21 October 2007

Strikes a chord.

I saw a comic strip the other day featuring two women talking. The dialogue went like this:

D: Sister Steven asked if I had ever sinned with Francis.
E: Wow! What did you say?
D: The truth- that we did not. We both live by the precepts of our
E Gloriosky! Even though you're in love?
D: You're in love with Amos..Did you... umm...err with him.
E: No! but don't let it get around.... we're in the Arts.

This brought back memories of my time spent getting my pointless degrees. In the Arts Department there was a casual sneering sort of atheism- though not really atheism- that it was almost incomprehensible that anyone would be a Christian, that anyone would not be a sort of minor hedonist. It got worse as I progressed through graduate school. I admit, to my shame, that I was not a staunch defender of the faith, and often sat in silence whilst my peers mocked my faith. But in truth, there is little argument can do with that kind of ignorance, for it was the worst ignorance of all- that of people who believe their ignorance to be knowledge.

There were a few times I did say I was a practicing Catholic, and every statement was met with a shocked silence. There was one time, when being trained to be a TA (that training lasted a total of six hours) that we were given a session on "harassment". I was hoping the training would be about how to avoid it, or how to deal with it if it should come up in the classroom. No such luck. It was a long diatribe against evil white men, coupled with a longing to actually lay charges against someone and make them stick. (side note: The worst offenders were Professors with tenure, and I actually mean that honestly- quite a few of them were pigs, but there was literally nothing that could be done about them. Charges could only stick against someone less protected- someone with less job security- someone like a TA.) At any rate one of the presenters was handing out forms near the end of the session. When she came to me I asked her a question about her presentation on religious tolerance, and she said, in effect: "Yeah, we don't want to be like, say, Catholics." I wish I could say I was shocked or even surprised- but at this point... not really. Still, I was roused to make one of my few stands. "I am a Catholic." I said.

"Are you?" she asked blithely missing the point. "Well you know, there are support groups on campus for recovering Catholics. I could put you in touch with some of them..."

"I am a practicing Catholic." I said, letting my eyes darken a bit. It's a trick I seem to have inherited from my Grandfather.

"Oh," she said, looking at me as though I just sprouted a second head, or crawled out from under a rock. "Oh." Then she moved on, but every now and then I caught her looking over her shoulder at me, an expression of puzzlement on her face.

I said my colleagues were atheists but not really. True, honest to God atheism was actually quite rare. I actually felt a kind of grudging respect for the few who managed to have that kind of faith- and faith it was, of a sort. As for the rest of the 'atheists'- it wasn't that they didn't believe in God so much as they believed in anything but God. They believed in visionary angels- (God's messengers without God. Cute.) - or Indian mysticism, or Chinese mysticism, or crystals, enneagrams, Kabbalah (long before Madonna or Esther or whatever made it really popular). They insisted all religions- judaism, islam, native spirituality, Hindu, Etc- should be respected, except for Christianity, and especially Catholicism. Most of my colleagues had rejected one form of Christianity or another, and it was incomprehensible- even offensive- to them that there were still people out there who did not.

Yes, I was a Catholic. But I didn't want it to get around too much... I was in the Arts.

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