We live in Missiondom, not Christendom, and Most Reactionaries Refuse to Face That Fact

Over on the Book of Face, Deacon Steven Greydanus notes:

Belief in God is falling most precipitously among the young, according to the latest Gallup poll. Only 68% of US adults ages 18–29 said they believe in God.

The rise in disbelief accompanies an increasing correlation between faith and conservatism generally and Christian nationalism particularly.

It’s almost as if politicized MAGA/GOP Christianity were driving people away from faith. Who could possibly have predicted such a thing?

The comboxes immediately became crowded with two types of people:

a) those who said “Duh!” and related various personal experiences of being serious, committed Catholics shat upon by those who measure orthodoxy by Voting Republican or sundry other Culture War shibboleths unrelated to the Faith and

b) those who stooped down from Sinai to explain to the wounded and those hanging on by their fingernails that they are weak, or Not Real Catholics, or Infiltrators, or Otherwise impure.

One of several examples of a) include this guy, a convert who worked hard to minister to youth in his parish and who was punished for being insufficiently MAGA by the FOX-educated decisionmakers on the parish council:

My Millennial reaction is basically just “yeah, duh”. Throughout my time in seminary and then as a parish youth minister and now as an ordinary layman who knows many of my fellow pew-sitters quite well, it has been obvious to me that the Religious Right is driving people away from the Church at every turn. I haven’t had a month go by since Covid first hit where some dear Catholic friend confides to me that they’re no longer practicing. The reasons may be slightly different depending on the particular instance, but there’s always a common thread: some sort of repulsive rightwing politics too intertwined with their faith for them to compartmentalize bad experiences with nutty Catholic rightwingers from Catholicism itself.

It’s gotten to me too. I never thought I’d ever consider leaving or stopping practicing when I converted or when I was in seminary, but I actually went through so much heartbreak from so many during my time as a parish youth minister that I almost did just that earlier this year. Frankly, I probably would have had it not been for a profoundly unforgettable and supernatural experience of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I don’t write about all that much on my Facebook but I wrote about that experience. I didn’t need any theology and apologetics (heck, I can do the theology and apologetics just fine) but simply, I just needed to receive God’s love, accept that I wasn’t broken, and accept the graces from God to heal and stay Catholic (and get out of everything and change parishes) and move forward.

For I and for all of these people who have left or are considering leaving, it’s emotionally exhausting and traumatizing to even go to Sunday Mass and enter into that encounter with Christ in the Eucharist the moment they hear rightwing messaging. If even I, as a former seminarian and parish employee and youth ministry person, got that close to the “peace out” option, no amount of theology or philosophy or apologetics is sufficient or appropriate. What is needed is genuine Christian love, grace, kindness, empathy, and most of all, a blowtorch to the rhetoric and power of the Religious Right in our parishes.

Frankly, the thing that keeps me going is because of the priest and parish that I found.

After I quit, I had to skip Sunday Mass twice. I just couldn’t do it. I was ready to leave, and actually checked out a Lutheran church one of those Sundays. Then, one evening, I went to the Father’s Heart at St. Theresa’s…basically Adoration + praise and worship… and in that space, I asked for healing, closed my eyes, opened them, and BAM…there was the actual face of Jesus full of love and compassion and a thousand other things that I needed but can’t describe, and in those moments there was so much healing that I was able to start going back. I don’t know how to describe it, but it was as if He and I talked about everything. It was so powerful, and frankly, without that experience of so much Divine Grace and Love and Mercy, I would have hit the “peace out” point and never come back.

Bottom line is that it literally took a supernatural mystical experience and encounter with Christ to get me to heal enough to where I can still be Catholic. However, I truly believe that for all of us who have been so incredibly broken, God is there to heal us all and for some of us, those graces of healing aren’t going to come through the Church but they’re there.

I’ll be praying.

