12 July 2008

You're all going to Hell. Here, let me get the door for you

As usual, I’m a day late and a dollar short. I’m sure everybody has heard about this by now, it’s all over the blogosphere. Just google Webster Cook. Then again, maybe you haven’t heard about it, considering I haven’t seen it in the newspaper yet and I didn’t see any major newspapers listed when I googled a couple minutes ago. Surely there is nothing new I can add to this, but I simply must try.

According to the only real article about it I could find, Link, and Cook’s responses, it seems that Cook did not initially intend to “kidnap” or “hold hostage” the Eucharist. He simply intended to delay ingestion long enough to show the Eucharist to his non-Catholic friend. His mission intensified when he was physically accosted by members of the church. When he continued to receive verbal attacks and even death threats, he finally relented and returned the Eucharist.

I find the whole thing sadly amusing. He just tried to show a cracker to his friend. He wasn’t even planning to take the cracker out of the church, he said his friend came to mass with him. As a non-Catholic, a non-Christian to be fully honest, I have only a theoretical understanding of the Eucharist. It’s a holy object to those who believe it is holy. To the rest of us, it’s a cracker. While I can sort of understand how Catholics might become enraged about Cook’s behavior, I fail to see why it is their right to pass anything other than church judgement against him. He “stole” the Eucharist. Or he “kidnapped” it. or whatever other term you want to use. So, he’s going to hell. So he’s excommunicated. So he’s wholely disrespected throughout the Catholic world. That is your prerogative as the leader of the church. It is not, however, your right to negatively impact his education or threaten his life. Asking Catholics worldwide to write letters to the University of Central Florida suggesting that he be brought up on disciplinary charges because of a “crime” he committed against God, is not your prerogative.

If you’re worried about a Catholic mistreating the Eucharist, perhaps the Catholic church should do a better job of vetting it’s members. Perhaps you should do a little more work to make sure those who receive the Eucharist have no criminal thoughts. Then again, if you did that you would surely discover that many (even most) Catholics don’t actually adhere to all the rules of the Catholic Church. I know at least one Catholic who engages in sex outside of marriage and I thought that was very much against Catholic church rules. Really, I’m not sure I understand why other Catholics have any say in the matter in the first place. If mistreating the Eucharist is a sin that will get you sent to hell, then let the guy go to hell. How is it any of your business?

On a tangent, there are so many responses to which I would like to respond, but I think a comment from here gives me my best option. “I think he has every 'right' to protest, but i (sic) think he crossed the line. It's one thing to protest in a peaceful manner and quite another to take an element of a large number of society's belief system and basically spit on it.” Funny thing about our right to Freedom of Speech in our democracy, we actually do get to do this. The same way Catholics and other Christians get to walk around touting their religious beliefs as The Truth, The One And Only Truth, even though that means taking the whole of a belief system and basically spitting on it.

What might be the most annoying part of this whole thing, is the fire PZ Myers has received for his comments essentially supporting Cook. In response to all this outrage against Cook’s actions, Myers promised to “show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare.” Yes, it was outside the bounds of politeness. Yes, it was inflammatory. Yes, it was probably down right rude. But, two wrongs don’t make a right. Calling for his employer to fire him and encouraging others who were offended to contact his employer calling for him to be fired, isn’t right either. That, too, is inflammatory and down right rude.

Lets just get to the heart of this matter, though. At the very center of this whole showdown is the Catholic belief that this little cracker actually becomes Jesus after it has been blessed versus the opposing belief that it is just a bit of flour and water and animal fat mixed together and baked. Catholics are offended by Myers’ comments because he is completely discounting their beliefs. He’s pretty much saying they’re wrong about the whole Eucharist thing. For this offense, he should lose his job. There isn’t, however, anything wrong with Catholics completely discounting his belief that it is nothing but a cracker, which translates to a lack of belief in Jesus, I think. In one case, Person X made a comment completely dismissing the religious beliefs of Person Y. In the other case, Person A made a comment completely dismissing the religious beliefs of Person B. In case one, Person X needs to be severely punished, so as to protect Person Y. In the second case, Person B needs to be severely punished so as to protect person A. *scratches head* Yeah, I’m having a little trouble with that one, too.

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