Friday, July 11, 2008

Jesus and the Professor

Paul Zachary Myers is not exactly a household name, or wasn't until now. In what is a clear sign of our times, this biology professor at the University of Minnesota - Morris has recently stepped outside of his area of expertise to comment on the Holy Eucharist. Writing on his blog, Pharyngula: Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal, he addressed the situation where a young man smuggled the Sacred Body of Christ out of a Roman Catholic church and kept it for four days. Myers' reaction was amazing, even for an atheist academic. He proposed to have someone mail him a consecrated host so that it could be publicly desecrated.

I'm going to copy his entire post here so that you can read it in full. I warn you up front that this contains language that you will never normally encounter on my blog. However, controversial posts like his have a way of being pulled under some pressure and I'd like to make sure that a record of this post is enshrined somewhere.

How should we deal with this blasphemy as Christians? While it is easy for us to be angry, even outraged, I think it is important to recognize Myers' screed as the output of a sick soul and to pray for him as would our Lord, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Here's the post and here's the link:



Category: ReligionStupidity
Posted on: July 8, 2008 8:05 PM, by PZ Myers

There are days when it is agony to read the news, because people are so goddamned stupid. Petty and stupid. Hateful and stupid. Just plain stupid. And nothing makes them stupider than religion.

Here's a story that will destroy your hopes for a reasonable humanity.

Webster Cook says he smuggled a Eucharist, a small bread wafer that to Catholics 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.

This isn't the stupid part yet. He walked off with a cracker that was put in his mouth, and people in the church fought with him to get it back. It is just a cracker!

Catholics worldwide became furious.

Would you believe this isn't hyperbole? People around the world are actually extremely angry about this — Webster Cook has been sent death threats over his cracker. Those are just kooks, you might say, but here is the considered, measured response of the local diocese:

"We don't know 100% what Mr. Cooks motivation was," said Susan Fani a spokesperson with the local Catholic diocese. "However, if anything were to qualify as a hate crime, to us this seems like this might be it."

We just expect the University to take this seriously," she added "To send a message to not just Mr. Cook but the whole community that this kind of really complete sacrilege will not be tolerated."

Wait, what? Holding a cracker hostage is now a hate crime? The murder of Matthew Shephard was a hate crime. The murder of James Byrd Jr. was a hate crime. This is a goddamned cracker. Can you possibly diminish the abuse of real human beings any further?

Well, you could have a priest compare this event to a kidnapping.

"It is hurtful," said Father Migeul Gonzalez with the Diocese. "Imagine if they kidnapped somebody and you make a plea for that individual to please return that loved one to the family."

Gonzalez said the Diocese is willing to meet with Cook and help him understand the importance of the Eucharist in hopes of him returning it. The Diocese is dispatching a nun to UCF's campus to oversee the next mass, protect the Eucharist and in hopes Cook will return it.

I like the idea of sending a scary nun to guard the ceremony at the next mass. But even better…let's send Webster Cook to hell!

Gonzalez said intentionally abusing the Eucharist is classified as a mortal sin in the Catholic church, the most severe possible. If it's not returned, the community of faith will have to ask for forgiveness.

"We have to make acts of reparation," Gonzalez said. "The whole community is going to turn to prayer. We'll ask the Lord for pardon, forgiveness, peace, not only for the whole community affected by it, but also for [Cook], we offer prayers for him as well."

Get some perspective, man. IT'S A CRACKER.

And of course, Bill Donohue is outraged (I know, Donohue is going to die of apoplexy someday when a gnat violates his oatmeal, so this isn't saying much).

For a student to disrupt Mass by taking the Body of Christ hostage--regardless of the alleged nature of his grievance--is beyond hate speech. That is why the UCF administration needs to act swiftly and decisively in seeing that justice is done. All options should be on the table, including expulsion.

Oh, beyond hate speech. Where does this fit on the Shoah scale, Bill? It shouldn't even register, but here is Wild-Eyed Bill the Offended calling for the expulsion of a student…for not swallowing a cracker.

Would you believe that the mealy-mouthed president of the university, John Hitt, is avoiding defending his student is instead playing up the importance of the Catholic church to the university? Of course you would. That's what university presidents do. Bugger the students, keep the donors and the state reps happy.

Unfortunately, Webster Cook has now returned the cracker. Why?

Webster just wants all of this to go away. Especially now that he feels his life is in danger.

That's right. Crazy Christian fanatics right here in our own country have been threatening to kill a young man over a cracker. This is insane. These people are demented fuckwits. And Cook is not out of the fire yet — that Fox News story ends with an open incitement to cause him further misery.

University officials said, that as for right now, Webster Cook is not in trouble. If anyone or any group wants to file a formal complaint with the University through the student judicial system, they can. If that happens, Webster will go through a hearing either in front of an administrative panel or a panel of his peers.

Got that? If you don't like what Webster Cook did, all you have to do is complain to the university, and they will do the dirty work for you of making his college experience miserable. And don't assume the university would support Cook; the college is now having armed university police officers standing guard during mass.

I find this all utterly unbelievable. It's like Dark Age superstition and malice, all thriving with the endorsement of secular institutions here in 21st century America. It is a culture of deluded lunatics calling the shots and making human beings dance to their mythical bunkum.

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.

Just wait. Now there'll be a team of Jesuits assigned to rifle through my mail every day.


aatish said...

I find PZ's post entirely reasonable. Thank you for presenting his comments in their context. His frustration with religious lunacy is quite clearly apparent, and quite understandable. Any sane human being should be frustrated by a culture where abusing a cracker is an act of heinous blasphemy, one that can warrant numerous death threats. Why is he wrong to call this 'Dark Age superstition and malice'?

Here's what you can do as a Christian: Realize that unless your beliefs have some basis in reality, other people have absolutely no obligation to respect them, no matter how strongly you hold them. I could very well deem eating donuts offensive as they are the living flesh of my lord incarnate, and this could inspire me to threaten people at dunkin donuts. If this were the case, a court would do well to find me insane and my acts criminal. Why should atheists and non believers respect beliefs that are by no means less absurd?

Rather than replying in a condescending holier-than-thou manner (based on your comments and your job description, I fully expect that you literally believe that you are holier), if you can reason why your belief has any bearing in reality (personal convictions aside), then you can expect it to be respected by a skeptic.

Please take PZ's message in context. He did not threaten anyone (the same cannot be said for the Catholics in this case). He simply suggested an act of protest against a campaign of intimidation and hysteria targeted against Webster Cook for no good reason.

The Rev. Robert T. Jones IV, Psy.D. said...

Dear Aatish,

Thanks for your comments. I certainly appreciate all viewpoints and am glad that you were comfortable posting them here.

I actually am quite capable of arguing my positions from reason. Where you and I may differ is on the appropriate definition of "reason" and "reality."

As to my personal holiness, that - of course - is between God and me.

Finally, I have serious doubts that those who threaten Professor Myers represent the majority of Roman, or in my case, Anglican Catholics. Further, anyone who would make such a threat is pretty weak and probably would be seen by most Christians as sinful.

However, I am sure you would agree that there are nuts in every walk of life and career path. I am sure that you would further agree that academe is certainly not excepted from that "reality."

Thanks again.