It was one of the convention’s common areas, one where the people just seem to gravitate and chat. They were all locals (they lived within a half-hour’s drive) talking about the various types of Protestant or Evangelical beliefs they followed. I really didn’t mean to get into the conversation; there was simply nothing else going on at the moment.
But then the conversation turned. They started talking about how their church did things differently than Catholics. You know, with “that infant baptism stuff”. And if you caught a dismissive eyeroll tone in those sentences, you’ve got the right idea. “And no offense to any Catholics here,” one person said as they launched into the excesses of the Christian Church pre-reformation.
Look, I’m not even a good example of Catholicism anymore (and it’s arguable that I ever was), but I get a bit tetchy when people criticize Catholicism for things it’s not done 1 or when they misrepresent the way things actually are in the Church.
“That’s not quite right about Catholics,” I said. I wanted to point out that many Catholics are woefully uninformed and misinformed about their own faith. That leads to actual Catholics saying some really unorthodox things, so maybe there was a misunderstanding.
And about two thirds of the people left the area. They weren’t headed to panels, they just… left. The few remaining started saying things like “Well, that’s one point of view” or “I think all religions are the same, really”.
I’d misread the conversation entirely, even though I’d listened to them for ten minutes before saying a word. I made the mistake of thinking that they were actually sharing information. They were never interested in comparing their beliefs to another faith’s. They weren’t interested in learning. They wanted an echo chamber so they could hear people tell them that they were right.
That really disturbed me.
I’m not – as I mentioned above – a very good Catholic. I don’t even always identify as one anymore. I learned really quickly, quietly, and efficiently that the locals there didn’t want to hear about any faith tradition other than their own.
It was not an overt kind of discrimination. It was simply getting up and walking away. It was simply dismissing my point of view.
And that’s for Catholicism – still the single largest denomination in the United States. FSM help those who are Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, pagan or atheist. FSM help those who experience this not at a convention, but at their jobs. FSM help those who have to put up with this kind of subtle, quiet bigotry every day.
1 This is largely because there are plenty of other things it has done, and done recently that need to be addressed. Opposing condom use in the midst of the AIDS pandemic in Africa and continuing to cover up sex abuse scandals are two that come to mind right away.
I find this disturbing as well. There are MANY Protestant traditions of faith that practice infant baptism. My tradition, United Methodism, being one. Each tradition has had its shining moments and times of challenge. It is a shame that some believers choose to be close-minded and not willing to learn about others beliefs. It would be a much more pleasant, peaceful world if they would.
I love Tom Paine's take:
When God talks to me, it's revelation. When I tell you about it, it's hearsay.
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