the fine line between religious passion and hate-filled judgments

Behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Luke 10:3

I don’t want any wolf encounters! I hate confrontation. I lack courage. I have no desire to stand firmly and stare down a vicious, teeth-baring opponent.

It seems that I was being attacked by a pack of wolves on the Catholic blogosphere several months ago. I didn’t know about it then. And I wish I didn’t know about it now.

It all started with a blog post that I wrote for the National Catholic Reporter. A section of that post was taken out of context and viciously attacked by a blogger. Based on the tone of this blog, it seems that the author and the followers are passionate Catholics. They are also passionate in “spotting the heresy”. They don’t like the independent, more liberal NCR so I was an easy prey. I don’t want to share the links (yes, the article was shared among several blogs of this nature), because I don’t want to give them more notoriety than they deserve.

I learned a few things about myself through the eyes of these concerned Catholics. Apparently, I am spreading calumny and false witness. I am claiming that we are all irrational animals. Oh, and I’m a militant atheist. The biggest chuckle was the assumption that I received a raise in salary for this article.

I went back to re-read the offending article that I wrote. Perhaps I wasn’t clear in my message, and left too much room for misinterpretation? No. The point of my article, if you read it in its entirety, was to encourage more compassion, understanding and inclusivity in our church, and less judgment towards those who cannot accept all her teachings. Apparently the message was lost on these good folks, but I still stand by it and will continue to promote it.

Perhaps I should be proud that my writing was considered worthy enough for such detailed analysis and heated discussion. But, I’m not. I’m saddened by the tone of men and women who call themselves Catholic and yet reflect such a lack of Christian charity. There is no desire for dialogue or mutual understanding. There is only the desire to wave high the banner of orthodoxy in order to beat others with it.

There is a lesson to be learned. I may not always agree with something someone has said or written, but I must strive to be fair in my own commentaries. After all, the purpose of a commentary is to ponder and continue the dialogue begun by the other. Whenever we put our words out there, we allow them to be judged. But, we can disagree in a respectful way. Disagreeing with an idea should not morph into vindictive hatred of the person or be used to merely feed the already simmering angers in others – regardless of where you are on the trad-lib scale.

No, I don’t want to be a meek and mild lamb. I will continue writing, with a renewed conviction to keep my writing fair and balanced. But, I won’t be expending my energy fighting wolves.

9 thoughts on “the fine line between religious passion and hate-filled judgments

  1. There have been several articles in the Wall Street Journal about this very issue–why people are so rude and belligerent in their comments on blogs and other social media arenas. Usually these people would never think of responding so rudely or vitriolically in person. Has to do with the anonymity of typing in the privacy of your home or office and not feeling the social norms that would control such outbursts in a more public settings. . Such a shame! I continue to be appalled by the personal meanness in some comments on the NCR board. In any other venue it would be called bullying.

  2. I couldn’t agree more, Marceta. And I also agree that the NCR discussion boards have become even nastier recently. Some think it’s because of the new Disqus program that was introduced. Previously, the discussion board was moderated post by post. Now, all posts are published immediately – although anyone can flag a post to bring it to the attention of the editors. My articles usually don’t garner too many responses….perhaps a good thing! 😉

    The blogs that I was referring to in this article were especially puzzling. The web-sites were decorated with a profusion of pious pictures and religious images, yet filled with such hateful discourse. It’s a wonder that the readers didn’t notice the irony. Sigh…

    I’m so thankful for the voices of reason, like yours, that visit this blog and enrich the dialogue!

  3. All I can say is that they’re not very Christlke.
    I read your blog regularly, and, always, find that your words are exactly what I would say, had I your ability to just say it…
    You’re not alone in loving Jesus and his Church the way you do.
    Your faith, your insights, your indignation, your joy keep me going.

  4. Hi Isabella. I remember when I was new at writing blogs that I came across your site, and I decided to take a chance by asking you what you thought about my article. It was how we met! I knew I had written an article on a touchy subject, yet, you and others were compassionate about the topic.

    I don’t agree with your statement that you “lack courage.” Writing a blog and “putting yourself out there” often takes courage! It means we take a risk every time we click “publish.” We know that we become vulnerable once a part of ourselves is set free for others to examine.

    I’m truly appreciative of the stand you’ve taken here. There is a big difference in
    offering insight and being incite-ful. (Yes, a deliberate twist on the words!) Like you, I do not wish to give voice and to continue a conversation when it becomes toxic. Perhaps some will think they have won when there is no come-back. I prefer to think that I have made a choice not to buy into a dialogue where there is no edification and no dignity.

    I’ll also say that there have been a couple of times when I’ve respectfully disagreed with you! Still, that is the beauty of your blog! It always makes me think. It gives me the chance to learn about someone else’s point of view and, yes, to have a dialogue with others of the same faith.

    We are all on the same journey. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we all could walk together in peace?

    Stand firm, sister! As I said, you have more courage than you realize!

  5. “There is a big difference in offering insight and being incite-ful. (Yes, a deliberate twist on the words!) Like you, I do not wish to give voice and to continue a conversation when it becomes toxic. Perhaps some will think they have won when there is no come-back. I prefer to think that I have made a choice not to buy into a dialogue where there is no edification and no dignity.”

    Beautifully said, Cathy! Your blog is one of such positive energy, adding to goodness in our world – where goodness is too often in short supply.

    And now, dear friend….about disagreeing…. Please don’t ever hesitate to challenge what I write. The whole idea behind dialogue is to share our differences. And, I know that you would always do so in a respectful manner. I would love to have lively conversations on this blog. Perhaps, together, we can model to others what real dialogue is.

    Happy Sunday to you!

    1. Hi Isabella! It’s rare that I disagree with you but I would look forward to having a dialogue. If I remember correctly the last time this happened, I was pondering your post for some time, so I probably wandered off (literally) then just didn’t get back to writing a reply to you! Peace. 🙂

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