How To Be An Internet Catholic and Charitable Too

We’ve got a new round of Catholic internet drama going, and it hardly matters what the excitement is this time.  I’m keeping my nose out of it, because otherwise my post will lose its perennial freshness.  Ever ancient, ever new — that’s Catholic craziness for you.*

Meanwhile, for those who haven’t sworn off  iGossip and taken up gardening or macrame, here’s my three top tips for keeping your head on straight and your friendships in order, even when someone’s wrong on the internet.

1. Remember Who’s Talking

The Catholic internet is composed of two groups of people:

A. Calm people.  To wit: Jimmy Akin, and then this one really sweet mom lady who posts pictures of her kids eating solemnity-themed cupcakes.  There might be a third.

B.  Hotheads.  That’s the rest of us.

Oh, I know, even now you’re rushing to either dissect a Church Father or quick find an obscure Catholic holiday your children can celebrate with costumes made out of paper plates, so that you can squeeze into Category A. But admit it: If you take a strong interest in controversial topics like politics, liturgy, or catechesis, you probably have just a touch of opinionated fireball inside that cool, calm exterior.  Maybe more than a touch.

And here’s the clincher: Those other hotheads you’re reading right now?  They are living in a completely differently world than you.

You’ve been given a view down the shirt of every staff member of your parish; she’s been informed one time too many that her ankles are a near occasion of sin.  He attends St. Simon & Garfunkel’s, and has been twitching every since they went to an all-harmonica Mass three years ago; your parish bulletin is now published almost entirely in Latin.  Because people complained Greek was too hard.  Your religious ed program consists of, “Pick a color you really love.  Share with your friends how it makes your feel.”  Their religious ed program consists of, “You may get up off your knees as soon as you have the Vulgate memorized.  Then you may work on your diorama of the fires of Hell.”

I’m joking, kids, I’m joking.  But seriously: Very many times, the source of the argument among faithful Catholics is not a radically different understanding of the faith; it’s a dramatically different experience of how the faith is lived in their corner of the universe.

Even if you and the other keyboard-jockey both attend the same parish and the same Mass, the two of you have different backgrounds.  Different playground traumas.  Different incidents that color your view of the Church.  Consider the possibility that your worthy opponent has good reasons for being so wrong-headed.

2. Try to Talk Your Friend Off that Ledge

One of the highlights of my internet life is seeing how many people who think I’m absolutely, horribly, wrong about something are perfectly ready to engage in productive dialog, if I take a genuine interest in what they have to say and why they say it.

(I know, some of you shuddered when you heard the word “dialog”.  Listen: It can be good.  It’s not always a code word for “namby pamby faithy-ism.”  Respectful conversation can be a fruitful means of getting closer to the truth – iron sharpens iron and all that.)

The mark of a crazy person isn’t the odd temper tantrum or hot-button topic.  Everyone has their bad day, bad week, bad decade.  It happens.  Have you tried gently asking a few questions, or did you go on the counter-attack?  I know the counter-attack urge, I understand it, trust me.  (See: Hothead.)  But don’t be shocked that someone gets defensive when you go on the offense.  It is the mark of Christian maturity to resist when the hotheads try to work you into a lather.

And if you did go on the offensive (see: Hothead, Takes One to Know One), from that moment on you’ve got to consider every harsh word in your little brawl to be just a bad night at the pub.  You engaged.  You were part of the problem.  Brush yourself off, go home, sleep off the hangover, and try to be friendly next time.  Give your sparring partner the same charitable benefit of the doubt you’d like extended towards yourself.

3. Let Go of the Envy

Blogging, Facebook, Twitter . . . these media all require us to put ourselves out there.  There’s nothing inherently sinful about being a person who has a knack for marketing.  Don’t begrudge someone their one big talent.  Don’t assume that, “I have to make my writing pay because I’d fail out of engineering school in half an hour,” is  the same thing as, “I possess an enormous ego.”

