Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Pick a little, Talk a little

Another blogger, whom most of my readers certainly know, got in trouble for a pretty sarcastic assault on the pro-life movement. So much so, that St. Blog's now feels completely like an actual old-time parish, where everyone knows everyone else's business, and everyone has an opinion. (I'm treating her anonymously on the tiny chance that this is the only corner of the blogoshpere you visit. She's gotten enough hate mail already.)

The problem I have with some other bloggers--not to mention myself most of all!--is the same problem I have with many large groups, especially conservative ones. It's the reason I almost always vote Republican, but have never joined the party, and the reason I'm pro-life but don't belong to the Family Research Center.

Possessing truth, especially The Truth, is a dangerous thing. It is possibly the gravest temptation, the thing that makes Lucifer fall and Adam eat the apple. Not just thinking but KNOWING you are right, in your heart of hearts, is a powerfully intoxicating thing, and the sin of Pride can hardly be avoided except by the most extreme measures. God forbade us the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because He knew we could not resist the temptations that come with that Knowledge.

I am such a self-righteous prig most of the time it annoys even me. My wife the converted Unitarian is constantly calling me on it, which is a good if annoying thing. I never dislike her half so much as when she has absorbed some priggishness of mine and shown me what I often really sound like. And I never love her half so much as when she won't let me get away with it myself.

We the Church have made very complicated some things that are very simple. Be Humble. Be Charitable. Be Loving. Be Faithful. Participate in this thing called Communion. Repent of your sins. “Do unto others as you would be done by.”

Everything else, everything extraneous to the explanation of our faith that Lewis wrote about in "Mere Christianity" is good if it helps you to the essence and bad if it becomes the object of your faith, instead of its facilitator.

Our friend the blogger was very critical of the prolife movement, though not the actual position that abortion is objectively wrong. She has already noted on her own site that perhaps her tone was too intemperate, so I’ll leave that out. There’s one substantive complaint I have: she objects to the lack of media-savvy of pro-life people. Now, this may be a fair critique, but it really ought to matter less. In “Jesus Christ Superstar” Judas objects in his post-hanging finale the same thing about Jesus: “Why'd you choose such a backward time and such a strange land? If you'd come today you would have reached a whole nation. Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication!”

The complaint, while accurate, underscores the point that media-savvy has little or no relationship to Truth. Either can and often does exist without the other. In fact, the curious paradox (that a Gallilean carpenter could change the world in a time without mass communication, is a theme of the play: there’s a bizarre Press Conference scene after the Arrest at Gethsemane.

(She identifies herself as a “Gen-Xer” who demands media expertise, and is also careful to say that her Catholicism is not nearly so doctrinal as many other bloggers. Fair enough. But half measures in religion sooner or later demand reconciliation, and I suspect for her that reconciliation may be nearer than she would like.)

To oppose abortion is to believe that one possesses a particular shade of Truth. And the failure to heed that Truth is a heinous outcome. But, on some level, so what? We still must approach that Truth as all others: with Humility and Charity for those who do not yet understand it. Of course how Charity and Humility manifest themselves is different here than in a case where someone else is merely rude, as opposed to committing murder. But that fact only increases the challenge to those who already hold Truth.

I also kinda sorta agree and kinda sorta disagree with her about the word “Holocaust.” I agree because there are substantive and categorical differences between the victims of abortion and the victims of the historical Holocaust. But I disagree because there are millions of victims and they are all innocent, and victims of at best the indifference and at worst the deliberate malice of others. And the eugenicist Margaret Sanger cannot be removed from her progeny Planned Parenthood in any honest way, however much one would rather imagine Fay Waddleton as the face of the organization. I think the comparison perhaps not apt, but certainly not trivial.

If she has played the snarky slave to the pro-life movement's Emperor ("Sic transit Gloria!") then she has done a Good thing, even if the Emperor has decided to make a candle out of her, as appears to be the case.

The final word (from me, at least) is this: the blogosphere is not a ground where only the Pure speak. In fact, I have yet to correspond with a blogger who would describe herself as anything but incomplete, inadequate, and sinful. Some aspire to some sort of Purity more than others, which is fine. The nature of the medium is to write first, publish second, then go back and read what you wrote. We all seem to link to other blogs that catch our fancy, not necessarily because we endorse what is written there. Those who come to St. Blog’s filled with ideological purity have nothing to learn here, as far as I can tell, because all the blogs that I read (and certainly every single WORD that I write) are uninterrupted strings of failure. Some fail more spectacularly than others, and some come occasionally quite near to success. But the Holy Spirit has very poor clay to work with, and good workmanship can only cover up so much.


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