Friday, November 12, 2010

Here we go again...

Just got the first breaths of the latest holiday tradition. You know what I mean: the billboards from our agnostic and unbelieving brethren. Not that they're offering good wishes of "peace on earth, good will to men." No, it's not that transcendent, usually. The campaigns are typically pouty, petulant and even snarky. Defensive to the point of being offensive, sometimes.

Truth to tell, what I think really bothers me is that the Christianity these ads attack (and they quite often are "attack" ads) is just your stereotypical fundamentalism, which sees the whole world (and everyone in it) as unredeemed, apart from any explicit confession of Christ.
Since fundamentalism is barely 100 years old, this allows the ad sponsors to claim the entire intellectual history of Western Civilization (Christian civilization in the west) as their own while conveniently ignoring its Christian sources. The generations of monks who pursued ultimate wisdom, preserving and studying ancient texts, founding the first universities, fostering technological inventions and science as we know it? Replaced by a single bible quote taken out of context. Honestly, the intellectual dishonesty is a bit much to swallow. Especially from a group that is claiming the intellectual high ground.
As someone who has (on more than one occasion) been buttonholed by an earnest evangelist ("Are you saved?"), I suppose I can identify with the defensiveness that is so apparent in some of the ad slogans. I can even understand that they might come to believe that Christians' primary motivation in life has to do with judgment and guilt (although...might that be projection?). Maybe the sponsors of the ads don't know enough to realize that a Catholic worldview is something quite different. (Would it hurt them to do a little homework?)
Well, I for one would like to take the occasion to invite our secular humanists brothers and sisters to a celebration of God's humanism. We call it "Christmas." The focal point is a child, as human a value as they come. And his motto is "Peace on earth, good will to men."
Is that really something to pout about?

I'm thinking of submitting this post to the Chicago Tribune for its spirituality blog; am I coming across in too hostile or snarky a manner myself? Help me revise!


Julie said...

I was thinking the exact same thing! I was actually going to type one up this weekend using the CCC. I can send it you. In terms of this post, I think you are making very valid points.

After the part about intellectual dishonesty/ high ground, I think that part could be cleaned up, but you make good points about not understanding the Catholic worldview. And I don't think they are pouting. I think they are legitimately trying to take the high ground as a replacement for Christianity. They are the "kind" ones; we are the judgemental and harsh ones.

I think you should submit something. God bless!

Anonymous said...

Oh, perhaps a bit ruffled but certainly not snarky. The usual roster of malcontents who respond in an ugly manner to your posts will continue to do so regardless of how "unsnarky" you are. Don't worry about them. They have their panties in a twist.

K T Cat said...

Sister, I'd be glad to help. I've done a bit of thinking about this on my own blog and have come to the conclusion that the modern atheist / agnostic is essentially a Utilitarian. The actual application of Utilitarianism never works well.

More thoughts on your post later after I have some time to digest it.

K T Cat said...

Here's my first take on the actual text.

You're conceding waaay too much ground here. "the Christianity these ads attack (and they quite often are "attack" ads) is just your stereotypical fundamentalism, which sees the whole world (and everyone in it) as unredeemed, apart from any explicit confession of Christ."

I wouldn't give that view of Christianity any credibility at all any more than you would assert that since some atheists are pedophiles, a significant portion of atheists support pedophilia. In other words, the people with these billboards are creating a cartoon version of Christianity which, for all practical purposes, does not exist.

That's no small point. Bradley Wright is an evangelical. He's typical of the evangelicals I know. If you stop by his blog, you'll find him clever, understanding and intelligent. By conceding anything about fundamentalism, you're giving away people like Brad. Instead, I'd go after the caricature itself and concede absolutely nothing.

We recently has someone from Rachel's Hope come and talk during Mass. If you could work that in as an example of how Catholics are called to forgive and comfort even those who have committed horrible sins, I think it would be a pretty potent way of disabling the whole "angry Christians" meme.

Thanks for posting this and giving us a chance to help. I hope this is somewhat useful to you.

Sr Anne said...

Thanks so much! I have my work cut out for me!
I think my focus on the fundamentalist stereotypes comes from two sources: my experiences here in Chicago where we have a street preacher (with a portable amplifier) who is heavy into warnings of harsh judgment, and another guy in a van (with exterior speakers) who drives up and down Michigan Avenue earnestly preaching salvation. And I was trying to figure out if there was some provocation that leads to the defensiveness in the secular humanist ad campaigns. You know, are some of the brethren bringing this upon the flock unawares? But I do have much reflection and refinement to do before ever submitting this to the Tribune. Thanks again!

K T Cat said...

Maybe it would work best to express sadness over the ads' misunderstanding of Christianity and then invite them to participate in some charitable event such as Rachel's Hope. The reason I like that one so much is that it completely refutes the attack by exhibiting understanding, love, forgiveness and charity to people that agnostics and atheists wouldn't expect. I'll bet you have better examples, though.

Sr Anne said...

Thanks for the great idea; it goes beyond the immediate issue in a very constructive way.

K T Cat said...

Sister, I'm doing the easy part.