Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Delightful Glee of Blasphemy

Via Dean's World, I came across this troubling story of Host desecration.

First, a University of Central Florida student takes an action that appears sacrilegious to other worshipers at Mass. There are claims that no sacrilege was intended, and that physical force was used against the young man in an attempt to pry the Host from his hands.

Cook claims he planned to consume it, but first wanted to show it to a fellow student senator he brought to Mass who was curious about the Catholic faith.
"When I received the Eucharist, my intention was to bring it back to my seat to show him," Cook said. "I took about three steps from the woman distributing the Eucharist and someone grabbed the inside of my elbow and blocked the path in front of me. At that point I put it in my mouth so they'd leave me alone and I went back to my seat and I removed it from my mouth."
A church leader was watching, confronted Cook and tried to recover the sacred bread. Cook said she crossed the line and that's why he brought it home with him.
"She came up behind me, grabbed my wrist with her right hand, with her left hand grabbed my fingers and was trying to pry them open to get the Eucharist out of my hand," Cook said, adding she wouldn't immediately take her hands off him despite several requests.
Diocese of Orlando spokeswoman Carol Brinati said she was not aware of anyone touching Cook. She released a statement Thursday: "... a Catholic Campus Ministry student representative filed a complaint with the Student Union regarding the behavior of the two young men. A Student Government Representative called Catholic Campus Ministry to apologize for this disruption."
Cook filed an official abuse complaint with UCF's student conduct court regarding the alleged physical force.

Next the student receives some email death threats, and returns the Host, with a vow that he'll sue for damages because he was assaulted.

Next Bill Donohue of the Catholic League gets involved, with threats of his own against the University.

For a student to disrupt Mass by taking the Body of Christ hostage—regardless of the alleged nature of his grievance—is beyond hate speech. That is why the UCF administration needs to act swiftly and decisively in seeing that justice is done. All options should be on the table, including expulsion.

Finally, the "progressive" web mob takes over, gleefully egging each other on to even more outrageous blasphemies. I won’t quote this bile.

My Christianity is not about demanding respect for some "us" I identify with, or me. I can certainly understand the very human urge to do this - I went through a phase where I had the attitude: "Boy if only we behaved like those Muslims, they'd never dare disrespect us." But I was as wrong as I could be. It is absolutely true that all the various "hate speech" code proponents could care less when hatred is directed at Christians, but Christ never said that the world owed us fair treatment. Look at what he promised Peter:

I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"

As a Catholic, I believe that the Host is indeed the bodily substance of Jesus Christ. But I also know that Christ has no need for us to protect His person or His honor from others.

In my view, as Christians, we ought to abstain from any temptation to use state power to support or protect the Church, even in the face some of the hatred that is directed at it today. As Christians, we ought to be careful that we are living, as best we can, the truth of the Gospels, and we should not expect this to buy us any favor, respect, credit, or justice from others. I've always been inspired by the simple faith of the Amish, and their willingness to readily forgive even the most heinous crimes against them. To me, that is as good an example of Christianity in practice as there is today.

Sure, I'm troubled that there are lots of people that take a juvenile pleasure in blasphemy. Hatred is nothing new in the world, and it seems every group has received more than its due. But I'm also troubled by Bill Donohue's reaction and the fear that people might view him as a representative of what Catholics are like. As I said before, I don’t like the way he goes about defending Catholicism. When I look at this Catholic blogger, stating the terms of an apology that would be acceptable, I'm troubled too. I can understand the feeling of wanting an apology for what seems like a clear hateful insult, but I have trouble reconciling the setting of terms for an apology with the Gospels as I understand them.

I feel that as Christians we are charged with defending others, not ourselves.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Victim Privilege List

There has been a flurry of discussion about privilege lists lately, triggered by a thread at Feminist Critics, and the response by Ampersand, the author of one of the most popular lists: the Male Privilege Checklist.

I was interested in the topic a while ago, even going so far as indulging in some fun by writing my own Female Privilege List. But I also reached the conclusion that the use of these lists had become silly. I can see some real value in them - it is useful to read something like the White Privilege List (the one that led to all these), or the Average Sized Person Privilege List. They are a useful tool to help you reflect on things that you might take for granted, and advantages other people may not have.

But their use has gone well beyond that. If you read any feminist discussions, all they talk about is privilege. Here is one example. Arguments center not on facts, reasoning or evidence, but rather on the relative privilege of the people staking opposing claims; any good feminist will discount a male's position purely because it comes from a "privileged" position. Women of Color feminists will discount the views of white feminists for the same reason. Even Muslim feminists are learning how seductive privilege rhetoric is - now there is a Muslim Male Privilege List!

I believe that assertions of privilege are just a rhetorical technique used to discount opposing positions. They serve as an amulet to protect ideologies from dissonant views. When I read the Feminist Critics discussion, I was gratified to find that I am not alone in this.

So to have some more fun, and to further illustrate the ridiculous hold these lists have on web discourse, I've written a Victim Privilege List. It is a short one - after all, victims wouldn't be victims if they have lots of privileges! But I think some of these demonstrate why people fight for the victim flag, and how the winner of that flag gains a "privileged" position in discussions and debate. I'm hoping the last one properly conveys the weird paradox of all this nonsense.

