16 Jul 2008, Comments Off on Crackers!


Author: Helen

I’ve been following the World Youth Day bunfight with mild interest and some irritation. The irritation is with the sunny insouciance of the participants, who either (1) are too brainwashed to realise they are celebrating a patriarchal and authoritarian organisation which works against basic human rights for women and gays in many countries, including contributing to the spread of HIV worldwide, and which fights something as basic as contraception, as well as working to wind back social policy gains here through the CEC and the Right wing in both major parties; or (2) know all this and don’t care. We’re treated to regular updates in the news media in which some bright young thing chirps something like:

VOX POP 3: For [the Pope] to talk about something that’s about our environment and how to look after it is quite important. To show that he with other scientists and environmentalists is worried about the state our world is in will have quite a good effect hopefully on all Catholics.

Vox Pop, you’re deluded. The Catholic church has no intention of doing anything to help the global environment, in which the most important thing they could do would be to recognise the right of women to limit the size of their families. And that isn’t going to happen. The focus on “the environment” is just part of the feelgood, happy-clappy ambience the Church is aiming for in this latest recruitment drive.

Over in the US, the Catholic church is in the news too, but for a very different reason: Crackergate!

In case you’re new to this story, a student at the University of Florida abducted a consecrated wafer from communion and held it hostage, as AOL puts it, or something. My favourite “unrepentent Science heathen”, P.Z. Myers, gleefully (1) wrote about it and (2) made jokey comments about visiting some kind of physical retribution on the cracker, or subjecting it to some kind of (mad scientist!1!) experiment, to demonstrate its essential crackerness and utter lack of live Jesus-ness. The horror! For this, both the student and Myers received death threats, as well as Myers receiving much hate email and attempts to convince his employers to sack him.

So far today, I have received 39 pieces of personal hate mail of varying degrees of literacy, all because I was rude to a cracker. Four of them have included death threats, a personal one day record. Thirty-four of them have demanded that I be fired. Twenty-five of them have told me to desecrate a copy of the Koran, instead, or in some similar way offend Muslims, because — in a multiplicity of ironic cluelessness — apparently only some religious icons must be protected, and I would only offend Catholics because they are all so nice that none of them would wish me harm. I even have one email that says I should be fired, that the author would like to kill me, and that I only criticize because Catholics are so gentle and kind.
Oh, and of course, the university president’s office has also received lots of mail demanding my immediate ouster (keep in mind, though…Catholics are no threat to anyone at all.)

The craziness has just taken on a life of its own. Read back from the first linked post and you’ll find a whole saga developing around PZ Myers vs. organised religion. It’s quite an education.
From the American Catholic League:

As a result of the hysteria that Myers’ ilk have promoted, at least one public official is taking it seriously. Thomas E. Foley is chairman of Virginia’s First Congressional District Republican Committee, a delegate to the Republican National Convention and one of two Republican at large nominees for Virginia’s Electoral College. His concern is for the safety of Catholics attending this year’s Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, Myers’ backyard. Accordingly, Foley has asked the top GOP brass to provide additional security while in the Twin Cities so that Catholics can worship without fear of violence. Given the vitriol we have experienced for simply exercising our First Amendment right to freedom of speech, we support Foley’s request.

And you thought NSW passing a special law to prevent ordinary citizens of Sydney from “annoying” Catholics was a bizarre one-off, hmm?

They are increasing security at the Republican convention out of fear of ME? I am puissant. Fear me, O Trembling Republicans…
The remark about my backyard is amusing — Minneapolis is 150 miles away. It’s also more towards one side of my house; I think Iowa would be my backyard, while Canada is my front yard. I sure hope I don’t get assessed for property taxes on the entire upper midwest.

I can’t help but remember the manufactured “scandal” over the Mohammed Cartoons in the Danish press, and the insistence all over the RWDB blogosphere that “free speech” demanded that one shouldn’t be trammelled in ones rudeness to the superstitions attaching to the religions of others. Moreover, there’s a popular opinion out there – it’s often seen in the newspaper letters pages as well – that Christians are always copping insults and copping it sweet because they’re so nice and would never stoop to abuse and death threats because of a prank. Well, look what happens.

