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Will a meme celebrating single mothers bring about the end of civilization? One Men’s Rightser says “yes.”

Men: A bunch of angry panda impersonators?
Men: A bunch of angry panda impersonators?

On Fathers Day, somewhere on the internet, the following meme was posted:

10632828_10206761508458758_1529817018470291933_n

The Men’s Rights subreddit reacted, as it so often does, with manly indignation: how dare these women take our Fathers Day from us! Even by normal Men’s Rights standards for empty outrage this seems a bit much. After all, it’s not exactly news that a lot of women raise their kids by themselves, when the fathers of their children, refuse to act as, well, fathers to their children. Indeed, “financial abortions” — that is, consequence-free child abandonment for men — is one of the central demands of the Men’s Rights movement. 

But to one anonymous commenter on the Men’s Rights subreddit, this meme could well be the final insult that transforms the men of the world into angry panda impersonators destroying everything within reach.

According to this anonymous observer,

this really scares me, enough that I wake up at night thinking about it.

Wait. You wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking about … a meme?

No one could deny that there is open warfare on men all throughout western society. Whether or not it is deserved is somewhat irrelevant (you’ll see why in a second). There’s a minority of men who are alarmed but the vast majority just doesn’t have this on their radar…yet. This is mostly because it doesn’t affect them directly.

How can there be “open warfare” on men if most men haven’t even noticed it? Has there ever been a war in which the majority of those ostensibly affected by it don’t even know that it exists?

But never mind, because “[t]hat’s all going to change soon.”

Mixing his metaphors with wild abandon, this anonymous Men’s Rights Nostradamus predicts that

It won’t be long until the inroads that feminism has blazed start to butt up against the everyday Joe that’s just living his life.

Ah, the ever-reliable “everyday Joe,” beloved icon of reactionary grumblers since pretty much forever. In 2008, he took the form of a plumber (well, sort of). In 1970, they made a movie about him.

It appears that feminism doesn’t know when to quit and I clearly see the movement doing something that causes ‘Joe’ to not only look up from his newspaper but also impact him in a negative way.

You wouldn’t like me when I look up from my newspaper!

This lights the fuse.

Throughout history the one thing men are good at is responding to threats, whether they are real or not. I’m reminded of a video of a robbery at a convenience store I saw. The robber had a knife pointed at the clerk, demanding the contents of the register. Two random men were behind him, watching it all go down. One guy looked at the other and did the “upward head nod”. The other guy responded with the same discreet movement and they launched at the robber, taking him down. These two guys didn’t know each other at all but they, like most all men, are given to cohesive bonding when a threat is present.

Men also make up the vast majority of those robbing convenience stores, but never mind.

Feminism gives a perfect storm for this response and it’s going to be really ugly. When men get pissed, especially when they feel disenfranchised or morally wronged, they start breaking things.

Are you sure you haven’t confused men with toddlers having tantrums?

If this starts to steamroll it will make Ferguson look like a dress rehearsal.

That escalated quickly. Good old everyday Joe was just sitting there reading his newspaper, when all of a sudden he caught sight of a feminist meme on the internet. Next stop, literal rioting in the streets.

Those cops that will be asked to stop it? Those are overwhelmingly men too. Many will be sympathetic and I see lines being crossed.

A Man/Cop Alliance of Rioting Manbabies?

Yeah, it wouldn’t surprise me if this doesn’t get dealt with that it could be something on par with a major social upheaval. It’s going to be expensive, bloody, and it’s going to change everything for several generations. Once men start hammering, it ALL looks like a nail.

Yeah this bothers me a lot. I hope I’m badly wrong.

No you don’t. MRAs and other reactionary misogynists are forever airing these kinds of apocalyptic fantasies, in which the evil feminists “push men too far” and the men “finally explode” like some kind of “male bomb.” Civilization crumbles, and those evil complainy women get their final comeuppance.

Some of the men profess their deep “concern” that the women they want to shut up won’t shut up until it’s “too late.” Others can barely conceal their glee at the prospect of a bloody Manpocalypse that will put women back in their place.

Because this isn’t a warning. It’s a threat. It’s what every wife-batterer does when he “reminds” his wife that she won’t like him when he’s angry. It’s a way to control women through fear. Or at least an attempt to.

The only difference now is that the dude doing the “reminding” isn’t threatening his wife at home; he’s playing to the crowd in the Men’s Rights subreddit, and getting upvotes for it.

All over a meme.

So which gender is supposed to be the emotional one again?

