Sunday, February 4, 2018

Frank Bruni's Column on How Father James Martin Is Being Attacked Reads Like Commentary on RNS Discussion Thread About Martin

Pat Bagley on Twitter

As I said earlier today in the RNS discussion thread following Jacob Lupfer's account of Father James Martin's recent lecture at Georgetown, Frank Bruni's column in NY Times today about those hating on Father Martin and obsessed with attacking LGBTQ human beings: it's almost as if he read this thread at RNS before he wrote it. Bruni states,

Check out the websites and Twitter accounts of far-right Catholic groups and you’ll see why [a group of Catholic parishes in New Jersey recently cancelled a lecture Father Martin was to present]. To them Father Martin is "sick," "wicked," "a filthy liar," "the smoke of Satan" and a "heretic" on a fast track to "eternal damnation." They obsessively stalk him and passionately exhort churchgoers to protest his public appearances or prevent them from happening altogether. 
And they succeed. After the New Jersey parish in which his remarks were supposed to be delivered was inundated with angry phone calls, the event was moved off church grounds. Father Martin will give his spectacularly uncontroversial talk — "Jesus Christ: Fully Human, Fully Divine" — at a secular conference center in a nearby town. . . . 
And the vitriol to which he has been subjected is breathtaking, a reminder not just of how much homophobia is still out there but also of how presumptuous, overwrought, cruel and destructive discourse in this digital age can be.

As I said yesterday, the vitriol and cruelty are all the more pronounced now, because these folks have the impression that they have lost a culture war on which they quite foolishly chose to hinge the future of Christianity — quite foolish, when Jesus himself never said a single word about what obsesses them, but said loads about the obligation of his followers to love; and quite foolish, because you cannot credibly build any authentically Christian "brand" around hating a targeted minority group. Here's Robert P. Jones, The End of White Christian America (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2016), on the recent history underlying the vitriol and cruelty of hard-right Catholics allied with hard-right evangelicals in this queer-bashing cause:

During the rise of the Christian Right, evangelical leaders staked their communal identity on an unbridled opposition to gay rights — and at first they were strikingly successful. Opposition to gay rights was so widespread that the concept of nationwide "marriage equality" that became a reality in 2015 seemed a pipe dream to most activists and gay and lesbian Americans (p. 116). 
Because evangelical leaders made opposition to gay rights so central to their movement's identity, no issue captures White Christian America's loss of cultural power better than the rapid rise in public support for same-sex marriage (p. 120). 

They can do nothing now but rage. And ratchet up even more attacks. And try to destroy the human rights gains made by the LGBTQ community. And seek to foment more prejudice, hate, and violence — all the while claiming that they are representing their "Christ," who is all about wrath and vengeance in their reading of the Christian scriptures, as they wage their culture war. Meanwhile:

Starting today, it's LGBTQ+ history month. And while it is important to remember those who were killed historically for their sexual orientation or gender, we must also remember that violence toward queer and trans people is not something that just happened "back then when society was less tolerant". Queer and trans people are being murdered almost every day, around the world – that is not our past, it's our present. And although it’s an uncomfortable reality to accept, we need to accept it.

The sad reality is, a number of people — I include myself immodestly among them — have tried for some years now to get Catholics who have the ability to make a difference, the journalistic mavens and academics of the American Catholic church, to see that the hate has been rising after the U.S. bishops allied themselves with white evangelicals in the South. And that real human beings are being hurt in real and tangible ways . . . . 

But hardly anyone has been willing to listen to our testimony. We've been treated as ill-mannered, churlish children who insist on talking about what polite people shouldn't notice. We've been shunned and ridiculed (in the case of discussion threads at Commonweal, I was delberately and persistently misgendered by one contributor while the thread moderator and other regular contributors — those intellectual leaders of the American Catholic church who could make a difference — stood by in total silence).

Maybe now some of these folks will take note when it's a priest who is the object of the hate and vituperation.

Please see the next posting here entitled Kevin Ahern on the Failure of American Catholic Theologians to Defend Father James Martin: "A Crisis or Perhaps Even a Failure in Our Public Theology."

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