Do people who depend on writing to earn a living have to be utterly focused on bringing the paycheck in?  Yes they do.  Just like people who depend on plumbing or electrical work or writing software have to be focused on keeping their profession profitable.  Everyone has to eat.  But just because the construction company has to watch its bottom line doesn’t mean that every foreman is a self-centered money-grubber who’d happily see your children crushed to death during breakfast, just so long as your account is paid in full and your check has been cashed.

A concern about page views or advertising revenue or book sales can be a professional hazard.  But a professional hazard does not make every professional hazardous.

Take pleasure in the work that you do, and take pleasure in the success of others who do similar work.  There is a massive need for evangelization.  Our mission at St. Blogs is to colonize cybersapce.  Scratch the internet, find a faithful Catholic.  That’s the goal.  Get out there, be that Catholic.

Have a great weekend.

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St. Paul wants YOU to preach the Good News.  But possibly in some other corner of the known world, if the two of you can’t quite get along.  Artwork by Raphael [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 

*Let’s just see how perennial this problem is . . . I originally published this post, verbatim, on May 31, 2014.  Entitled, “How to Stay Sane in St. Blog’s,” you can read the original at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jenniferfitz/2014/05/how-to-stay-sane-in-st-blogs.  I updated the title because last time someone wondered what “St. Blogs” referred to, and I had to update that post with a link to an explanation.

Loud Dogma? Get the T-Shirt.

My editors here at the Catholic Conspiracy have succumbed to my pleading and issued a The Dogma Lives Loudly Within Me t-shirt that suits my aesthetic demands:

The Dogma Lives T-Shirt

The best link for the moment if you want one of your own is: http://www.cafepress.com/mf/110941637/the-dogma-lives_tshirt .  From there you can choose a variety of size options including maternity, kids’ and baby options.  The editors went with the more expensive shirts because their research indicated the quality is significantly better.  To offset that, they are offering the GAME20 coupon code, which gets you 20% off your order.

Note that shipping is more favorable if you purchase all your shirts in one go-round, so poll your friends and relatives before you do your batch order.

If this not your dream design . . .

Look around. I see that Amazon has quite a few options when you search “dogma lives loudly within me.”  Of particular note: Nerdy Catholic Tee’s has these with the Spinal Tap theme going on, if your dogma is turned up to 11.  Click around, they offer it in women’s as well, and have other cool designs you might like.

If the dogma lives loudly in you, let people know.  There shouldn’t be religious tests for public office.

New App Simplifies Trafficking, Incest & Statutory Rape

CHARLOTTE, NC — A new App called Nurx ensures sex traffickers, abusive relatives and overbearing boyfriends are not burdened by complicated encounters with health care professionals, while ensuring that the girls who service them never, ever, meet a physician, nurse, or clinic work who might intervene and contact the authorities.

“If a teenage girl is engaging in a behavior that has potentially life-threatening consequences, that’s not something her parents need to know about,” the health care provider explained.  “It’s better just to give her a medication with known fatal side effects without ever consulting a physician in person.”

Critics have questioned whether teenagers are able to reliably choose their own prescription medications, but teachers and school administrators all agreed in an industry consensus statement, “If there’s one thing we can say about teenagers, it’s that they are reliable, diligent, and filled with a deep sense of personal responsibility.”

The document went on to say, “No teenager would ever lie on a form on the internet.  Sexual predators don’t ever use fake identities on the internet either. So this is completely not a public health concern.”

“We care about girls’ reproductive health and freedom,” a public health official observed.  “Many girls have said they’d ‘rather die’ then let their parents know what they’re doing. Nurx is here to make that possible for them.”

 

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Need a prescription?  Internet doctors can help you with that.  Photo courtesy of Wikimedia [CC 3.0]

 

 

 

One Weird Trick for Understanding French Culture

I like France.  I like France very, very much.  More epic vacation blogging to prove that point is coming soon — meanwhile I hope you are enjoying Erin Arlinghaus’s reports from Chamonix.  But there are few related bits of French culture that are astonishing to Americans, or should be.   An interview with Gabrielle Deydier helped pull all those threads together for me, and will hopefully help other Americans appreciate a strong difference between American and French culture.

Gabrielle Deydier is fat.

That’s radical, because being fat is not something French people do very much.