Me, my interpretation of freedom of religion – which I think of as one of the liberal democratic freedoms that we should enjoy – is pretty much of the private worship kind, and stops where that freedom impinges on the freedom of others. (In other words, keep those rosaries… to yourself, mate.) I don’t mean that one shouldn’t have public celebrations. Diwali? Noisy new year’s ceremonies in Footscray? Bring it on! Even (shudder) Guy Sebastian concerts, if you must, as long as I don’t have to go. Therefore, in my world, it’s kind of jejeune and undergraduate to prank somebody’s religious symbol; I think this was a bit unworthy of P.Z., as well as the editors of Jylland Posten, to go down that road. But Jesus Christ on a cracker, it certainly brings out the intolerant, medieval, and deadly element of Christianity out into the light. Next time someone starts intoning how tolerant Christians are compared to those awful Muslims, you might like to direct them over to Myers’ blog.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

Comments (0)

  • Mark says:

    “it certainly brings out the intolerant, medieval, and deadly element of Christianity out into the light”.

    Quite so. And I think that Serrano and Scorsese know this well too.

    All the same, I wonder what reactions in the West and Australia to making fun of the Dalai Lama would be like. After all, he is another example of a feudal theocrat.

    (The Chinese are trying to turn it into an Olympic event, I believe. Quite a different ball-game from college pranks.)

    But I do have to question one thing about your post. Notwithstanding the importance of defending women’s reproductive rights and the various issues around large, poor families in the developing world (poverty, hunger and misery, to name a few), I really wonder whether population control would be ‘the most important’ or crucial environmental measure in our current situation.

    It is not poor women in Latin America, India, China or Africa having to walk miles to gather firewood to burn in their makeshift wood-stoves or fireplaces to feed their children who are responsible for the major emissions causing global warming, but the major industries, coal-fired power plants, and transport emissions of the industrialised world, with the industrial emissions of China and India close on its tail.

    They are not even the ones responsible for clear-felling rainforests in their homelands – that would be those grazing beef for our burgers or woodchipping trees for our paper, or milling timber for our disposable chopsticks.

    After all, Australia is one of the highest per capita greenhouse gas polluters in the world. That means that one family of three or four in Melbourne or Sydney is responsible for more emissions – and hence global warming – than a poor family of six or seven in India or Africa.

    But that is a very different issue from whether the woman in that family had the rights, choices or freedom to decide how many children she wanted to have.

    Perhaps the Catholic church does have a role to play in the environmental debate around global warming, and how the world responds to it. Such as suggesting that those with the wealth and capacity and who are responsible for significant emissions should curtail their consumption, emissions and thus ecological footprint – whether at national or family levels.

    You know, ‘it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle that for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven’ and all that stuff, which the church seemed to conveniently forget (about itself and its princes particularly) for a millennium or so.

    But I agree, the church’s role in curtailing women’s reproductive rights and stymieing the use of condoms in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS are deplorable and worth condemning.

    Ooh, I just ‘condemned’. Okay, I’m getting off my soapbox now.

  • zoot says:

    I am intrigued by a theological question.
    The crackers at the centre of the US row are freely available to anyone (I am told). It is only when they are blessed by a priest that they transubstantiate into the flesh of our Saviour.
    Does this magical transformation occur if the priest happens to be a child molester?
    If it does, what does this say about the nature of God. If it doesn’t, has the Roman Catholic church failed in its duty of care?

  • zoot says:

    Oops, just realised my last comment was a bit cryptic. In questioning “duty of care” I was referring to all of those believers who thought they had been taking part in ritual cannibalism when in fact they were only eating crackers.
    Obviously the church has already failed in its duty of care towards the abused children.

  • kate says:

    I love most how the shock horror reactions to such pranks ignore how many of them happen in Catholic schools. The statue of the Virgin Mary went missing on an annual basis at my school.

    The only person I know who’s been involved in any way with WYD is my mother outlaw. Not exactly youth at 62, but younger than most of the priests. She was helping to organise accomodation for pilgrims at went to mass at the Telstra Dome. We spent family lunch on Sunday joking about whether mass at a football ground would involve two teams and a bishop leading the other priests out onto the ground through a banner. There were also jokes about the blood rule. The practicing catholics were as naughty as the lapsed in that conversation.

    The WYD stuff, the violent reactions to pranks or art work, is all shocking to me. While I’m not religious, and I find the rules stupid and exclusionary and often offensive, this aspect of the church isn’t the sort of environment I grew up in. There’s a huge disconnect between the church I see reported on the news, the folk at head office if you will, and the people I’ve met running their local parish or fundraising for East Timorese schools. I think the mother outlaw (and my mother for that matter) try to ignore the head office stuff and carry on, trying not to let those in charge actually decide what faith and community should be. I’m not suggesting they’ve come to the ‘right’ conclusion, only that from their perspective they can’t change head office, and they don’t want to lose the good bits.

  • dysthymiac says:

    what everybody above said.
    ‘Freedom to practice whatever cult you want to’
    not freedom to let it touch ME.

    I ascribe to the Stamp Out Hypocrisy cult.

    bless you all

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