Dependable Erection

Friday, July 11, 2008

Corpus Christi

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

The first question i have is whether the Fox News reporter in the story in the first link above is being disingenuous or ignorant when she writes:
Webster Cook says he smuggled a Eucharist, a small bread wafer that to Catholics (is) symbolic of the Body of Christ after a priest blesses it, out of mass, didn’t eat it as he was supposed to do, but instead walked with it.

My understanding of Catholic doctrine is that the Eucharist actually becomes the body of Christ after the blessing. Not a symbol. The real body. Which explains why some folks are upset enough to start throwing around words like "kidnapping" to describe what looks like, to those of us on the outside, as someone walking around with a cracker in his mouth.

If you didn't grow up with this kind of practice, it appears to be as unfathomable as worshiping a metaphor. Certainly, the logical gymnastics required by otherwise rational people to explain away how Jesus is present in the Host, but that eating the host isn't, you know, yucky, could provide hours of entertainment if you were inclined to that sort of thing.

On the other hand, a better use of your time would be to write a letter in support of PZ Meyers.



  • I can't imagine that this guy is the only person in the history of the Christian church to decamp with a piece of de Host. I also can't see that it matters: wasn't it Jay Leno who said "Crunch all you want; we'll make more"?

    By Blogger Joseph H., at 12:32 PM  

  • The ouster of PZM would be a shame, but I have to say that he does his best to make atheists look every bit as raving mad as the other side..

    By Blogger hexapod, at 1:02 PM  

  • Do explain.

    By Blogger Barry, at 1:11 PM  

  • Joe -- do note, it's only the Catholics (and perhaps the Orthodox -- not sure there) who actually have transubstantiation as doctrine. For other denominations, it's metaphorical.

    As for P.Z. Meyers, I think I'll go write a blog entry about my fantasy of pissing on his mother.

    What the hell does he need support for anyway? This is part of having an academic job. If he has tenure, he should be fine. If he doesn't, saying dumb-ass things is grounds for getting fired.

    Besides, the University of Minnesota Morris? I lived in the state for over four years, and I had no idea there was a UMM, much less a town called Morris (and I thought I knew all the crazy little towns, including Wayzata, Brainerd, and, of course, Bemidji.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 3:03 PM  

  • Don't be so certain, Michael. Ward Churchill had tenure, although, granted, he didn't go through the usual channels to get it.

    By Blogger Barry, at 4:06 PM  

  • That's the exception that proves the rule, I'd say. If the Wikipedia entry is correct, there were at the very least some pretty serious concerns about research misconduct.

    Which is to say, if you have tenure, they have to at least pretend to come up with something more serious than being an insolent moron in order to fire you. Which is good for Meyers, because he certainly has managed to reach that bar..

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 7:00 PM  

  • OK, that's two of you I'm only familiar with Pharyngula, and not anything else of Meyers's work. What's the problem here?

    I don't read his blog on a daily basis, but whenever i've read it, i thought it was great.

    By Blogger Barry, at 9:38 PM  

  • Just what he's gotten in trouble for:

    So, what to do. I have an idea. Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There's no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I'm sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I'll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won't be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart. If you can smuggle some out from under the armed guards and grim nuns hovering over your local communion ceremony, just write to me and I'll send you my home address.

    Look, I don't deny that Bill Donohoe is being a complete fucking asshole about the whole affair and deserves to be walloped with rotten bananas until he physically has the same reek as his ideology. (Of course, that's like saying the sun came up yesterday, but anyway.) But plotting out the desecration of host, even though I think transubstantiation is a bunch of hooey, is like telling a Muslim you're going to piss on the Koran, or, for that matter, telling a rationalist atheis that you're going to go burn down a library, not for any good reason, just out of spite.

    The church I go to is in the reformed tradition, so the bread we hand out at communion is just bread. It's not even particularly blessed bread. But I've been to Episcopalian services enough, where the bread becomes blessed bread (not transubstantiated to the physical body of Christ), and even there they are extremely careful not to spill any wine when served, and all bread and wine that got blessed must be consumed at the end of the service. Even in these non-Catholic churches, communion is perhaps the holiest of the holy rites, in that it is, to some denominations more than others, the aspect of worship which draws people together into the communion of the Church (hence the name). Turn that up a notch at the Catholic church, and what you're talking about here is the physical body of God. Yes, I think that's just a little on the nuts side. But I have the sense to know that if I mouthed off on a widely read blog that I was going to desecrate it for no other reason that pure spite and bile, a shitstorm would be coming my way, but fast.