I know this, because one of things I’ve been meaning to mention here in my collection of vacation blog posts is that if you are a plus-sized person, you need to plan ahead when traveling in France. For example, of our various accomodations during our trip, most of the bathrooms were very spacious — larger than a typical American bathroom.  One, though, in a perfectly reputable non-chain hotel, was tiny like you’d find in the smallest of travel trailers.  A bathroom so small you’d be wishing for that giant powder room they had in coach on your flight across the Atlantic.  It’s just assumed that the people coming to the hotel are thin people.

This worked out well for us, because my rail-thin children could go shopping and buy clothes that fit them, which we don’t get to do in the US very much.  But not everybody comes in extra-extra-slim, so if you are planning a trip to France and space needs are a concern, that’s something you want to find out before you make reservations.  Seriously: Ask for measurements in the room you are booking.  (If you’re tall: Ask them to measure the length of the bed, if it isn’t given in the room description.  Inquire about ceiling height in the shower as well.  And remember, every room is different in a non-chain French hotel or B&B.)

So back to Ms. Deydier.  Her book is called You’re Not Born Fat, and it chronicles the shocking amount of open prejudice and insult she has received as a fat person trying to live and make a living in France.  She literally lost her job as a teaching assistant after a month of harassment about her weight — harassment that came from the teacher she worked with, who openly mocked and criticized her in front of the students.   She writes about the lengths the French will go to in order to be thin, including a huge and sometimes-deadly bariatric-surgery industry.  As she writes for Le Parisien, the rate of suicide among those who undergo surgery is double that of those who do not.

If you wish to understand this mania, spend in a little time in the mind of America in the 1950’s.

Keeping Up Appearances

A good friend of mine from high school in France (who later struggled with anorexia in college) came to visit me in the US.  We toured around a bit, and of everywhere she visited, my grandparents’ home was where she felt most at ease.  She described them as being “like the French.”  My grandparents are not French.  But my grandparents were model 1950’s Americans.  They lived by the etiquette book.  Every bit of bourgeois conventionality youngsters rebelled against in the late 1960’s my grandparents embodied in every fiber of their being.

The French, you see, put a very high value on appearances.

Consider adultery, for example.  It is widely accepted as a part of life, so much so that there is even a specific time of day devoted to it.  But discretion in the rule.     The hacking of Ashley Madison was a disaster, because it broke of the rule of don’t-ask-don’t-tell.  Lifelong marriage is highly valued, but “fidelity” is about maintaining the family home and unity in public life, not about who sleeps with whom.  Your wife’s children are your children, and it’s illegal to get a paternity test showing otherwise without a court order.

Thus, in turn, comes the law making it illegal to show a video featuring happy children with Down Syndrome. Abortion is the ultimate tool for keeping up appearances.  And this brings us back to the 1950’s.  While Americans never embraced adultery the way the French do (but did still tolerate it for the sake of the marriage), Americans have a long history of institutionalizing disabled children:

Between 1946 and 1967, the number of people with disabilities that were housed in public institutions in America increased from almost 117 000 to over 193 000, a population increase that was almost double that of the general post-war “baby boom”.  As time went on, those admitted were becoming younger and their disabilities more pronounced. In regards to Down syndrome in particular, there were many cases where fathers and doctors conspired to have a baby institutionalized and then told the mother that the baby had died.

Now, of course, we just abort them.  The French do as we do, but with the French twist of not permitting any reproachful reminders that there were better choices.  Smoothing things over is the highest goal.

On ne naît pas grosse par [DEYDIER, Gabrielle]

Cover art courtesy of Amazon.fr.  FYI a good source for French-language books if you wish to order online for shipment to the US is Decitre.Fr.  They don’t have this particular book in stock in paper right now, though.

Hurricane Silver Linings: Certified Deaf Interpreters

The best part of hurricanes making travel plans for South Carolina is getting to watch Jason Hurdich at the press conferences.  He rose to fame in 2016, and those of us who only ever watch the governor if it looks like the state might blow away have been enjoying his work again this round.  SC hurricane briefings are a linguistic buffet even without Hurdich (especially with McMaster at the helm), but Hurdich adds an extra layer of interest because he is a Certified Deaf Interpreter.  I want to quickly explain why CDI’s are valuable, because some people wonder about that part.