H/T — r/againstmensrights

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Paradoxical Intention
6 years ago

Monzach | June 26, 2015 at 3:32 pm
Sorry, I’m a bit of a Paradox fanboy…

http://media0.giphy.com/media/uiVH8ETzr9nZm/giphy.gif

Paradoxical Intention
6 years ago

Policy of Madness | June 26, 2015 at 3:17 pm
My only fear with the marriage equality thing is that this will make middle-class white men stop caring about LGBTQ. They got theirs! I hope I am being needlessly pessimistic, and this doesn’t mean they now kick back and discover their inner neocons.

Yeah, there’s still lots to do when it comes to homelessness, abuse, and the homophobic/transphobic backlash that’s sure to arise after this.

There’s also the issues of making more non-sexualized queer spaces to help support queer teens, the pan/bi/ace erasure that takes place within our own community, and a host of problems for trans folks.

Today we celebrate. Tomorrow, we go back to the frontlines.

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
6 years ago

The problem with talking about “religious people” and sex ed is that “religious people” come in a cornucopia of flavors. Even if you restrict yourself to only the Christian variety, you’re going to wind up with Christians who are totally 100% behind consent-based sex ed, and other Christians who aren’t even speaking your language. Someone (I can’t remember if it was Defeating the Dragons or someone on Patheos, and I can’t find it now) who came from an evangelist background explained that, for certain values of “evangelist”, sex is sorted into “permissible” and “impermissible” categories, with everything in the “impermissible” category being equally sinful. So, consensual premarital sex and child rape (and murder) are all sinful by this categorization, and since “sin” is a pass/fail system, they are equally sinful.

When someone is in that paradigm and you are talking about consent, you and that person are just talking past one another. You’re not using language in a meaningfully, mutually comprehensible way. You say, “I want to teach your kid about consent,” and they hear, “I want to teach your kid how to go straight to hell as surely as if they were out committing rape and murder.”

Of course, not all “religious people” take this view. There is a wide spectrum of belief. I don’t know how any sort of categorical statement could be made on that topic.

Catalpa
Catalpa
6 years ago

@miss Andry

Oh, wow, that Esmay article is a piece of work, isn’t it? I especially enjoyed this bit.

Oh, and shout out to my Gamergate and general geek culture homies: it was Science Fiction that taught me to see people as human first and whatever else they were second.

Yep, he sees people as human beings first. Unless you’re a feminist. Or have a vagina. Then you’re definitely subhuman.

Catalpa
Catalpa
6 years ago

@EJ

I’m religious/Christian, though I fear I am growing increasingly leery of identifying as such. I’d consider myself a big fan of Jesus, not a big fan of organized religion, so make of this what you will. (Also, personally, I was quite enamored with the “don’t have sex until marriage” idea for myself when I was younger. This was because I am asexual, though I didn’t realize it then, and immediately thought YES I WILL TELL EVERYONE I AM SAVING MYSELF FOR MARRIAGE AND THEN NEVER GET MARRIED. THE PERFECT PLAN).

I think that consent based sex ed, and sex ed involving non cis-het orientations and indentities is INCREDIBLY important. The more people know about that stuff, the better. Being exposed to it helps with tolerance and coexistence, and helps LGBT+ kids like me realize that there isn’t something broken in them just because they don’t want to toe the line everyone else seems to want to. And realizing a trans identity before puberty fully sets in is very helpful for people who want to transition.

Theology doesn’t factor into this opinion a whole lot, but I will point out that Christ was all about respecting others and loving others and helping the downtrodden and outcast, and kids being taught to respect each other and know themselves better sounds like it goes a long way towards those goals.

I’m also planning on never ever having children, so I have no opinion on wanting my non-existent kids to be taught only by me. If I somehow ended up being the caretaker of a child, I imagine I would be absolutely dreadful at giving the sex talk, so having other, trustworthy people do it for me sounds like a plus in my books.

weirwoodtreehugger
6 years ago

A shout out to gamergate for equality? Lol. They of the rape threats and antisemitic memes? Right.

mildlymagnificent
6 years ago

If I somehow ended up being the caretaker of a child, I imagine I would be absolutely dreadful at giving the sex talk, so having other, trustworthy people do it for me sounds like a plus in my books.

You’re not alone there. I remember my niece talking about her daughter’s school sending home the request for parental permission for sex ed. Yes!!! she shouted. You do it, not me!

Bina
6 years ago

Today we celebrate. Tomorrow, we go back to the frontlines.

