Religious Bigotry, Like Sin, Is an Equal Opportunity Affliction, or Toward a Better Anti-Catholicism

Much of the brouhaha over Jason Stellman’s development has garnered a lot of chatter over the Catholic-Protestant divide, the sound of a squeaky wheel being reinvented.  In the process, strong language tends to give way to incivility. Even those of us who would try and protect some from the pugilistic ways of others are trounced as two-faced bigots for also wanting to maintain the strong Reformed confessional language against the Roman communion. And it all reminds of a past post that might be worth recycling…

The American Conservative has an interesting way of evaluating the jihadwatcher-ism amongst us:

But what exactly does this have to do with the threat that al-Qaeda and other Muslim terrorist groups pose to America? For those who suggest that Islam by definition is the breeding ground for contemporary terrorism, the notion that Muslims could become law-abiding American citizens or American patriots is a contradiction in terms. As Reason’s Jesse Walker notes, this fear of Islam echoes the Know-Nothings’ anti-Catholic sentiments and the fear of the Vatican. The main difference between then and now is that the Know-Nothings of the 19th century were not advocating sending American troops to depose the pope and invade Catholic countries to force them to embrace American values…

…But sowing fear of a monolithic Islam serves the interests of our client states, defense contractors, and lobbyists who press for rising defense budgets and further military interventions. This anti-Islam narrative is also promoted by Republican activists and conservative-movement pundits who hope that like the Red Menace of old, the specter of a Green Peril could serve as a unifying force for the political right. But this kind of policy would only end up overextending the military, ballooning deficits, and devastating our economic base. That’s exactly the kind of tea that conservatives and libertarians have sworn not to drink.

One gets the sense that the same Christians who respond viscerally to the idea that devout Muslims make good neighbors instead of terrorists might also be the same ones who describe their Mormon neighbors as cultists. Neither seems very charitable or neighborly. But just as all cultists are false religionists but not all false religionists are cultists, while all jihadists are Muslims not all Muslims are terrorists. And suggesting that Mormons are the same as Jonestownsers might be the kind of Kool-Aid more conservative Calvinists should swear off (with apologies to Walter Martin).

But the point about how today’s jihadwatchery may be animated by the same forces that gave us yesterday’s Know Nothing anti-Catholicism reminds of a past December post entitled “Toward a Better Anti-Catholicism”…

In the December issue of The Outlook, historians D.G. Hart and John Muether continue a series on Roman Catholicism. The third installment, Anti-Catholicism, Good and Bad, has been the most intriguing to me thus far. (Here is the first installment.)

As the title suggests, the authors are essentially putting forth that there are two kinds of anti-Catholicism. First the bad kind:

So strong was religious warfare that parts of nineteenth-century America resembled Northern Ireland today. A political party was established to oppose Roman Catholics from holding public office. A secret patriotic society, the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, began in 1849, admitting only American-born Protestants without Roman Catholic relatives. Members swore to oppose the election of foreigners or Roman Catholics. Because of their secretiveness and their frequent furtive responses to inquirers with ‘I don’t know,’ they became known as the Know-Nothings.

Add to what can only be tallied up to religious bigotry the irony of Protestants from Josiah Strong to Charles Hodge to Abraham Kuyper who suggest that resident within Calvinism are the seeds to all that westerners hold ideologically dear. Strong’s best-seller, Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis (1885) insisted that:

“Wherever Protestantism went civil liberty followed. The two greatest characteristics of Anglo-Saxons were civil liberty and spiritual Christianity.”

Presbyterian New Schooler Albert Barnes, in Presbyterianism: Its Affinities (1863) wrote:

“…all just notions of liberty in modern times [were connected with the fundamental principles taught by Presbyterianism].”

Charles Hodge in an 1855 lecture on the nature of Presbyterianism:

“It is the combination of the principles of liberty and order in the Presbyterian system, the union of the rights of the people with subjection to legitimate authority, that has made it the parent and guardian of civil liberty in every part of the world.”

And, of course, Abraham Kuyper in Lectures on Calvinism (1898):

“The logical development of what was enshrined in the liberty of conscience, as well as liberty itself, first blessed the world from the side of Calvinism.”

Some of the above works had at least a tangential purpose to show how Roman Catholicism, as opposed to Calvinism, was contradictory to good American citizenship. It would seem that true religion is not only useful to show how Roman Catholicism is unpatriotic but, even more interesting, also relevant to the felt needs of statecraft. One wonders just what is the appreciable difference is between the likes of televangelists per Joel Osteen and the writings of Abraham Kuyper. It may be that what scrapes the sensitivities of certain Presbyterians about the former is simply the crass and uncouth application of true religion to the baser felt needs of humanity, while the latter appeals to the felt needs of the merely sophisticated and cultured. What isn’t clear is why one deserves more ire than the other, that is, if Jesus’ kingdom really isn’t of this world.