A CDI is a deaf or hard-of-hearing person who partners with a hearing interpreter.  The process works like this: The governor (or whoever) says what he or she is going to say.  A hearing interpreter signs that message to the CDI.  The CDI then re-signs the same message out to the Deaf audience.

This confuses (hearing) people a little, because they wonder: Why the relay?  If you have one interpreter already, why add a second?

The answer is that certain native speakers of any language have a better command of their language, and better communication skills, than other people do.

***

Imagine for a moment that you are trying to find out what is happening in some corner of the world where the residents speak no English.  There’s a local guy who’s taken English classes, and he can interpret what his fellow citizens are saying pretty well.  His accent is strong, sometimes his syntax is stilted, and sometimes he uses archaic terms.   It’s not that you can’t understand him, but many English speakers would have to strain a little as they made the effort to follow his interpretation.

So you add a second person to the chain, someone who is very skilled at communicating to a native English-speaking audience.  She doesn’t speak the foreign language, but she is very good at taking stilted English-as-a-second-language and rendering it so that the message is quickly and easily understood by local Americans, or whatever regional English-speaking audience you are trying to reach.

–> If you were trying to reach the average listener an Ireland, you would use a different native speaker. This is exactly why US, British, and Australian news agencies send their own reporters into other countries, rather than relying on a local resident with not-that-bad-of-English.  It’s just easier for a skilled American reporter to communicate with Americans, a skilled Australian reporter to communicate with Austrailians, and so on.

***
A Certified Deaf Interpreter is that.  When you have a message that’s really important to communicate clearly, you choose a spokesperson who is particularly skilled in the native language of the audience.

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File:Nikki Haley Hurricane Matthew Press Conference 12 (29633729923).jpg

File:Nikki Haley Hurricane Matthew Press Conference 12 (29633729523).jpg

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia, Public Domain.

A Thank You Note for Senator Feinstein

Dear Senator Feinstein,

I wish to thank you for your extraordinary comments to Professor Barrett, in whom, you assure us all, the dogma loudly lives.  (May that be said of all Notre Dame’s faculty one day, please God.)

The reason I wish to thank you is because, like most people, I have some things I believe to be true.  I also have children, most of whom are now teenagers.  Teenagers do this thing that’s necessary for the good of the species, but aggravating all the same: They question the beliefs of their parents.

I would like them, for example, to believe with all their heart that texting and driving is always to be avoided because it poses a serious danger to themselves and others.  I think that’s true, I assume you do as well, and since one day my children might be sharing the road with you, we both have a strong interest in their coming to accept that belief and act on it.  You might say that you and I are dogmatic on that point.

Another thing I’d like them to accept with all their heart is the Catholic faith.  That’s something that probably isn’t so easy for you to understand.  See, here’s the difficulty with kids these days: They don’t fake religious beliefs in order to get along and smooth their social paths.  Back when you were a kid?  Yeah, people did that.  They might be Catholic because it was their family heritage, or they found the communal life appealing, but without necessarily feeling that they had to accept the entirety of the Catholic faith as being exactly true.  I think you work with some people who are like that.

But we of the younger generations don’t do fake-religion so much.  There are a few holdouts, of course, but for the most part, if a young adult these days practices a religion, it’s because he or she thinks it is true.   That’s especially so for Catholics, because in many circles (yours, for example), there’s no real social benefit to being Catholic.  Sometimes it even kinda sucks.  (In a join-your-sufferings-with-Christ kinda way, don’t get me wrong . . ..)

So, like many Catholic parents, even though I try my best to pass onto my children the things that I think are true — both about road safety and the reality of human existence in a larger way — I am well aware that my kids might choose to reject my beliefs.  And though they might lie and say they don’t text and drive even if they do (please God no), they probably won’t get around to lying about being Catholic, at least not after they’ve moved on to college.