Drinks all around…and revolutionary fistbumps during the “cheers”!

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
6 years ago

@sunnysombrera:
@apeculiarpersonage:
@Rabid Rabbit:
@Policy Of Madness:
@Catalpa:
Thank you for that. I’m a fairly hardline atheist who associates mostly with other hardline atheists, and so while I understand academically that there are different flavours of religious people, it’s often difficult for me to pick up which of those flavours hold which opinions and just how mainstream they are. It’s a blind spot I’m acutely aware of, so thank you for filling me in on it.

Over here in the UK (and even more so back in South Africa) even the mainstream churches surprised us all with how homophobic they are, so I’m glad to hear that the anti-consent-base-sex thing (as PolicyOfMadness explains it very neatly) is more of a fringe thing.

If I may ask another question, do you believe that the more moderate portions of the religious community are capable of talking down the more extreme portions on this matter, or is “the religious community” simply too diverse and fractured to meaningfully have an internal dialogue in this way?

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
6 years ago

Today we celebrate. Tomorrow, we go back to the frontlines.

Don’t you mean “today we celebrate, tomorrow we throw the concerns of minorities under a bus because us white cis people have got ours?”

I joke, but it’s a scenario I’m worried about: the feminist and LGBTQ movements have a bad reputation for doing exactly that, and I’m unsure of how we prevent it from happening again.

At the same time, I’m conscious that as a straight man, gay people are not my footsoldiers and should not be expected to fight anything they don’t want to fight in. Were I gay I’d be tired of fighting too.

I think I have to be realistic and accept that a lot of people – possibly a majority – were never actually in favour of full equality. They simply wanted equality for themselves, and never cared about anyone else. Once they had that equality, they will become part of the complacent majority that they were formerly fighting against. It happened within feminism and now it would be naive of me to assume that it isn’t going to happen within LGBTQ.

It’s a dichotomy and I’m too privileged to understand how to solve it.

Gipsz Jakab
Gipsz Jakab
6 years ago

PoM:

The problem with talking about “religious people” and sex ed is that “religious people” come in a cornucopia of flavors. Even if you restrict yourself to only the Christian variety, you’re going to wind up with Christians who are totally 100% behind consent-based sex ed, and other Christians who aren’t even speaking your language. Someone (I can’t remember if it was Defeating the Dragons or someone on Patheos, and I can’t find it now) who came from an evangelist background explained that, for certain values of “evangelist”, sex is sorted into “permissible” and “impermissible” categories, with everything in the “impermissible” category being equally sinful. So, consensual premarital sex and child rape (and murder) are all sinful by this categorization, and since “sin” is a pass/fail system, they are equally sinful.

You’re probably thinking of Libby Anne’s “two boxes” post.

Catalpa
Catalpa
6 years ago

@EJ

There are assholes in every community, as well as decent folks in most (though I DO wonder about the manosphere, we’re still waiting on that ‘produce a non-bigoted MRA’ challege…). Asking people on this blog about what our beliefs are probably isn’t going to give you a good cross section of religious folks (or any other demographic besides mammotheers) because the folks on this blog, barring the trolls, are already exposed to and steeped in a fair amount of feminist theory and aware of the need for a consent culture.

I grew up privileged, and remain so in many sections of my life, and my experience with people in the religious community I grew up in was that most of them mean well, and are reasonably liberal, but often have very little understanding of the life experiences of those who are outside of our ‘bubble’, so to speak. A lot of talk, and intentions, about loving and helping others, but not a whole lot of theory or practice on HOW to help, or what sort of struggles people face, or about the institutions that facilitate this oppression. So there was a lot of band-aid, treat the symptom, type efforts going on, lots of monetary donations to charities, some missions trips, and volunteering at soup kitchens, etc. Which aren’t nothing, but also isn’t addressing the roots of the problem. And of course there were people who viewed different orientations etc as being deviant, bizarre, or confused. I… had some opinions I harbored when I was younger that I’m not proud of, and my church didn’t help matters there. So, a mix of bad and good. I like to think that it was mostly just a lack of exposure for most of them, but I’m pretty sure some of them just liked feeling righteously superior to others. That’s a problem in a lot of religious communities, not going to lie.

I practice my faith as a personal matter now, partially for that reason. Not a fan of organized religion, like I said.