When several people made similar remarks about scandalous treatment by the Righteous, one person (who had herself been treated like crap not many years ago by a Republican Rite Hatchery calling itself a Catholic University) commented:

What intrigues me is that so many commenters here refuse to see this extremely obvious fact that you point out.

Increased association of religion with white nationalism, xenophobia, and bigotry is a turn off to a generation that is a lot more serious about morals and values than their elders were.

At which point the b) team leapt in to Righteoussplain to those speaking of their pain that they were liberals and not Real Catholics[TM] and everything is fine. Saith one (a nationally famous enemy of Pope Francis):

What intrigues me more is that anyone would not be paying attention to the obvious shift towards more conservative/traditional values among young people who actually do take their faith/religious seriously. Why would a liberal take an interest in formal, organized, dogmatic religion?

Saith another:

What intrigues me most is how there seems to be no data, however vague and ambiguous and surely multi causal, that does not serve to confirm the biases of the incurious and ideologically committed members of all the various little platoons of blamers.

At which point the first commenter responded:

Study after study shows that anti-immigrant, anti-poor, pro-gun, and pro-racist policies that are the antithesis of what Jesus teaches are generally repulsive to the majority of Millennial and Gen Z Catholics. Similar studies have shown that while teens value liturgy, the majority of teens generally are ambivalent to how traditional or non-traditional the liturgy is. Anyone can find instances of young Catholics who have taken a fancy to traditional Latin Mass liturgies and vestments and stuff like that, if you go to the nearest FSSP parish or something. However, as a Millennial myself who has served in parish youth ministry working with hundreds of teens from sacrament prep onward, I can tell you that for every teen who gets more into his/her faith, there are many more who simply walk out over their repulsion with the anticatholic elements of the Religious Right. If you work with teens in a typical parish setting for long, you’d get it. Millennials and Gen Z Catholics tend to generally have far more empathy for the marginalized and far less tolerance of racism, bigotry, and white nationalism than their parents have, and the insistence that none of this matters and that only abortion matters is destroying the future of our parishes.

I am amazed that you blissfully suggested that there is no data to prove the point…when as a Millennial myself who has worked in youth ministry I’m very familiar with much of the data that has been collected on Millennial and Gen Z generations. There is a massive amount of data out there, and I would suggest that you read up on the findings of groups like the Springtide Research Institute.  They offer perhaps the most comprehensive yearly reports with actual data on how Millennials and Gen Z values differ from those of previous generations. I would highly recommend reading up on their whitepapers if I were you before embarrassing yourself further.

Yes. If there is one thing that is definitely an accurate description of a man like Deacon Steven D. Greydanus, it is that he is an “incurious and ideologically committed member of a little platoon of blamers”. It is unthinkable that the Reactionaries circling the wagons for the umpteenth time to attack their victims and heap pity on themselves could possibly have anything at all to do with the cries of the wounded people heard throughout the comments in St. Blog’s. Nor could it be possible that these obviously devout people concurring with Steven, struggling to keep a grip on faith and driven out by great pain and neglect, are anything but monstrous enemies. Compassion is a sin. Hurting people are just faking it out of spite.

Watching Reactionaries ring the changes on “The reason Normals recoil from me in revulsion is because I am so much holier than they are” is to witness new depths of Dunning-Kruger Syndrome. Especially when it comes from people famous for spitting in the face of the Holy Father.

What the “People who leave are just weak, or fake Catholics, or Infiltrators!” types seem to never grasp is how intensely abusive they are with such responses.

I’m not a good Catholic. I sin and fail constantly. But I am a committed Catholic. All in. 100%. I think the Faith is true and cannot imagine going somewhere else for the same reason Peter could not, even when he was baffled (as I often am): “Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). I seek not a thing, an ism, an ideology. I seek Jesus Christ: he himself. And he, as he did with Paul, refers me back to the Church, telling me that if I try to have him while hating the Body of Christ I am kidding myself. For if I do not love my brother and sister whom I have seen, I cannot love God whom I have not seen (cf. 1 John 4:20). And yet, for all that commitment, there have been numerous times over the past seven years when I just have not known if I could go on another day because I have encountered so many Catholics (and always the super-devout realio-trulio Catholics who believe themselves sent by God to sanctify the Church) who have been so cruel, so contemptuous, so gratuitously and unnecessarily vindictive, and so exquisitely happy to see me and others suffer that I have had to fight like hell to remember that the Faith is about Jesus, not them, and that as lonely and depressed as I was sometimes, Christ had not abandoned me.