And that’s why I want to thank you.  See, my boy is a senior in high school, and like many boys he doesn’t always share his inner thoughts with the world.  I don’t always have a clear read on what he thinks about the Catholic faith.  But this morning?

I showed him the video of you making your famous quote.  He laughed so hard at how ridiculous you were — it was truly a wonderful moment for a mother to share with her son.  We made jokes about “dogma” and a little bit of woofing sounds (which got our actual dog excited and after that she stood at the door all day watching for squirrels because she could tell we knew dogs were important), and also he joked about “those dangerous Christian religious extremists refusing to kill people!”

It was a really fun time for the two of us.  It was also a moment when I knew that my boy understood a person should act on his or her beliefs.  Otherwise they aren’t really much in the way of beliefs, are they?

So thank you very much for giving us that little gift.

I wish you all the best,

Jennifer.

PS: My son also thought you looked drunk.  But you weren’t, I don’t think.  He really hasn’t spent that much time around either senators or drunk people, so he’s not necessarily the best judge.

 

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Photo via United States Congress, US Senate Photo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Price Gouging is Evil.

Up at the Register: What is Price Gouging and Why is it Wrong?:

In a crisis situation, it is possible for monopoly suppliers to charge prices for goods that buyers cannot afford — thus becoming not ordinary monopolists but price-gougers. Note well: This doesn’t mean buyers don’t recognize the value of the supplier’s work and risk. Rather, the problem is that the reason it is possible to charge exorbitant prices is because the goods and services in question are necessary for survival. People will literally die if they don’t have clean water.

Contrast this to the Disneyland scenario: People will not literally die — nor even figuratively do so, we hope — if they don’t have a Disney vacation.

Price gouging is the act of choosing to profit off someone else’s life-and-death desperation rather than to show generosity.

It is bad for you to do this to yourself.

Most people instinctively know that price gouging is a nasty thing to do.  A few people though, rightly observing that price rationing via free markets is ordinarily the go-to method for figuring out how to satisfy unlimited wants and needs with limited resources, get busy in their head thinking up rationalizations for why it’s just “good economics” to allow price gouging.

It isn’t good economics, and for those people, the Register article puts a toe into the world of price elasticity of demand and all that stuff.

Summary: You can be a decent capitalist and still have moments — fire, famine & flood come to mind — when you notice that the market is there to serve you, not you to be slave to the market.

 

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Lots of Bottled Water, photo by Brett Weinstein, CC 2.5 via Wikimedia.

Do You Have the Hathaway’s Van?

There are so many other needs out there, but I want to write today to see if anyone has a van for the Hathaway family.  Readers will remember Josef Hathaway and Frank the dog. (Where did the pictures go on that post?  Yikes – technical problems.  Hmmnf.)  Josef’s father John has Marfan Syndrome and uses a power wheelchair for mobility (including lots of dog walks.)  Their current van has over 260K miles on it, and has reached that point where even ridiculously frugal people like the Hathaways must accept it’s time to replace rather than repair.

They are fundraising, but we can think of many other dire situations where only cash donations will do — this is not one of those situations.  The good news is that somewhere out there is the actual van that the Hathaways need.  I’m asking you to please pray for the donor of this van.  If you happen to own the van, now’s a good time to talk to the Hathaways about how to get it ready for them — note they’ve fundraised towards the cost of getting the wheelchair lift installed.

What the van is like:

It’s probably really ugly.  You’re having a hard time selling this van, and honestly you’re not sure it’s worth the trouble.  Good news: The Hathaways DON’T CARE WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE.   The Hathaway Family has been voted The Family Least Likely Of Anyone On This Planet To Care About Appearances.  They aren’t like that.  At all.  Ever.

It does not have mold or mildew problems.  Mary (Mrs. Hathaway) has MCAS, so this feature is super important.  A stripped-down work van, in contrast, might be ideal.

It can be made to seat six (including the driver).  Remember, even if the van doesn’t have seats now, they can be installed using the fundraised money.  The four Hathaway children are all old enough and physically grown enough to sit safely in adult passenger seats.

