Dear Madeleine, Dale, Rachel and Louis:
I've decided to start writing posts to and for you. Sure, eventually you're going to be able to read this blog (and your Mom's) in full, but that's not necessarily the best snapshot of what I think on a particular issue, even if I happen to be addressing it. Blogs are blogs--they aren't epistles, or essays, or anything so formal as that, and occasionally I think I need to be more formal, or at least talk to you directly.
I guess I've been inspired by two models: the late Professor Randy Pausch, who recorded "life lessons" for his three young children as he was dying of cancer and (2) the advice given by European monarchs such as King St. Louis IX and Emperor Manuel II to their heirs. Not that your Dad has any such delusions of grandeur, elevating himself into such august company, they are merely an inspiration. Oh, and rest assured that while I haven't been in the best of health lately, I'm not expecting to shuffle off this mortal coil prematurely. But I do want to leave you with something from me to you that you may find useful in life.
I'm not sure when you are going to be reading these, so if you are doing so really early on and stumble on some of the words, here's my advice: the dictionary is on the shelf behind the chair you are sitting on.
Today's letter is on hate. Specifically, being hated for being Catholic. I'm going to start out without fanfare. Take a good long look at this photo:
Yes, Sprout, that thing with the nail through it sure looks like a consecrated Host similar to the one you received last month at your First Communion. The very same Body of Christ which you were ecstatic to receive and which we as a family and parish celebrated with you on that blessed Sunday.
Yep, someone decided to drive a nail through it, toss it into the trash and take a picture of it. Along with trashing what appears to be a page from a Koran (though this is not at all clear: Muslims don't regard translations as actual Korans, which I will explain to you when you get to comparative religion) and a page from something called "The God Delusion," a book which purports to conclusively prove that religious belief is a form of mass hysteria which should be cleansed from the human mind. We'll give that notion a whirl in comparative religion, too.
You're shocked, and you should be. I was and still am to a certain extent.
This is the man who did it, Mr. Paul Z. Myers, a biology professor from a small public college in Minnesota which touts an endorsement from Cosmo Girl! at the top of its kudos page.
As you may have noticed by now, your Dad thinks the rapier is an excellent writing tool.
In addition to being an employee of the State of Minnesota, Mr. Myers is a world class jerk who decided he simply had to desecrate a Catholic Eucharist. I know--try to be nice, Dad. Another lesson--sometimes the only words that fit are the harsh ones.
Why did he do it? Well, if you follow this link (DON'T do it yet), you'll read a lot of finger-pointing about Catholic persecution of Jews, the Fourth Lateran Council and so forth. Given Mr. Myers' resolute pig-ignorance about religion and his non-Catholic upbringing, it is unlikely in the extreme that he'd ever heard of the history he cites in his extended fart-lighting (uh--I'll explain much, much later--outside of your mother's earshot. Preferably the Upper Peninsula) rant. It's likely that he cribbed it entirely from Wikipedia, which is to serious, in-depth study what Ripple is to Dom Perignon. By the way, champagne is another fine Catholic invention.
Wikipedia--use in moderation.
Then again, moderation is not a virtue the Myerses of the world possess.
Which is not to say that Catholics haven't in the past done horrible things to Jews. Far from it--they certainly have. Even in the recent past, I'm appalled to say. Remember what I've told you about Hitler and the Second World War, and how he tried to exterminate the Jewish people? Some of Hitler's supporters were baptized Catholics, and even Hitler himself was, though he thoroughly hated Christianity by the time he came to power. We must always remember that horrible history and to try to make up for, in our own way, the evil actions of our forebears. One of the underlying rules of Confession is that you can never whitewash the past. To try to do so is lying. The same applies in our dealings with other people. And we have to try to remember and imitate the Catholics of the time who saw that hatred of Jews was evil and fought it, like one of my favorite Saints, Hugh of Lincoln.