Here’s a sample of what I mean: A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I get cc’d by some total stranger on a FB page I’ve never heard of called Catholic Bitstream Dream Meme Machine. The OP image is on the top and the random stranger’s comment is on the bottom.

What is striking about it is the sheer gratuitous malignancy of it. As with every Reactionary hater I have on FB, there is the obsession with my being fat (though that picture was taken 80 lbs. ago). There is the love of bearing false witness (since I don’t compare myself to Chesterton and never have, anymore than I compare myself to any other towering genius to whom I could never measure up. Admiration and quotation are not comparisons.) But in addition, there is another small but intensely malignant detail: the cartoon tears. They are a reference to and a mockery of the fact that I have discussed my struggles with depression publicly. Reactionaries savor the cruelty of enjoying that depression and love to expand it into mockery of “mental illness”. They have done it repeatedly. And they wonder why Normals find them to be malignant and why the Holy Father has decided that their hideous, sadistic subculture does not need to be coddled any longer.

I know not where such malignancy comes from, but one thing I do know: I have gotten this blast furnacc of hatred in the face for 20 year from the Greatest Catholics of All Time. Sometimes that blast furnace has hit me in the face when I have been so deeply clinically depressed that I could barely function and it was solely due to grace reaching me through people I am blessed to know and through the Spirit, that I was able to soldier on through to some Light.

And that’s the thing: Not everybody in the world has those advantages. Some people just can’t take it. When they finally crack and walk away due to the cruelty and black, satanic pride of their abusive Inquisitors, I think that is exactly the sort of thing Jesus is warning about when he speaks of causing little ones to stumble. It is the Inquisitor, not the stumbling little one, who had better have a care. And yet, so often, when people are driven away with jeers of “babykiller” or “heretic” or “queer”, the Inquisitor responds with a sense of proud accomplishment. They see themselves as having rid Fortress Katolicus of one more bit of vermin.

God help them when they face the judgment.

I mention this, not because my experience is extraordinary but because it is common and there are lots and lots of other Catholics, dismissed by the Righteous as CINOs or weak or infiltrators because the Righteous cannot, for one second take any responsibility for the millstones they tie around their own necks as they cause others to stumble. So when a fascist like John Zmirak dreams of concentration camps, firing squads and gas chamber for his victims…

…its all too easy to blame “the biases of the incurious and ideologically committed members of all the various little platoons of blamers”.

And the reason for this is, in the end, simple: The people who say such things have not even begun to internalize the fact that people are looking for credible lives that bear witness to a God who loves them, not defenders of an institution (or worse, a mere “civilization”) that is circling the wagon to defend itself no matter how many souls are crushed to make that happen. They see very clearly that the people who have appointed themselves “Defenders of the Faith” don’t care about them, see them as tools or enemies, and will happily smash them because they do not believe Jesus can take care of himself. In a word, such Christians do not believe a syllable of this and their victims can see that plainly:

“What we truly need in this moment of history are people who, through an illuminated living faith, make God credible in this world. The negative witness of Christians who speak of God and live against Him has obscured the image of God and opened the door to incredulity. We need people who keep their eyes straight on God, and thus learn the true humanity. We need people whose intellect is illuminated by the light of God and to whom God opens his heart, in such a way that their intellect can speak to the intellect of others and their hearts are open to others. Only through people who have been touched by God can God return among human beings.” (Joseph Ratzinger, 2005)

The paradox is this:

In the 20th century, Commies kicked in the door and arrested you for being a believing Christian, sending you to die in the gulag. Camps were filled with people like Solzhenitsyn, or ten Boom, or Edith Stein, Bonhoeffer, or Wurmbrand, or martyrs who suffered horrors for Jesus.