Even so, the authors go on to suggest “a better anti-Catholicism.” They point out that whatever else Vatican II shows, its dovetailing with a lessened confidence about modern politics on the parts of Protestants has helped to reduce the antagonism between the descendants of Geneva and Rome in the contemporary geo-political landscape. As it concerns the former, in a word, “The older arguments about liberty and tyranny no longer make sense.”

And so after having previously suggested the possibility that, instead of Rome being necessarily opposed to the core values of a liberal democracy, it could be that Roman pontiffs conceived an “organic and ordered society was better for families and churches than the chaotic, individualistic, and rootless one that modern politics encouraged,” Hart and Muether instinctively and wisely advise:

The challenge for Protestants today is to recover older and better arguments against Rome than the ones American Protestants have so often used. A good form of anti-Catholicism exists. It is based on Protestant beliefs about the Bible, sin, salvation, and worship. Those beliefs were essential to the Reformation. But beyond the history, they are crucial to men and women who want to be right with God.

Agreed. After all, if Roman Christians (who invented the spiritual discipline of quiet times) routinely invite Jesus into their heart, want to take back America for Christ, transform the culture and read their bibles privately and pray—all things that have become absolutely central to devout modern Protestantism—then the only thing that explains the Protestant spitting and cursing about a distant cousin marrying a Roman Catholic is the bad kind of anti-Catholicism. But religious bigotry is not befitting those who would that a better Protestantism prevail.

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18 Responses to Religious Bigotry, Like Sin, Is an Equal Opportunity Affliction, or Toward a Better Anti-Catholicism

  1. P.L.M. says:

    So then how to you justify your own rudeness and incivility and backhanded compliments? This is the part I’m confused about? I’m also unsure of the propriety of your constant attempts to point out just how perfect, pious, holy, and better you are.

  2. dghart says:

    Paul Larry Manata, questions go both ways. Do you still beat your wife?

  3. Zrim says:

    Paul, you sound like my kids who think I’m a legalist for making them go to church twice every Sunday and memorize their catechism or a snob for thinking their rooms could be tidier or grades higher, or my wife for thinking the same when I turn my nose up at the cheap beer she brings home. Between you and them I guess I win the lout of the century award. But sometimes it’s about exercising judgment and making necessary distinctions…and I suppose enduring those who think that’s to be an absolute ass.

  4. justsinner99 says:

    DGH – did you take your blog offline?

    (Sorry for going off-subject.)

  5. P.L.M. says:

    Zrim, check out what Darryl wrote on Triablogue:

    “I sure wish you could point to a post where 2kers claim to be the civil and gracious ones. Have you not heard? You’re in the blogosphere.”

    Lol. No, ROFL.

    Anyway, if you get to play moral police, why do you bristle at thought police? Whenever you have been caught in a logical error, you dismiss it and claim something like the following:

    * Logic is for Greeks who hate Jesus.
    * Who cares if the argument is illogical, my conclusion is true.
    * Logic and reasoning skills is hankering after worldly wisdom, I seek the wisdom of God.

    But here’s the breakdown in your “comeback” to my comment: Would you say the same thing if you constantly told your girls to go to church on Sunday and that it is good and right and proper for them to, but yet at the same time you didn’t go twice on Sundays?

    Let. It. Sink. Into. Noggin.

    I did nothing of the analogous sort to remind you of your daughters and their church attendance. So, either (a) you knew that, so you purposefully misrepresented me or (b) you didn’t make the connection in your little mind.

  6. dghart says:

    It’s baaaaaaaaack.

  7. P.L.M. says:

    Not Larry, Darryl Gerard Hart. To answer your question; why yes, as a matter of fact, I just beat her at chess the other night, though she put up a good fight. Now that I’ve answered your question, will I get my answer?

  8. dghart says:

    Sorry, Lawrence.

  9. Zrim says:

    Paul, my mind may be little but I think I know when someone’s behavior reminds me of another’s. But I do go to church twice every Lord’s Day, so in the words of Jesse Jackson, the question is moot. Real life is hard enough without indulging the hypotheticals of hyper-logicians.

  10. P.L.M. says:

    Yawn, you’re still not getting it. I know you go to church twice on Lord’s Day. But you would say it was hypocritical if you didn’t. So, here’s the relevant analogy: It’s not that I’m complaining that you’re telling me to say mother may I, it’s that you are a uncivil, passive aggressive, back-handed complimenter yourself. So I said I don’t get how you can sit on your high horse when you’re rude and uncivil and uncharitable yourself. Got it? This is real life, and my comment doesn’t depend on a hypothetical. If you 2Kers are not against reason and good thinking, why do your actions seem to betray that at every turn. Slow down. Breathe. Read my comments. Understand. Comprehend. Think. Meditate. Respond accordingly.

  11. Zrim says:

    Paul, my original point to you above in the child analogy was that you seem to think that when I exercise judgment about better and worse ways of doing or saying things I’m being rude, uncivil, and uncharitable. You gloss right over the possibility that you simply disagree with me–sort of like how my girls gloss right over the possibility that their idea of proper Sabbath activity is different from mine and jump straight to legalist.

