Saturday, July 12, 2008
Tale of the Cracker and the Damage Done
Now, you may have noticed I'm not one of your fiery "New Atheists". I don't diatribe about believers, I just don't believe. I don't care for it when unbelievers and other victimless, arbitrarily-chosen sinners are hammered by earth-bound, Godly-powers-that-be, and I will say so. I understand that people who believe have chosen a different path from mine, and have their reasons, that are valid to them even if they are meaningless to me.
I only ask that they do reason. And also, having openly embraced a creed, I find it hard to accept what is said when the fundementals of that creed seem to be ignored.
Here is my take on this PZ Myers/Cracker issue--about which, this link will get you started. In this post regarding a young person who "kidnapped" the small, round, crunchy body of Christ and was actually subject to physical threats because of it, Myers takes the view that the Eucharist, the consecrated host, and in the view of practicing Catholics, the actual substantial body of Christ, is a mere cracker. And thus, it is a trifle, to be dealt with in trifling ways, which he describes himself doing should he "score" one.
I am going to engage with you for a moment on a purely thought-experiment level, just to be sure you see where the unbeliever has to approach this--
Imagine you are on a one-lane highway with very little room on either side, and you find your brake-pedal has gone amiss. You can't stop, and ahead, you have a child on a bike to your right and a squirrel to your left--and you love animals. Squirrels especially, as they are so funny and cute. And children are a drag--today's kids, mouthy and they listen to such music! What do you do?
Of course, you're going to swerve in the direction of the squirrel. There is no way you elect to hit a child on a bike. That's just a basic human equation. Protect young people first.
To relate this thought experiment to the issue with the Body of Christ, in edible form, let's present an issue--
You have a choice between allowing violence or at least some random manipulation to a baked wheat product you believe to be invested with the substance of the Lord your God, or you are willing to contemplate violence or even murder against a live human being, who is a young person, who poses a threat to the aforementioned biscuit. Is the life and well-being of a fellow human being not worth a little more than a religious symbol? And given all the "Turn the other cheek", "Love thy enemy" and so on in Christianity, isn't an agressive response peculiar? Did the people who threatened Webster Cook, or who threaten PZ now, not see the irony--that they show their reverence to Christ by doing the opposite of what Christ would do?
Well, that was why the post he wrote was so harsh--to snap people out of the idea that a cracker--even if it had the cache of being the Body of Christ--meant more to some people than the person, a live human being, who took it. He wrote with sarcasm and outrage that people could not separate a symbol from the reality of dealing with another human being. A baked good does not possess free will, can't sin, can't resist spoiling, etc. A live human being can make mistakes, even repent of them--
Which is really the representative of the Body? The bread. or the brother who takes in the bread? What is the communion--Cracker-worship? Or a ceremony about understanding that you are a part of Christ, take a part in his death which washed out your sins, along with your fellow Christians'--in other words--
Do you share in it or not--Hey, it isn't my religion. If you share in it, you forgive. They aren't my rules. They are yours. You do not issue death threats, and what's more, you forgive, because Christ forgave when on the Cross, and said to his Father "Forgive them for they know not what they do." Popes have forgiven would-be murderers. Knowing that, is it Christian to accept less?
Or would you rather follow the example of Bill Donohue, professional victim, who spends his time trying to show how a vital world-religion is persecuted by sticking his head between the teeth of stuffed lions and vowing to do battle with them?
I have much respect for Catholics. Many of my friends and both of my husbands (um, consecutive, not contemporeneous, I'm not a thoroughgoing heretic) were raised Catholic, and I went to a Catholic college for four years. I think this has been a big misunderstanding between people who got caught up in the symbolism, with people who reject symbolism, and only see the real. The real young man being threatened, versus the host--a sanctified morsel. Or in PZ Myer's case, a man trying to explain the curiousity of the idea of protecting a cracker over and above a person. In a possibly vulgar way.
Without reaching especially far for a correllation--didn't the Church respect the symbolism of the collar over the testimony of abused boys? What was done to them? The kids? What do the courts and the settlements and the history of that say? What does the Bible say?
That, what was done to the least of these, was done also to Christ. Says so in the Bible. The Church did far more damage to its integrity, to the Eucharist, to the real, material Body of Christ, in the pews, the parishioners, the faithful, by not recognizing the people--over symbols, and over rhetoric. That said, all PZ did was comment on a fleeting issue.