And Another Thing…

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Unleavened atheists

A student at the University of Central Florida apparently violated Catholic doctrine by smuggling a piece of Eucharist out of a Mass. For those not in the know, our Roman friends believe that after a priest blesses the wafer and it is consumed by the parishioner, it somehow transmogrifies, literally, into the body of Christ (likewise, the same thing happens to the wine, which becomes Christ’s blood of course). 

Some Catholics the world over have gone buggy nuts over this, up to and including making death threats against said student. Bill Donahue of the Catholic League, Catholicism’s number one ambulance-chaser, has called for the student’s expulsion.

But that’s not all. Outspoken atheist P.Z. Myers, of the science blog Pharyngula, responded by asking for his readers to score him a piece of Eucharist and mail it to him so that he could somehow abuse it or treat with disdain, then post the fun on his blog (how he plans to violate the wafer I don’t know and don’t want to know). Of course, Donahue is now calling for Myers to be disciplined by his employer, the University of Minnesota at Morris, including censure or dismissal.

I can’t help but find all of this somewhat amusing. Donahue has always made me laugh, given his penchant for decrying every snide remark, every joke made at Catholicism’s expense, as the end of western civilization and an attack on Catholicism and Christianity in general blah, blah, blah. He also seems to take pride in using the mass (no pun intended) of Catholics in the U.S. to bully and intimidate everyone he has issue with. Truly the love of Christ being lived out in our troubled world. 

On the other hand, Myers is equally amusing. A respected biology professor, he utilizes most of the space on his blog for ranting about faith in general and Christianity in particular. It’s the same old stuff that stinks up the internet…believers are nuts, stupid, cruel; believers hate science; religion is the source of all of the world’s problems, etc. His tone is dogmatic, condescending, and nasty. Many of the sycophants who frequent his blog and the few who actually know him say that in person he is warm, gentle, and gregarious. If it is true that he uses his blog to say things that he wouldn’t say in person, then he is a coward. Sorry kids, but in my mind that is the only word for using your blog (or commenting on other’s blogs) as an avenue to say things that you wouldn’t say to a person’s face. I resolved when I started blogging not to do that, and so far I have kept my word.

I grew up surrounded by Catholics, I have close friendships with Catholics, I have attended Mass, and I have read the works of some fine Catholic theologians. But I still have never really gotten Catholicism. I don’t understand how any Catholic can feel threatened by someone swiping a piece of communion bread or someone violating it. For the sake of discussion, let’s say that the wafer does become the literal body of Christ. If Myers were to get a hold of a wafer and do something to it, isn’t that really on Myers? Won’t God square all of this in His own right? Are the calls for expulsion and dismissal, the death threats, and the general carrying on really necessary?

I don’t intend to make light of the deep offense, even hurt, that Catholics may feel because of these actions. One facet of our faith that many non-believers don’t seem to get (or don’t care about) is that committing to Christ means integrating discipleship into our very being; it’s not just what we do (which is religion) but who we are.  I know from more experience than I care to recall what it feels like when people ridicule your faith. But I have no sympathy for Donahue, his ilk, or for those making death threats against the UCF student or Myers. Nothing justifies associating faith in Christ with demanding a pound of flesh. Jesus taught a different way altogether.

And finally, the power and presence of God does not rest in material items. Our Lord is not some weak mystical entity that can be undone through some lame attempt at sacrilege. The created hold no power over the creator.

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8 Responses

  1. odgie says:

    Thank you Micah.

  2. Adam G. says:

    Very good post. I was raised Catholic and when offenses happen like taking the communion wafer for purposes of degrading the church I still get my hackles raised. It’s a remnant, I suppose, of my upbringing.

    Over a decade ago a Pentecostal pastor on national television in Brazil got a large image (statue) of the patron saint of Brazil on stage with him. He walked around it, kicking and smacking it and quoting Scripture against idols. Trouble for him was that his behavior was actually forbidden under the Brazilian constitution. There, free speech does not extend to sacrilege. He spent some time in jail, I believe, but the impact of his actions went completely awry from what he had planned. Many, including myself, attribute the rebirth of Brazilian Catholicism, especially embodied in the Charismatic movement, to the popular reaction against what this pastor did.

  3. odgie says:

    Adam – Thanks for the comment. I didn’t know that you were raised Catholic. From Catholicism to the c of C to the Christian church; nobody can say you haven’t been there.

    That is an interesting story about the Pentecostal pastor and the fallout from his broadcast.

    And I don’t blame you for getting your hackles raised. Although I don’t share Catholic beliefs about the Eucharist, I still take no pleasure in seeing something that they hold sacred being debased like that.

    I also feel sorry for the vast majority of Catholics who are being declared guilty by association with Bill Donahue and the nuts who are making death threats.

  4. Preacherman says:

    Does not Acts 2:40-ff tell use of the community they shared and that they “Broke bread daily”. I am sure that some of those who took part of the ritual of sacrament were not believers. It may have even have been a tool to teach the good news to those who were not believers. Yes, evangelsim. I believe this is one of your best posts of all Ogdie.

  5. Jerri Harrington says:

    Very good post, Mike. I think the saddest thing about all of hatred associated with belief and unbelief is that Jesus wanted His followers to love one another so that the whole world would know that we are His disciples. Disrespect of another man’s faith in Jesus, regardless of how misguided that person’s beliefs may be is contrary to the heart of the gospel. When Jesus’ disciples wanted to make people that were not “of them” to stop spreading the word about Jesus, Jesus admonished them, “Who are you to judge another man’s servant?” It was disrespectful and contemptuous of those students to steal communion, but it is more contemptuous for there to be death threats made by those who claim to follow Christ. I think there is a lesson there for those of us who claim restoration to New Testament Christianity, too. Should we murder one another with our speech and by withholding love for one another and judging each other, when we find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue? My husband tells me that what I want us to be can only exist in Heaven, but I know Jesus wants us to be able to love Him with all of our hearts, souls, minds and strength and one another as ourselves. He wants us to be one, even though we have many minds, and He doesn’t want us to speak venomously about one another, especially when we disagree over issues that He didn’t bother to clarify for us.
    Jesus accused the Pharisees of straining on a gnat and swallowing a camel. I think the camel that we may be swallowing is our lack of love and compassion for one another, especially when we don’t see eye to eye with one another. I’ve seen this problem in churches all of the years that I have been a Christian (almost 40 years). I’ve seen it in myself. More than I want to live a long happy life, I want to learn to love the way Jesus wants me to. I know there is a lot of error in all of our beliefs, and all of us have room to grow. That’s what makes life exciting and worth staying on this earth even a day longer–that and making sure we share Jesus with the lost. And we won’t ever be successful at getting others to put their belief in Jesus–and live their belief–if we can’t get the love for God and each other right.

  6. Preacherman says:

    Ogdie,
    You know how to put what would want to say into wonderful words. I guess that is why I love you blog so much. I hope you have a great week brother.

  7. […] with Christians in the U.S. whining about perceived “persecution” that they experience (here, here, here, and here) and have pointed out that our brothers and sisters around the world would […]

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