It can accommodate a lift for a power wheelchair.  Again: This is something the Hathaway’s fundraising can cover, as long as the van itself shows up.

It is mechanically reliable.  The Hathaway’s income (from work, for those who are wondering) puts them just above the threshold for many aid programs.  Old and ugly are AOK, but frequent or expensive repairs are a significant strain on the family.  They do not live in an area where it would be realistic to walk or get a ride home if the van broke down.

 

The Hathaways live in the Augusta, GA – Aiken, SC metro area.  If you are in striking distance of that region, someone can make arrangements to pick up the van, or you could deliver it.  They can make arrangements to have you donate the van through a local 501(c)3, both so that you can be assured you are meeting a legitimate need that other sane people have assessed, and so that you have the paperwork you need to deduct the value of your donation.

If you own this van and are ready to donate, you can contact John and Mary directly via their fundraising page, or find them at this blog’s discussion group.

If you know people who might have a line on a van, please share this info with them.

Everyone else: Please just pause and say a short prayer on behalf of the Hathaways and their many needs.  God will sort out the details.

Thank you!

John & Mary Hathaway

Photo of John & Mary Hathaway courtesy of the Hathaway family.

How to Know if Your Clothes are Okay

In light of the recent controversy over whether FLOTUS was wearing the proper shoes for climbing into an airplane to visit a natural disaster zone, I offer this quick guide for how to tell whether you are wearing what you ought to be wearing:

You are a politician: Wear a suit.  Always wear a suit, except when you are being too uptight by wearing a suit.  In that case, you should forgo the suit so you can be disrespectful for not wearing a suit.

You are a business owner: If you want to intimidate your employees by showing you are a member of the corporate elite, wear a suit.  If you want to intimidate your employees by showing that you are powerful enough you don’t have to wear a suit, don’t wear a suit.  The proper way to dress is called “Giving out free food to poor people,” unless it’s part of your secret plot to oppress poor people.  The media will let you know.

You are a college student:  Wear exactly the right t-shirt.  Not wearing a t-shirt shows you are planning to oppress people one day, except when it shows that you are going to do great things one day.

You are a mother:  Go change your clothes immediately.  You obviously don’t care, at all, about your children, your family, or the downfall of civilization.

You are a father: Did you dress yourself?  We can tell.  Did your wife dress you?  We can tell.  Either way, you must never, ever, look like your mother dressed you.  Also, she should have raised you better than that.

You are a teenage girl:  Your clothes, if you choose to wear them, are just fine.  Everything you wear is just fine.  Anyone who says otherwise is body-shaming you.  You are not actually required to wear clothes, though, because that would be sexist.

You are a teenage boy:  You can wear whatever you want, as long as you are saving someone from imminent death.  Otherwise, please go away.

You are a disabled person being bullied or glorified on the internet: Your clothes are the unique expression of you — don’t change a thing!

You are a disabled person who hasn’t been born yet, or who requires any medical care, ever, for any reason: Die, wastrel.  Clothes are not meant for you.

You didn’t die, and now you’re out in public being weird:  There should be better funding for programs to make you less weird.

You are a thin, beautiful, member of the British aristocracy: Your clothes are just perfect!

You are a fat, beautiful, member of the British aristocracy: Hence the destruction of the realm.

You are FLOTUS:  Everything you wear is a symbol of why the other party would have saved us.  Or destroyed us.  Either one.  Your clothes are so versatile!

You are attending a Catholic church: Your clothes are one of the sins that cry to Heaven for vengeance.  Just ask the person sitting in the next pew.  If you dare.

 

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia, public domain, where the category Melania Trump in 2017 will meet all your stiletto-viewing needs.

In Search of the “Real America”

There’s a meme going around right now about what “real Americans” are like.  We see pictures of heroic rescues in the Texas floods contrasted with recent racist or fascist violence.  The “real America” is the good one.  The real America is where people pull together, act bravely, and give everything to help their neighbor, no matter who that neighbor might be.

I don’t disagree.  America really is that, and we have the pictures to prove it.

The difficult bit is that we aren’t only that.

***

I have some assorted friends whom I profoundly love and respect, and to whom I owe a perpetual debt of gratitude for the goodness they have brought into my life.