But since there is no hint of violence against Jews today based on desecration of the Eucharist (if there had been, Mr. Myers would have trumpeted it with delight), this is grandstanding on his part. He whipped up an after-the-fact excuse to justify his actions, probably to ward off the alleged grown-ups who are supposed to be supervising his employment as a salaried worker for the State of Minnesota.
The thing that really set him off was an incident where a grown man had his arm grabbed by a much smaller woman at a student Mass in Florida after he tried to walk off with the Body of Christ. Then the guy in question started lying about what happened. And then some well-intentioned but wrong-headed loud Catholic guy decided to make it a national crisis. No, really. It's that stupid. Then Mr. Myers, who claims that reason should trump all, didn't bother to investigate the particulars of what really happened before going, well, berserk.
By the way, Mr. Myers and his noisy religion-hating friends call themselves "brights."
So, Mr. Myers decided that the grown-up way to address the situation was to ask one of his fellow "brights" to "score" him a consecrated Host so that he could wreak vengeance for this heinous arm-grabbing at a Mass 1500 miles away. The bottom line is that he had someone lie (because we don't just give the hosts to everyone, as you know from your First Communion, Maddie) and take the Eucharist from a parish that offered it in good faith, expecting good faith in return. A parish that almost certainly does more charitable work in a year than Myers and his dishonest drone will do in a lifetime, I have to add.
All so that he, as a droll Catholic commenter noted, could demonstrate the superiority of pure reason by gleefully assaulting a foodstuff. To the triumphant howls of fellow "rationalists."
All righty, then.
The horror for us is that he abused the trust of a Catholic parish and then desecrated a consecrated Host. Probably.
Or maybe just possibly. Remember, you shouldn't trust the word of people who will readily turn to lies to achieve their aims.
Regardless, Mr. Myers' behavior shows pure hatred at work. That's what hate does, children: it presumes the worst of the hated, always and everywhere, and reacts accordingly. It also is an example of Dad's favorite form of bleak humor at work--irony. [Which, I suspect, has to be God's favorite form of humor since we see so much of it.] This is man-is-the-measure-of-all-things reason at work?
Now, Mr. Myers and his fellow "brights" claim they don't hate Catholics. They just hate Catholicism. Which merits the following response: Bullshit.
Yes, I know--language. Your mom will tell you I have gotten better. But once again, the harsh response is best. Go ahead--take a look at this, which was Mr. Myers' original explosion, the comments there and then look the link I originally told you not to read. Make sure you read all of the comments, use your God-given reason and see if you can believe that Mr. Myers and his bright friends don't really hate us.
That's hate right there, kids. Hate. Fangs bared and slavering. They hate us. Not so much you right now, as you are young children. But they certainly hate me and your mother for our act of "child abuse," meaning that we teach you the Catholic faith. Or, as the ever cool-headed and reasonable Mr. Myers puts it:
And if I wanted to be so evil that I would commit a devastating crime against the whole of the human race, twisting the minds of children into ignorance and hatred, I would be promoting the indoctrination of religion in children's upbringing, and fomenting hatred against anyone who dared speak out in defiance.
You want to know the really hilarious thing? I think he's serious.
Remember, kids--this is a "science" blog. It says so right in the URL. Note also how he squeals about other people
fomenting hatred" in his run-on sentence accusing religious parents of the worst possible crime in human history. At least in his book. Which is apparently written with crayons.
So much irony that magnets are confused and spinning.
It's abundantly clear he hates my guts and your mother's, our catechism lessons being a crime against humanity and all. Yet his heart is without hate for us. Sure.
Not to mention that this claim is absolutely contrary to reason. You cannot have a deep-seated, furious loathing for religion and the teaching of it and not have this spill over to a hatred of the faithful adherents to same.
Rest assured, the older you get, the more you will be fair game to the Myersian haters. Who, I am bleakly amused to inform you, will invariably march under a banner reading "Tolerance." Again, irony. I'm sorry to say that it will probably happen sooner rather than later, given how little our society respects and gives a breathing space to childhood these days.
