Friday, June 16, 2017


A priest-friend of mine (Hi Fr ---! I think you are still reading this?) shared an excerpt from a sermon of St. Anthony of Padua, a couple days ago, and highlighted this sentence: Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak.

There's usually a disconnect between actions and words, We say things that sound deliciously seraphic and, in the abstract, are keen on 'em. In practice...ehhhhh... maybe we'll start building a civilization of love some other day.

There's a second kind of disconnect when we say these things, think we're acting on them, and desiring to be faithful followers/witnesses of Christ. But, although we're sometimes good at separating the sin from the sinner, we're maybe not so good on separating the idea from the person.

So it is that you see people being all about respecting the dignity of others (ad nauseam, gag me with a spoon) while being completely down for Freaking The Eff Out and goin' at someone like a Spider Monkey when that someone begs to differ. The methods used to crush an opponent can be brutal and are sometimes the verbal equivalent of one of the gorier deaths in the Iliad.  I.e.:
Idomeneus skewered Erymas straight through the mouth, the merciless brazen spearpoint raking through, up under the brain to split his glistening skull - teeth shattered out, both eyes brimmed to the lids with a gush of blood and both nostrils spurting, mouth gaping, blowing convulsive sprays of blood and death’s dark cloud closed down around his corpse.
To stand for the good is to reject evil, to not capitulate to either its speculative or practical premises. Error has no rights.

But when you treat people as totems/emblems/visible manifestations of an idea, you identify, substantially, person and idea. In a righteous zeal to confront what is obviously a pig-headed notion, we transfer its being unsound, fallacious, or dangerous, to the person and let loose the with bilious indignation the hounds of heaven. Wrong beliefs smashed to a pulp! Opponent reduced to tears! A relationship damaged! Hooray! You win!?

People cannot be treated like ideas.

Some people do deserve a verbal beatdown, Homer-style. There was one man who insulted the Church in a vile way and I wanted to leap over the table and yell in his face. I only had time for one heated retort before a friend saw it would probably end Very Badly and abruptly, loudly, and decisively headed that off. It wigs people out when I get enraged because it happens so rarely, and friends hit panic-eject mode when that occurs. But there's a difference between being a Condescending Ass about religion (or about anything, really) and someone who is genuinely curious, seriously misinformed, or simply unable to reason well.

Look at comboxes (well, don’t – they're a bit depressing...except, actually, read this combox). In them, you find people trying to get across some point (could be an utterly nutty point, or just poorly articulated), getting piled on, and retreating in a high dudgeon (or persisting, insisting, and getting angrier by the second). Ho ho! We laugh at them. How stupid they are! But many (not all, and perhaps not most, but many) are not ill-meaning. They are reaching for truth and goodness, trynna share what they know, trynna to be helpful. Forcing them into a more radical corner as an intellectual exercise/sign of domination because their ideas or arguments are stupid ain't gonna do no one no good no how. Do you also rev the engine when an animal strays into the street, perchance? People are not their ideas, though ideas (especially about the good/final ends) shape action. I feel like a grasp of that distinction is slowly slipping away and we're becoming calloused and inclined to be callous-forming.

We also tend to forget the advantages that allow to converse in easy familiarity with, say, Aquinas, Benedict XVI, and old Church documents. Because it's easy for us does not mean it's easy for others.  Aquinas, quoting Boethius in the question on whether the existence of God is self-evident, reminds us "that there are some mental concepts self-evident only to the learned..." (ST IQ2A1) Well of course YOU know a number of finer philosophical or theological distinctions. But getting to truth for many entails a slow and weary struggle. Ya don't kick a fellow person on the same trail when they're dyin' of thirst. We'all's with access to books and t’eh internets, with the leisure to read, and the time we need to sit and reflect quietly, are blessed. Don't squander it. Hopefully, the more erudite (relative to wherever we’re at intellectually) aren't going to be treating us as manifestations of our ill-conceived and stupid ideas. And maybe, just maybe, God will accept our pitiful attempts and ideas and meanings in the spirit in which they're offered IF we accept the attempts of others in a similar way. 

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