As for if the church is completely unsalvageable, I’m not sure. Humans are social creatures, and we naturally cluster together, and having social support in the form of a common belief system isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think the issue lies in how insular many churches are. They’re so scared that if people are exposed to other ideas, (involving religion, sex, politics, anything really), then they might choose something different than the obviously correct(/sarcasm) viewpoint of the church. This allows a lot of really toxic and bigoted ideas to fester, and also allows for predators to skulk in the community, because everyone is so focused on protecting ‘the group’ that they let things slide or sweep them under the rug. IMO, the only way that the church can really step forward into a reasonable organization is if it opens itself up, and encourages its flock to really and truly look at the world, at the different opinions and identities and experiences of the people in it, and learn. Learn as much as they can, listen, and contemplate on how this meshes with Christ’s teachings. After all, if what we believe is right/true, it can’t be harmed by being exposed to more information. And if there are wrong beliefs, opinions, and convictions, then wallowing in ignorance is actively harmful, not just to us but to anyone who might be caught in the crossfire.

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” ~Galileo Galilei

Whoops, went and wrote a bloody novel here. Sorry about my teal dear. I’ll try not to let it escape again.

ignorantianescia
ignorantianescia
6 years ago

If I may ask another question, do you believe that the more moderate portions of the religious community are capable of talking down the more extreme portions on this matter, or is “the religious community” simply too diverse and fractured to meaningfully have an internal dialogue in this way?

It’s the latter. From a staunch Fundamentalist perspective, any person who compromises on this will not be a real Christian. It’s similar to how an Al-Qaida operative doesn’t regard more moderate Muslims as real Muslims and is fine with bombing them (maybe a slightly offensive simile but that there would be one-to-one equivalence is not the point at all). That makes dialogue very hard and with some practically impossible.

What you will probably see in a few years is that young Evangelicals will eventually come round to an idea of legal civil unions (basically where the Emergent Church mostly was a few years ago), while Fundamentalists will largely stay put. That is as far as one can predict as far as Protestants go. The Roman Catholic Church will continue to condemn same-sex marriage but may be fine with civil unions in the long run (but this may change because of extremely negative attitudes to homosexuality in much of African Christianity). Orthodox Christianity… it’s a bit of a mix, but right now it looks like the main line will be homophobic. Acceptance of homosexuality is a litmus test in global Christianity, especially in the Anglican Communion, and the future is not looking very good for Western liberals right now beyond their home turf.

Bernardo Soares
Bernardo Soares
6 years ago

@EJ(too)
I’m an atheist, too, and I have a generally critical view of religion as a whole. But as an activist, religious institutions are sometimes extremely valuable allies. I often had to realise that people just won’t listen to you if you speak to them as an atheist, no matter your actual argument or concern.

Concerning sex ed, catholic missionaries in African countries are often acutely aware of the disastrous conseqeuences of the church’s stance on condom use. A catholic community radio station in Southern Zambia flat out defied the Pope and church hierarchy to provide decent sex ed and advice on condom use and the pill, simply because they were close enough to the ground that they knew no one would keep people from having sex, so the best way to counter the epidemic spread of HIV infections in the region was to accept the fact and provide decent advice to people. Other priests in Africa argue for a pragmatic policy towards abortion, because they say the rigid catholic condemnation of doctors providing medical procedures just leads to women seeking out traditional healers to do “bush abortions”, which ultimately produces more suffering than if the church accepted the fact.

Similarly, protestant and catholic churches in Germany have provided church asylum to people faced with the threat of deportation (which is a legal thing in Germany), and worked closely together with antiracist organisations in campaignic for human rights of refugees.

The problem is that those are individual examples not condoned by church hierarchy, but I think of those people as allies who need all our support to change institutions from within.

At the same time, churches also need to be stripped from their political and social power from without. In Germany, for example, the churches provide most of the social services, such as hospitals, kindergardens and retirement homes, and actually have their own labour code which allows them to fire people if they don’t adhere to ridiculous moral standards (such as remarrying after a divorce!).

Catalpa
Catalpa
6 years ago

TL;DR, yes, the religious community is a diverse bunch, and IMO, the issue isn’t entirely about the factured-ness of it all, but the insular-ness of so many of the communities that means that bigoted ideas get passed on continually.

sunnysombrera
6 years ago

It’s the latter. From a staunch Fundamentalist perspective, any person who compromises on this will not be a real Christian.

Yup.

There’s really not a lot moderates can do to “talk down” the Religious Reich, per se. That’s not to say nothing gets done, but unfortunately it’s normally in the form of picking up the pieces. There are a number of blogs, groups, forums and websites that aim to help those who have been hurt by the Church but don’t want to leave Christianity . Some try to engage the, er, problematic pastors in debate but it doesn’t usually go far – sometimes the only real strategy is to expose and criticise them online. On top of, of course, promoting views of love, peace, tolerance etc.