What I'm going to tell you next requires maturity and balance. You can be angry about this, but you cannot let your anger turn into hate. Otherwise, you'll just end up looking like a hopelessly angry ranting old man who thinks ripping pages from books and putting rusty nails through Hosts makes him a better person than you.
No, you cannot hate.
Just because a person believes the wrong thing and even acts upon it in a certain way does not mean he deserves hatred. As I've explained, an atheist is a person who does not believe that God exists. There are a variety of reasons for this, but it boils down to the fact that they don't think there's any good evidence supporting this belief. There are days when I sympathize with this a great deal. I've had periods of doubt, and I don't know how well my faith would survive shock, to be honest with you. But, in the end, I end up believing in God and that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. In another letter or letters I'll go into the whys and wherefores of that, including the "Why Catholic?" question.
For the purposes of this letter, it is enough to say I'm on the opposite side of the atheists. But I believe many of their arguments deserve respect and that their persons always deserve respect, as long as they act within the bounds of the law and human decency. I'll make this easy for you: there are plenty of atheists who live worthy lives and make our world a better place. Let's start with your Aunt Diane and Uncle Mark, two very admirable and caring people that you would do well to imitate on a number of levels, starting with their integrity, concern for others, care for the environment and for abused animals.
Now on to some names you don't know: Mr. Nat Hentoff is a fervent defender of our constitutional freedoms and a champion of the right to life. The man is fearlessly honest, even when he doesn't necessarily like where the evidence is taking him.
The late Sidney Hook, whose autobiography is in our library, stood against communism and other threats to liberty at great personal cost. Oh, and another lesson--you don't have to agree with everything a man writes to admire his intellectual courage and integrity.
And finally, there is a friend of our family and frequent visitor to this site, Mr. Steve Stirling. He doesn't believe, but he respects what Catholic belief has helped to build. And he writes great stories, which the world can always use more of.
Remember these folks, and the fact there are many more like them. You could do far worse than to imitate their virtues.
In other words, do not equate atheists with "brights."
Now what to do about Mr. Myers and those who shrieked their approval or made excuses for his behavior? First and foremost, prayer. Not just for them, but also for ourselves that we will respond appropriately and not with the inexcusable hostility of some of those who were angered enough to send threats. Prayer is never the last resort, it is the first.
Second, your mother and I will continue to build our dossier for the inevitable Myersberg Trials by passing on our faith in Jesus Christ and the teachings and beauties of the Catholic Faith to you. Just knowing the "brights" regard it in such a deranged light gives me an additional incentive to be thorough. I've decided to call it the Secondhand Incense Effect.
Third, when you face this hatred (I'm afraid it's only going to get worse), take a little holy pride in it and rejoice. We have it on good authority that it's a good thing. And remember the hard part--to love your enemies. It doesn't mean not being angry with what they do, nor does it mean acquiescing to violence against you or others, but it's not optional.
Someone pointed out this exchange from the film version of The Two Towers (maybe when you're ten), and I think it's an excellent take on this and other assaults on our faith:
Theoden: What can men do against such reckless hate?
Aragorn: Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them.
Theoden: For death and glory?
Aragorn: For Rohan. For your people.
We are not to cower. We are not to run away. Even--especially--when the odds appear the bleakest. We are to go forth into battle, noting that those who attack us are not, in the ultimate sense, our enemies. They are, regardless of how they feel about it, sinners for whom Christ died, and people for whom we should desire the joy we have and the ultimate good of salvation.
For His people.
If they won't have that, and they won't be civil, then they'll just have to suffer as we show them that the Faith is alive indeed, and will not go away, will not retreat from the public square. Just imagine how nuts they will get with that.
Finally, live joyously and don't whine. Avoiding the latter alone will make you stand out in our crabbed day and age. Remember, the victory is won, even if the other guys get the occasional first down or even manage to string a drive together. Joy is infectious--try it and you'll see.
I love you all, with all my heart,