    And I’m not sure why you keep engaging me if you really have such a low opinion. If I’m that awful, why are you wasting your time? You have the benefit of not being under my parental jurisdiction, unlike my girls.

  12. P.L.M. says:

    No, Zrim, I don’t seem to think that. You cannot distill that from anything I’ve said. I’m talking about your back-handed compliments, your low-blows, your mockery, etc. You glossed right over the relevant point. So, for the millionth time, gonna interact with the real point? (Don’t worry, either you will or won’t. So you’ll either be seen as a dodger and a thick-headed fool, or you will—to which I have many things planned in that event. So the pretzel twisting will continue.)

    P.S. I’m waiting for you to ban me like the Bayly’s banned you. 🙂

  13. Zrim says:

    And I fail to see how you can distill from anything I’ve ever said to be rude, uncivil, and uncharitable. I’ve pushed back when you shove, so maybe your problem is that you simply don’t like it when you get a shove instead of a fawn. So I don’t grant your premise that I’m as awful as you portray. You’re the logician, now what? My guess is that I’m either stupid or lazy or both.

  14. P.L.M. says:

    Zrim, I’ve pushed when you’ve shoved. I am pushing back. You see it your way, I see it mine. You have your interpretation, I have mine. Are you *right*? Can you prove you are from the Bible or the confession? No. This is the problem and why your crusade cannot succeed. For it to succeed you must assume that you are only giving push back, and since you are, that justifies the rude, uncivil, and punkish comments. But on that logic, since *I* am the one pushing back (and yes, I push hard), then that justifies *me* and insulates me from your condemnations.

    Anyway, check it: You just said here that I “shove” yet you merely and simply “push.” Note how you’re setting it up. Taking a swipe at me. Painting me as belligerent. Painting yourself ask the meek person who’s defending yourself from a bully. These are all snide remarks and put downs

    Next: How many times have you said I was “off my meds?” Is that “civil” That’s not “rude?”

    Or, how many times have you said things like I deny the gospel? Reformed people told that to Stellman, and you critiqued them for it. What gives?

    Or, how many times have you said I “worship” logic and philosophy. Really? You find that to be “charitable?”

    Or, how many times have you said I don’t “live in the real world?” That’s not rude? That’s civil? That’s charitable?

    How many times have you said I seek “the wisdom of this world” and you’re just fine seeking Christ? You think that’s charitable, Zrim?

    You think saying you’re a wimp on muscle beach and I am a bully who likes to kick sand in your face is charitable? Painting me as a meat head and you as, again, the helpless victim?

    Or here’s another one: “Paul, shouldn’t you be out on a ledge somewhere? Or cut the pill in half next time.” Really? Civil? Charitable? Suggesting I’m suicidal and in need of medication? This isn’t “rude”

    Or, when you say things to me like: “Paul, perhaps as function of a sustained self-importance you think . . .” Really? That’s charitable? Claiming my responses to your comments stem from a “sustained self-importance?”

    Or how about when you say, “We all know how smart you are and how dumb I am?” That’s passive aggressive. It’s damning with faint praise. Seriously, you think that’s not rude or uncivil?

    Or, how about when you say, “Paul, here’s how a sane and sanguine person responds?” That’s not rude? That’s civil?

    Or how about when you say I “esteem philosophy and apologetics over churchly matters?” Can you prove that? No, it requires you to speculate on internal mental states (but you criticized people for doing that to Stellman.” It’s also a clear put-down.

    How about when I presented a story about a youth who turned from the faith and the father, who was also the pastor, regretted never spending any time teaching apologetics, and you called that “a sob story” and said you were sorry to give me an answer that didn’t “feed my ego.” You think that’s not rude? That’s civility to you? That’s charity and grace?

    I can go on with thousands of similar comments

    As I said, you’re a blind fool, Zrim. You think too highly of yourself. You excuse your behavior yet run around the internet policing non-2K reformed Christians for the purpose of showing everyone how good and clean and holy 2Kers are.

  15. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “And I fail to see how you can distill from anything I’ve ever said to be rude, uncivil, and uncharitable.”

    Zrim, I think you gave a good explanation for your failure to see at the end of your comment:

    “My guess is that I’m either stupid or lazy or both.”

  16. Zrim says:

    Paul, really, all this from pointing out elsewhere that “assface” was pretty insulting? Sheesh. Two words: anger management. But feel free to have the last 406 words.

  17. P.L.M. says:

    Assface, as mentioned, was in response to someone who said I was 12, so I acted like it. You just don’t agree with the rhetorical response.

    Anyway, you said you “fail to see how you can distill from anything I’ve ever said to be rude, uncivil, and uncharitable.” But now you see. I called your bluff. You’re a hypocrite, and everyone knows it. You’re hammering on civility and respectfulness and comportment was all a big joke. A game to try to make 2K look good. You failed.

  18. Adam says:

    Reblogged this on Way Station and commented:
    A Little “republication of works” here for your enjoyment. Continuing my current theme on Roman Catholicism.

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