I wish it was all more effective. The only thing I can think of that would help is getting the authorities to help shut them up but a) freedom of speech and all that, and trust me the extremists will scream about it until blue in the face b) Republicans especially are part of the problem, sharing the same fucking views c) it can get messy trying to draw the line around said freedom of speech/religious expression. There will be wide public uproar and of course, the one thing politicians are afraid of is the public (and their votes).

sunnysombrera
6 years ago

Also, seconding what Catalpa said about insulated communities.

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
6 years ago

@Catalpa:
That wasn’t too long at all, I’d love to hear more.

Your point about the insularity of churches is extremely interesting. Daniel Dennett made the same point and argued that it’s a harbinger of their demise. However, I’m reminded most of all of Gunther Grasse’s saying that the road to extremism begins when we reject an uncomfortable reality in favour of a comforting lie; and then having rejected reality we find ourself drifting further from it until we can no longer speak meaningfully to those outside our own movement. Do you believe that as society slowly gets less homophobic, misogynistic and nonconsensual, the churches will see themselves drift further from it until there’s no useful dialogue to be had? Has this already happened?

Sadly (or perhaps not) I don’t really associate with people who don’t buy into consent, so it’s difficult for me to grasp how that community feels. I realise that asking such questions here is likely to lead to weird answers, but if I asked it amongst my atheist friends, my geek friends or my kink friends I’d get even more one-sided views.

@ignorantianescia:
That’s what I thought as well, but I’m aware that I know very little about the internal dialogues within Christianity, so I thought I’d ask.

As for the Anglican church, I’m surprised that it hasn’t schismed yet – do you have thoughts as to why?

@Bernardo Soares:
That’s a solid point and one which I’m still having to learn. I think we could have a long and fascinating discussion about it, and I would love to learn from you, but I’m conscious that I’ve derailed enough here.

weirwoodtreehugger
6 years ago

From outsider perspective, I think progressive Christians could go a long way towards taking away the narrative from the religious right if they ceased the defensiveness. Just openly talk about the ways being pro choice and pro LGBTQ rights is compatible with your faith. Understand that because Christian supremacy is a thing and people have been hurt by it, there’s going to be backlash. Not all Christians isn’t any more helpful than not all men or not all white people. Defensiveness is never a good look on a privileged class. Use that privilege to speak up for people’s rights instead of using it to defend yourselves.

sunnysombrera
6 years ago

I agree WWTH. The insulation that Catalpa mentioned has gotten to a point where many are more concerned with protecting their image in their own eyes than in outsiders’ eyes (if that makes sense).

Progressives need to be louder with their message, you’re right. The question is…if that happens, will the spotlight turn to the progressives instead of the extremists? I mean, I’ve seen reports and stories about angry groups of fundies waving “God Hates Fags” at Pride parades, but nothing about the I’m Sorry Campaign run by the Marin Foundation, who tend to stand in front of the fundies to wave their signs.

Please don’t for a moment think that I’m trying to run some “media is oppressing progressive Christians” shtick, but extremism is sensational and tends to attract more attention, in any form (how often do you see conventionally average people get reality TV shows?). What should progressives do, in that case? Just shout louder?

But then, how the hell do we lock horns with the voices of the fundies, a battle which will likely crumble into a No True Christian Belief clusterfuck in front of everyone else?

:/

sunnysombrera
6 years ago

Fucking hell I wish Christianity/Churchianity wasn’t so mother fucking complicated sometimes. Gah.

apeculiarpersonage
apeculiarpersonage
6 years ago

@EJ & the people talking about religion

I think in a lot of cases, it’s impossible to talk to “the religious community” mostly because it’s a big freaking mess in a lot of ways. I do have lot of hope for individual Christians slowly changing for the better, though.
Coming out as pansexual to Christian friends of mine was actually very encouraging. Often they were shocked and confused, but they got used to the idea. I think some of people’s opposition to lqbtq rights comes form never having been given reliable information about lqbtq people. They see queer people as something completely alien and therefore frightening. When they find out that someone they’ve known for years is queer, they have to rethink some of their beliefs.

weirwoodtreehugger
6 years ago

That’s definitely a good point, Sunny. I think in that case it is important for progressive Christians who are politicians, media figures, wealthy and powerful etc. speak up and signal boost. I know at least in the past, Americans United For the Seperation of Church and State had Rev. Barry Lynn as a spokesman, which was a good idea because it shows that it’s not just non theists who believe in that issue. So maybe orgs are a good way to go?

