There was a fascinating exchange over on the Book of Face between Steve Greydanus and one of his readers. It was in response to this piece on my blog a while back, concerning an Atlantic article on the transmogrification of the Rosary into a symbol of right wing culture war and military fetishism.
Steve had commented on my piece:
So the Atlantic ran a piece on militaristic fetishizing of the Rosary by rightwing Catholics, and there was some jeering among Catholics both over the piece itself and over revisions to the headline. Then rosary sales spiked, and there was crowing over *that*—as if buying rosaries to own the libs were some kind of win for the kingdom of God.
He was immediately challenged by a reader who wrote this very tellingly untruthful piece of self-pitying complaint:
So the article in the Atlantic is definitely against normal rosary praying Catholics not just some fringe right wing Catholics (as Shea seems to assume). The author does try to provide himself some cover because if all the Atlantic’s Catholic readers canceled it would go out of business. I will use only one example from the article to show that the journalist’s thrust is against Catholicism as such and not alt-right Catholicism (although there are many more.) The article says, “ Yet the convergence within Christian nationalism is cemented in common causes such as hostility toward abortion-rights advocates. The pro-choice protests that followed the leaked early draft of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade, led to a profusion of social-media posts on the far right fantasizing about killing activists…” I am part of about every pro-life organization that exists in my part of country and strangely I didn’t see a single post doing this, in fact all of the violence seemed in the other direction. And we do not have to rely on my anecdotal evidence. There wasn’t a wave of violence against abortion mills or abortions but there was (and is) against crisis pregnancy centers and Catholic Churches. However, the author’s point is clear Pro-life=dangerous fanatic (even dangerous nationalist, what a leap!). As everyone knows pro-life (in the sense of anti-abortion) is an integral part of Catholicism. Not just right wing Catholicism, just plain old Catholicism. Indeed, it is even the preeminent political issue for Catholics in America. This is an anti-Catholic article, and Catholics should be clear on that.
Which Steve rebutted:
“for millions of believers, the beads, which provide an aide-mémoire for a sequence of devotional prayers, are a widely recognized symbol of Catholicism and a source of strength. And many take genuine sustenance from Catholic theology’s concept of the Church Militant and the tradition of regarding the rosary as a weapon against Satan. As Pope Francis said in a 2020 address, “There is no path to holiness … without spiritual combat,” and Francis is only one of many Church officials who have endorsed the idea of the rosary as an armament in that fight.
“In mainstream Catholicism, the rosary-as-weapon is not an intrinsically harmful interpretation of the sacramental, and this symbolism has a long history. In the 1930s and ’40s, the ultramontane Catholic student publication Jeunesse Étudiante Catholique regularly used the concept to rally the faithful.”
But the reader was dogged in trying to make the article an attack on all Catholics:
As I said he does throw in some stuff to say, hey I’m not really attacking all Catholics. However, if I say “I highly regard the athletes who take the noble art of golf seriously…” and then 10 seconds later say, “Some extremists are using clubs in their pursuit of the sport.” It doesn’t mean I didn’t attack golf, because clubs are an intrinsic part of the game. With that in mind, I don’t understand how the quotes you cite disprove my point. I picked a specific part of the article and showed that it was anti-Catholic. If my thesis is incorrect it seems you would have to prove that either the part I cite is not anti-Catholic, or how the whole article can not anti-Catholic while part is (I don’t see how that second option is possible, for comparison I don’t believe an article with a little anti-semitism could be ok, but perhaps I could be proved wrong).
Steve rebutted this nonsense again:
The article, and specifically your excerpt, does not say what you claim: It does not indict “normal rosary-praying Catholics,” nor does it indict all pro-lifers. You admit this yourself: You say “I am part of about every pro-life organization that exists in my part of country and strangely I didn’t see a single post doing this.” So your interpretation, which your quotation does not justify, is that the statement about a “profusion of social-media posts on the far right fantasizing about killing activists” is meant to equate *all pro-lifers* with the violent fantasies that you say you didn’t see.
It is true that pro-life/anti-abortion groups have faced increased violence since Dobbs. It is also true that pro-life/anti-abortion activists have committed significant violence over the years, including hundreds of bombings and arsons, half a dozen murders, and more than twice that number of attempted murders. Both sides, not just pro-choice/pro-abortion activists, have been guilty of making death threats since Dobbs.
The bottom line is that if you feel that the Atlantic piece is aimed at you, that says as much about you as it does about the article.
And that’s the thing I see again and again: One of the weird things about conservative narcissism is the bizarre compulsion to wear the shoe they insist does not fit them and take offense at things they insist are not addressed to them. I’ve seen it again and again.
There is a school massacre and somebody cries out against the Freak Show that cares more about protecting guns than children. In response, a gun zealot responds not, “Yes! We should love our children more than our guns!” or “What can we do to help stop this nightmare?” but instead shrieks “Don’t blame me! Don’t touch my gun!”
Some years back, a little girl I know was playing in my grand daughter’s room. My son poked his head in to see how she was doing and before he could say a word, she cried, “I DIDN’T DO IT!”
When your first response to a problem is not “What can we do to change this” but ‘DON’T BLAME ME!” don’t be surprised when it sounds to Normals like you suffer from a guilty conscience.