I grew up Catholic in a small town which was unfriendly to Catholics. I don't think most people knew why, they just didn't like Catholics. Those who knew why, all seemed to use this vein of reasoning: the Catholic Church is evil, therefore Catholics are evil (or stupid). The big three proofs of the Catholic Church's corruption were:
The Crusades - proves the CC wants world dominion over other religions (countries) by armed force if necessary.
The Spanish Inquisition – proves the CC approves the use of torture to obtain confessions of wrong doing from innocent victims who have displeased the hierarchy.
Galileo - proves the CC is opposed to scientific research and advancement.
I am not here concerned with debunking the above statements (and they are only three of very many) but I am here questioning the underlying and unspoken premise. This premise being: “If I can show a problem in a part of the Church, then I can assign that problem to the entire Church. No one seemed bothered that these events all occurred prior to the founding of the United States! Why not blame the French for the atrocities Frank armies committed during the Crusades? Why not blame Spain for the Inquisition? Why not blame rival scientists for the Galileo affair?
I think the answer is quite simple: it was easy. It created a “them vs us” mentality which requires little knowledge. It is comforting to be on the right side and to actively oppose evil.
But, I am not really writing about the unfairness of my childhood. Especially as I am guilty of the same thing.
Dismissing a group for preconceived traits is becoming the norm today, maybe even the ideal. Group identity has ever been with us but it has multiplied exponentially with instant communication. Our world is full of divisions: glbt vs straight, conservative vs liberal, old vs young, woman vs man, Republican vs Democrat vs Tea Party vs Libertarian, urban elite vs hayseed-hicks, educated vs ignorant, socialist vs capitalist, rich vs poor, and a myriads more. All tend to use the same tactic against opponents:
“I am intelligent, reasoned, clever and correct. You are not because you are a part of the other group. Should you try to provide a defense of your position, I may blithely ignore your defense because I am intelligent, reasoned, clever and correct and you are not because you are a member of the other group!”.
Despising any member of the rival group is O.K. After all, if they were reasoned, intelligent, clever and correct then they would agree with me. If not, they are an evil which must be suppressed. I need only find a few easily proved and memorable examples of misdeeds of one to condemn the entire group for all time. Nothing could be any easier!
We need to just grow up! Look at what the other guy says; argue, debate, reason, disagree, question. By all means do engage; do not merely dismiss. Ideas have consequences. It may not be fun. It will not be easy. But who ever said life was supposed to be easy.
Tim Ohmes is a Catholic Revert, father of 7, amateur apologist, catechist, a/c mechanic extraordinaire originally from a town smaller than the readership of this blog (if you count my mom).