The religious right has been organizing for decades and religious progressives have a lot of ground to make up, unfortunately. I suppose it didn’t occur to them to organize because religious progressives have a more live and let live attitude? At the UCC church I attended as a child, I don’t remember ever being told to proselytize. That’s a good thing, I think. But the impulse to mind their own business has had a side effect of allowing the pushy theocrats to seize the narrative.

Of course, I’m speaking as an USian. Things may look different elsewhere.

sunnysombrera
6 years ago

I suppose it didn’t occur to them to organize because religious progressives have a more live and let live attitude? At the UCC church I attended as a child, I don’t remember ever being told to proselytize. That’s a good thing, I think. But the impulse to mind their own business has had a side effect of allowing the pushy theocrats to seize the narrative.

You may have hit the nail on the head, here. There’s also possibility that too many progressives are hesitant to call out those who claim to be part of the same group (you may notice that fundies will quickly play the “You’re not a Christian” card when faced with a prog, while progs will play the “Not All Christians” card when challenged about fundies). There’s ALSO a possibility that some moderates don’t want to be seen as proselytizing if they do speak up about love-based Christian values. While I’d be the first one to point at a dodgy preacher and insist on arguing with them, I find it so so hard to talk about my own personal views as a Christian, and faith in general, pretty much because I’d rather just live and let live, like you say.

mildlymagnificent
6 years ago

I’m an atheist, too, and I have a generally critical view of religion as a whole. But as an activist, religious institutions are sometimes extremely valuable allies.

One thing that Christians are exceptionally good at is anti-war/ peace demonstrations. I don’t know whether it happens elsewhere but we have a regular pro-peace, anti-war march every year on Palm Sunday. I haven’t been for years, but the numbers fluctuate depending on what’s happening in the world/Australia at the time. They’re also pretty good on indigenous and refugee rights – you often find some of the people around you have actually “adopted” a refugee family or offered accommodation to an individual refugee.

As for various brands of Christians banding together, that’s not really a goer. I was brought up Congregationalist (before they turned into the Uniting Church), became a casual(?) atheist by my mid 20s. Then I got married. We decided to bring up the kids in a Catholic church having witnessed several of our older friends who’d brought up their kids as “none”s and seeing them get mixed up with cults, Xtian and otherwise, in their teens. Mr was catholic and I saw a lot of options – from intellectual through to charismatic – for a kid brought up catholic to express themselves without getting sucked in by shysters.

However, in any church, any group of people, you will find nice people, generous and kind. And you’ll also find authoritarians, rigid and unbending, who will happily throw the person who sits next to them in the pews under the bus if it suits them. One thing I found amazing was the ritual of the mass. I was familiar with the structure from singing in various choirs, but I, raised in a church where my choir was accused of Papism because we sang traditional Xmas carols which mentioned a Virgin Mary (Idolatry!!) knew better than half the congregation at Mass when to stand-sit-kneel-stand etc. These were the people, Catholic for 50+ years, who kept their noses firmly buried in their missals. Not because they needed to keep up with the priest … but to make sure that the priest followed the ritual set for that day _to_the_letter. And they failed to follow the ritual easily or naturally, even the kneel & pray here, or the peace-be-with-you there. I thought they denied themselves one of the biggest known advantages of familiar rituals.

If they detected any inaccuracy, there were a handful perfectly willing to complain – to the bishop or, just as often, to the Vatican. One night we were rehearsing for something special, probably Easter, and the choir leader quickly ran through the Litany of the Saints. One of the choir, an extremely elderly nun, warned her quietly that a goodly number of people had attended a talk, in our church, by a Vatican visitor about the mass and ritual generally. So she’d better pull her head in, especially about including Mary McKillop in part of the litany because — at that stage — she was still barely a candidate for sainthood, and Sister Wotsername was pretty sure a few folks were ready to dob in the choir given half a chance. (She was also inclined to mention Oscar Romero and a couple of others who weren’t even on the radar for sainthood back then. So they were dropped that time as well.)

Whether it’s the finger-wagging protestant telling me I was guilty of idolatry in my late teens, early 20s or the book-bound catholic looking for the chance to get priests and choirs into hot water with the Vatican in my 40s, authoritarians everywhere make it very likely that groups will fracture one way or another. The authoritarians will exclude others or people will go off and find some other way, some other avenue, for their religious worship.

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