s not the only sort of bigotry in the world. It’s just the only one that won’t get you disinvited to the cocktail parties and society soirees.

     The greatest of ironies arise when a bigot is attacked by his fellow bigots for not sharing some other au courant bigotry. I find it amusing when a notable anti-Christian gets backhanded by one of “his sort.” The recent contretemps between Sam Harris (The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation) and Ezra Klein of Vox infamy, over some observations Harris had made about Herrnstein and Murray’s The Bell Curve, was particularly delicious. It greatly puzzled Harris. Hadn’t he already established his credentials for being a member of “the better sort” by condemning Christianity, embracing left-liberalism, and denigrating Sarah Palin? It didn’t puzzle me: “the better sort” are always tightening the criteria for inclusion among them. The value of being part of the “in crowd” is inversely proportional to the size of that crowd.

     So we get phenomena such as John Legend’s scandalous remake of “Jesus Christ, Superstar,” the original of which was bad enough, and unfunny professional clown Stephen Colbert putting anti-Christian blasphemies into the mouth of a cartoon version of Donald Trump. These are persons of no discernible worth determined to feel superior to someone. As we’re the target least likely to take vengeance, they take aim at us grubby Christians. There’s no other explanation for their caperings.

     An early edition of Dale Carnegie’s famous tome How to Win Friends and Influence People contains a piercing summation about the human need to feel superior to others:

     Do you feel that you are superior to the Japanese? The truth is that the Japanese consider themselves far superior to you. A conservative Japanese, for example, is infuriated at the sight of a white man dancing with a Japanese lady.
     Do you consider yourself superior to the Hindus in India? That is your privilege; but a million Hindus feel themselves so superior to you that they wouldn’t befoul themselves by condescending to touch food that your heathen shadow had fallen across and contaminated.
     Do you feel yourself superior to the Eskimos? Again, that is your privilege; but would you really like to know what the Eskimo thinks of you? Well there are a few native hoboes among the Eskimos, worthless bums who refuse to work. The Eskimos call them “white men”—that being their utmost term of contempt.
     Each nation feels itself superior to other nations. That breeds patriotism—and wars.
     The unvarnished truth is that every man you meet feels superior to you in some way....[A]nd the pathetic part of it is that frequently those who have the least justification for a feeling of achievement bolster up their inner feeling of inadequacy by an outward shouting and tumult and conceit that are offensive and truly nauseating.

     I consider it noteworthy that that passage was removed from later editions of Carnegie’s book.

     Christianity is unconcerned with superiority. It’s about gratitude, contrition for our sins and failings, and the quest for salvation. It’s the only faith truly fit for human allegiance: the faith that proclaims that God is Love, that He donned the flesh to demonstrate His love for us, and that the path to eternal bliss is neither sacrifice nor conquest, but the reciprocation of that love to Him and to the creatures made in His image:

     But the Pharisees hearing that he had silenced the Sadducees, came together: And one of them, a doctor of the law, asking him, tempting him: Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?
     Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

     [The Gospel According To Matthew, 22:34-40, Douay-Rheims translation]

     Clearly, it’s perfectly safe to hate and deride someone who believes that.



Christians, yes, but not just Christians. People of visible faith in general.

I wear a kippa. I was told by no less than three "job search professionals" that I should not wear it on interviews, because of all those - paraphrased with some sarcasm salted in - "annoying Jewish holidays" and so on.


One other recollection about that advice. Two of those three specifically counseled me that, here in the northeast at least, people are suspicious of those who are "too religious".

As far as I'm concerned, I'm not religious enough!!

Ironically, not quite totally non-sequitur but close... the only incident of open anti-Semitism I've ever had was here in New England. Meanwhile, when I was in "deepest darkest red-state Texas and Louisiana" I had ZERO negative comments; I did, however, get peppered with questions like:

1. Why don't you eat shrimp (a capital offense in Louisiana!)?
2. Why can't you have a cheeseburger?
3. What is the meaning of that hat?

And in a restaurant one night, in a town in Texas so small you need to know where to look - and squint - to find it, a child's voice from behind me:

"Mommy, what's that funny hat that man is wearing?"

"That's how he shows he loves G-d, now be quiet before he hears you."

Cute. In 20/20 hindsight I should have gone over, but oh well.