Only in Millennial America can you find unbelievers begging Christians to show them Jesus Christ, pleading with them to show some consideration to the poor or the refugee, crying out in anguish in the hope that their stony hearts will crack and they will finally give a shit about murdered children more than their steel penis guns, all while the Greatest Christians of All Time shout back “Fuck your feelings! We have no god but Trump!” and laughing at “godless snowflakes” for feeling love, pity, or compassion for the least of these–all as prelude to blubbering in self-pity over “persecution by liberals” because a coffee cup was not designed to their taste or a harassed Target clerk said “Happy Holidays” and not “Merry Christmas”.

“God’s Name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” – Romans 2:24

Until Christians can again begin to see their Faith as costly discipleship to Jesus in which we ourselves, not our victims, pay the price of following Jesus, we can expect more and more people to walk away, not from Jesus (often rejection of the Freak Show is an act of conscience in obedience to Jesus), but from the monstrous counterfeit that MAGA antichrist religion has offered up for adoration:


11 Responses

  1. When John Smirak (whoever he may be) asserts that he’s “afraid that what we need is a Leninism from the Right”, of course what he’s saying is how much he envies the ones who had their hands on the levers of power. He knows the correct agenda for the Reeducation Camps; he know who needs to be put up against the wall; he longs for the chance to do it.

    The secular journalist Charlie Pierce frequently points out when he discusses the MAGA policies, that the cruelty is the point, because it gratifies the practitioners, and it’s entirely true in some branches of our poor Church. I dislike the politicization at my Parish, yet I am a coward. I have yet to ask the pastor or the deacons why it is ok to preach against “antifa, gay marriage, and the trans-gender lifestyle”, but not to condemn the 6 January insurrection. It is cowardly because I fear the answer will send me parish-hopping again, and this is my congregation, flaws and all.

    There’s an awful truth in the cartoon of Fat Donald as a golden bullock. And it’s nice how their arms look so skeletal.

    1. One of the dominating traits of the Cult is that with them, accusation is always confession. What they accuse those they hate of wanting to do is what they themselves long to do and, in many cases, have already done.

      1. What’s sort of amazing to me even after all these years of the Trump Cult is how forthright and so very detailed those projected confessions are.

        I’m already hearing lots of statements from them about how the “Democrats are going to resort to terrorism in the streets when they lose the election in 2024”, which of course means that’s precisely what the Trumpists intend to do. And still some people will pretend they just could not have seen it coming two years from now.

  2. Mark, I know you are correct about the hideous witness of the Trad Bro culture online, but honestly I’ve never seen this type of behavior at the parish level, maybe because I live in a large city, like Seattle, but if anything the parish scene is overwhelming left wing, which suits me fine, I get annoyed from time to time because I’m more conservative but like I’ve heard you say before, I’ll live

    1. I think those dudes tend to gravitate toward very specific niche trad parishes, or perhaps sub-groups within them. Some of the nuttiest of them probably never actually darken a church door at all.

    1. Well, if current trends come to pass, we’ll all be Evangelicals, Mormons, or Atheists in the next 30-50 years. :/

      Someone’s gotta preach and demonstrate actual Christlike teaching and behavior. It won’t happen by default, I assure you.

      “And the peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6. Money can’t buy it.

      1. There is supposed to be some kind of “Great Apostasy” before the end times, isn’t there?

  3. I’m so tired from all this and then sometimes go to church and hear it there, too. Fortunately I know I’m not the only Democrat in the church. But it used to be more of an oasis from politics.

  4. ” ‘Why would a liberal take an interest in formal, organized, dogmatic religion?’ ”

    This broke my brain.

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