And by the way - number 3 is an analog of one of the silly "Male Privileges" - number 11.

The Victim Privilege List

Privileges I have as a member of a historically oppressed group that others (people who haven't suffered from oppression) lack:

1. People I respect have taught me that I come from a long line of ancestors who were forced to survive in the face of hatred and adversity. Others go through life completely clueless about how lucky they are.

2. If I'm lucky enough to live in a post-modern Western country, I can commit heinous acts against others, and remain certain that at least some others will defend me.

3. If I live in a post-modern Western society, I can enjoy the fact that I'll always find other people who will reliably shower me with extraordinary praise for my accomplishments - even if the things I've done are routine for others.

4. If I live in a post-modern Western society, I can be sure that some other people will covet any praise I bestow as a certification that they are good people.

5. I can argue that others believe as they do because deep institutional and historical forces have bred bias and bigotry into the depth of their souls.

6. I can be sure that when others criticize me, it can’t be because I've done anything wrong. I've learned not to waste time listening to such bigots.

7. I can be sure that when I get angry, it isn’t for selfish reasons, but rather because the experience of my people has fostered in me a keen sensitivity to injustice. When others get angry, it is yet another sign of their hatred.

8. I can be sure that when others tell me I'm wrong about something, it means they lack insight, perspective and empathy.

9. I can be certain that any negative views of my people aren’t due to anything we've done. After all, my people have a long history of this sort of bigotry from others.

10. I can be certain that any negative views of me personally just reflect hateful stereotypes promoted by others.

11. I can be dead certain that my negative views of others are based on reality, truth and hard experience, because my people have schooled me on the sneaky depravity of those other people.

12. I can be certain that my own personal advancement represents the culmination of a grand historical march towards human equality. Others just seek advancement for their own aggrandizement.

13. I enjoy the satisfaction of knowing my efforts are focused on supporting those those who are truly needy. I refuse to be distracted by other people's whining.

14. I can be grateful that the one redeeming benefit of all my suffering, and the suffering of my people, is that it has earned me the privilege of seeing how privilege corrupts others.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Studying Women's Studies

I have two children in college, and I work hard to pay the bills. I'm indeed fortunate to be able to do this - I'm sure there are plenty of people in the world who would love to be in my situation, and to have the financial ability to give their children the advantages of a college education. Part of me dreads the monthly bill. Part of me realizes how lucky I am.

Since I have to fund most of this, I'm quite happy that I've never been asked to pay for what I consider "garbage." Thankfully my children have gravitated to areas of study that demand hard measurable learning. The colleges have a core curriculum that is pretty demanding, and the majors they've chosen are areas of study I respect.

Every year with the tuition bill, I take a close look at the courses they've registered for. I know when I was in college (back in the days when the City University of New York was tuition-free) there were a few courses I took because they were known as "easy A's" and there were some I took for scheduling reasons - I wanted at least one day a week off. I wasn't much of a scholar then.

I don’t know what I would do if I got a big bill, and among the courses listed was something like "Feminist and Gender Studies." There is just something about me, a representative of the Patriarchy, forking over dollars so my children can study the nuances of how I've oppressed them and warped their minds during their formative years. There is something about paying for a course in a department so political, so ideological, and so uncertain about the material it teaches that the department has student surveys to decide . . . on the name for the department! Or whose professors, so learned and wise in the ways of gender, have long mailing list discussions about how to teach students of a particular gender. I mean it isn't like biologists studying the million-or-so species, chemists studying the periodic table, or linguists studying the Indo-European language family. For God's sake, there are exactly two genders, and you, the experts, need help in dealing with one of them? Do I want my children taking courses that will teach them how to make arguments like this, found in a comment on Hugo Schwyzer's blog:
Most likely the reason that these women feel this way is becaue we live in a society that allows men to objectify women. Men do this so that they can stay in power. Being with a beautiful women is considred to be a sign of stautus in our society; and because the woment is a status symbol she is treated more like an object than a subject. Also by obejectifying women men don’t have to recognizen them as sujects and take them serioulsly. While it seems like this would be a horrible situation for women and the smart ones would choose not to participate this is not the case; many women feel that by appering beautiful they gain power over men because them man will then want to be in possesion of her. Perhaps teachers who objectify their students are more interested in power than having a relationship with their students. Also I can’t help but notice that many of the comments here are highly hetero-compolsary.

So I don't know what I'd do if I saw a course "Feminist and Gender Studies" on a bill. Perhaps if they took it as an "Easy A" or a schedule filler I'd let it go. I can understand taking some nonsense in college - as long is you know it is nonsense. But if I started to feel that they took this stuff seriously I might well say: "Go for it - but study it on your own dime."

There are always exceptions, however. I came across this Women's Studies professor, answering her Rate My Professor comment that her requirements are "inflexible."

I love the dismissive title she put right on the top of her profile: "Save it for your parents." It sort of appeals to my "Mussolini on the balcony" view that a teacher should have enough confidence in herself, and enough respect for her material that she takes an uncompromising view: I'm the damned expert, learn this stuff the way I teach it, or take a hike!

While I'd question paying for a Womens Studies course, I'd feel like I was getting some value for my money if she was the teacher.