a mark of bad caricature

5 Aug

I was browsing the BBC News site when I came across a story where Archbishop Vincent Nichols was criticizing our love affair with social networking. Despite the fact that I’m writing this on wordpress, and will probably publicize it on Facebook and Twitter, I think I partially agree with him. But that’s a discussion for another day. What was more interesting than the article itself were the comments. Lots of “the church is stuck in the past” and “social networking isn’t as harmful as organised religion” type comments, as to be expected, but there was one which particularly stood out to me:

The church in all its disguises along with government and minority groups have made sure that its breaking some law or other to even get close to another human being without paying a tax,fine or be imprisoned.

I’m sorry, what!? I just can’t begin to fathom how someone would write this and not see how sensationalist and ridiculous a comment it is! The commenter was from Ipswich, a place where I lived for 3 months and made many friendships, none of which (to my knowledge) incurred any form of monetary penalty or jail term. It’s probably indicative of just how free and easy our lives are that people feel the need to fabricate ways that the government is oppressing them, just to have something to complain about.

Also, “The church in all its disguises”!?!? When did we all become characters in a Dan Brown novel? This is one of the straw-men depictions of religion that really gets my goat. I’ll be the first to admit and point out the many mistakes that “the Church” has made, particularly in the days when it was indeed heavily institutionalized and state-controlled but things have changed, a lot, and “the Church” enjoys no real power in the realm of politics, other than being another demographic that politicians sometimes try to woo or placate for their own ends. Like the way I caricatured politicians there? 😉

It’s the anthropomorphism that annoys me. “The Church” in this context is not a singular organism to which we can attribute intention or action. What we have is a collection of denominations, each a collection of local churches, each a collection of people with various opinions, ideas and agendas. I think painting groups of people as sinister organisations like this makes for better fiction than it does discussion.

But “the Church” is an offender as well as a victim here. I’ve seen it particularly in response to the issue of abortion. We would be led to believe that there is some sort of organisation out there that actually takes pride and joy in watching the death toll of unborn babies rise, seeing it as a marker of success in the same vein as rising stocks. It’s almost as if, at the meeting of this organisation, “the Left”, they discuss the week’s “liberal agenda” at the top of which is listed “Kill more babies”. Abortion is a complex and horrible issue, which I don’t intend to wade into here, but I think we can all agree that we don’t do anyone any favours by trying to simplify the arguments or caricature and dehumanize those on the other side of the fence.

OK, rant over!


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