These friends are like me, though, in that they are noticeably flawed.   (Like me in kind, not degree – evidence is I’m more flawed than they are.)

I don’t want to hear about that.  Even if I do sometimes notice their weaknesses, I want everyone else to shut their mouths.  What I see in them, what I want everyone to notice, is the beauty and goodness and truth they bring to this world.   I want to shout: Do you not understand what they did for me? For you?!

***

This instinct to see the good in our friends is how we get to an All Dogs Go To Heaven theology.  It’s a good instinct.  We can see that our friends are made in the image and likeness of God, inherently lovable and worth loving.  That’s an accurate view of who they are.  The thought of such a person going to Hell is unthinkable.  We’re not alone there.  God Himself has been quite explicit about His desire to save the world rather than condemn it.

***
Mercy is the thing that makes us see the part of our friends that must at all costs be saved.

Yes, yes, we know about the immense weaknesses and deplorable lapses and insufferable habits — but we know the other side!  We have seen selflessness to make your mouth gape, and virtues so indelibly marked on our friends’ souls that they track in purity and joy on their shoes even when they try their hardest to wipe their goodness off at the door.

***

Some people get so despicable that it’s hard to see the parts worth saving.   God can see those parts though.  The question of salvation isn’t how much nastiness needs to be removed to get down to the person you were created to be.  The question of salvation is: Are you willing to be saved?

***

We aren’t supposed to like nastiness.  It isn’t supposed to be easy and comfortable to live with horrid people.  We should want to be surrounded by peaceful, loving, generous folk who fully live out the commandments.  (Never ever forgetting Proverbs 27:14, but of course there are others as well).

So it’s understandable that we have low patience for certain sins.

***

What is lost in our national discourse is the appreciation of the complexity of other humans.  Someone can be terribly wrong in some ways and entirely right in others.  Someone can both commit serious sins and carry out marvelous good works.  (I’ve got the first part down, thanks.)

You can be a racist nationalist who risks your own life rescuing total strangers.

You can give away your fortune aiding the poor, and also devote yourself to killing the unborn.

You can be a notorious philanderer and also an unshakable civil rights martyr.

The combinations are unlimited, and Americans seem, collectively, to be trying out all of them.

***

Where our national discourse goes wrong is in trying to mount the opposite of the ad hominen attack — call it the ad hominen defense.  If my side is right, my men must be perfect.  An attack on my ideas is an attack on me and mine.

We are unable to admit the possibility of human weakness and complexity, nor to properly rank the seriousness of our failures.  Thus we end up in bizarre situations both divisive and falsely “unifying.”

Sometimes, out of fear of hurting somebody’s feelings or overlooking their virtues, we’re afraid to condemn their serious sins.  Better to get along and smooth things over for a day that never comes when somehow we’ll dialog our way past the impasse without ever opening our mouths.

Other times, out of fear of seeming to approve a vice or a poorly-formed conscience, we feel compelled to commit a course of Total Condemnation — economic, political, and personal.

***

Let me show you a video of the way of peace.  This is South Carolina removing the Confederate flag from the state house grounds.

It came down because of decades and decades of peaceful protest. Did it take too long? Yes.  The remedy for sin always takes too long.  Do people suffer injustice in the course of the long, slow path of peaceful protest? Yes.  But people suffer injustice from violent protest, calumny, and vicious personal attacks.  There’s not an option for waving the Fix Everything Wand and presto-change-o the world is magically better.

Peacefully refusing to accept injustice works.  It has worked marvels of healing and change in a place where you would never have said fifty years ago that all this would come to pass.  It worked in a place where people are still fallen.  Sinful people who do wretched things made that flag come down.  Gracious people doing their best to make the image of God shine in the darkness made that flag come down.  They were the same people.

File:Texas National Guard (36916700965).jpg

U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle: “Soldiers, fire fighters, paramedics and neighbors ensured more than 1,000 people and hundreds of dogs and cats were safe, evacuating them to dry ground and local shelters.”  Courtesy of Wikimedia [Public Domain].