    There's a time and a place for stomping on religious taboos, if the political circumstances call for it. Now, Meyers may feel like Donohoe's antics were so far beyond the pale that this was asking for it. And if he did, he's a complete idiot, in that he took aim at a very tiny but broadly vocal segment of Catholicism, and wrote a paragraph that was sure to royally piss off every last lapsed-but-still-vaguely-faithful Catholic in the damned country. Dude. What did you expect?

    Let's put this another way. Let's say you're in India, a month before Ganesh Chaturthi. And let's say, about that time, one particularly nutso priest starts going ape-shit because some young man you don't remotely know violated some taboo you think is silly. Would the best response here be to loudly proclaim that you're going to go around smashing Ganesh icons and throwing the pieces in the toilet? And if so, would it be remotely defensible for you to stammer, "it's just a bunch of pottery!?!?"

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 1:17 AM  

  • i don't really see any difference between Meyers' comments and, say, the publication of cartoons mocking the Prophet in a newspaper.

    i've always been of the opinion that if God is troubled by such things, He probably has the resources at hand to deal with the situation in His own way.

    By Blogger Barry, at 1:56 PM  

  • See, this is where petulant atheists make me just as mad as the Bill Donohoes and the Pat Robertsons of the world.

    I don't fucking care that PZ Meyers thinks that host is just a cracker. I happen to agree with him on that. The point isn't that you're going to offend God with this. The point is that to millions of people in this country, the sacrament of communion is a wellspring of peace, restoration, and relief -- it's a deep spiritual balm. Declaring that you're going to make a video making a mockery of it, for nothing but sheer spite, is rude to *those people.* Now, I know that Meyers was really just trying to get Donohoe's goat, but as I said before, he did it in a way sure to at least partially piss off every last barely practicing Catholic in the country.

    I've seen the parallel to the Prophet cartoons elsewhere, and here's where I draw the line -- the cartoons, some of which I found actually offensive, were largely attacking the corruption of Islam into an instrument of terror. I'm much more tolerant of offense if you actually had a good reason for it -- Piss Christ comes to mind, which I actually found a moving photograph with a trenchant message. But Meyers didn't have any point that I can discern -- he was just being a rude and insulting fucker just for the sake of it. It's like the difference between George Carlin and Andrew Dice Clay.

    Sullivan (yeah, I know you're not a fan) was a big defender of the Danish cartoonists and is royally pissed off at Meyers, and has been called out by some as holding a double standard. He summarizes his view this way:

    I'd happily publish a Mohammed cartoon if it advanced a genuine argument, but I would never knowingly desecrate a Koran purely to mock religion.

    Which is to say, to reiterate, if you're going to do something that a very large population of people are going to find offensive, hurtful, insulting, blasphemous, or otherwise enraging, you ought to at least have a reason for doing it other than either to incite the reaction just for your own sense of sick fun or because of a smug sense of self-righteousness that you want to smear in their face. Show me that Meyers had some other message here, something actually worth paying attention to other than bad writing-as-gratuitous-performance art, and I'll back off.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 2:41 PM  

  • If there weren't a whole history of people ending up dead because their beliefs didn't match up with other people's beliefs, including whether or not the host actually becomes Jesus, or merely symbolizes Jesus, i might have some sympathy over offending someone truly held beliefs.

    As it is, fuck them. People are dying of starvation and oppression all over the world, and Donohoe can find the time to summon his moral outrage against a blogger who says the host is a cracker? Fuck him.


    Fuck him.

    By Blogger Barry, at 2:47 PM  

  • Yes, absolutely. Fuck Donohoe. The man is a festering boil on humanity. I'm 100% with you there. Let him rot.

    But also, fuck P.Z. Meyers. Let him squirm in his idiocy as he begs for letters of support.


    Fuck him.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 2:31 PM  

  • I know the horse is dead and another few whacks won't do any good, but Sullivan dug up this gem by P.Z. Meyers about the Prophet cartoons:

    Muslims represent a poor and oppressed underclass, and those cartoons represent a ruling establishment intentionally taunting them and basically flipping them off. They have cause to be furious!

    I've seen the cartoons, and they are crude and uninteresting—they are more about perpetuating stereotypes of Muslims as bomb-throwing terrorists than seriously illuminating a problem. They lack artistic or social or even comedic merit, and are only presented as an insult to inflame a poor minority. I don't have any sympathy for a newspaper carrying out an exercise in pointless provocation.

    I am in awe.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 11:30 AM  

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