Friday, July 25, 2008

Further Reactions to PZ Myers and the Desecrated Eucharist

Here are a few more reactions to PZ Myers' Eucharist desecration (UPDATED, see below. For earlier reactions, see here; once again, I may add further worthwhile links as I find them):

The Duty to Defend the (Nearly) Indefensible

That angry email is understandable. Professor Myers is encouraging the desecration of [one of] the most sacred symbols of faith for the vast majority of the world’s Christians. He is doing so while making no great argument or artful satire. He is doing so simply because he despises somebody else’s views. If they feel anguish at his actions, then he mocks them for caring about what he (originally) called a “g-d d-mned cracker.”...

Christians have every right to point out that they think what Professor Myers is doing is wrong. We have an obligation to do what we can reasonably do to keep our services from being disrupted and our cherished ceremonies mocked, but our duty does not end there....

First, we must not confuse the actions of one skeptic with that of most skeptics.... Second, we must recognize that if P.Z. Myers does blaspheme, then it will be a sad act of theatrical atheism doing more harm to his own cause than to Christianity.... Third, we should remind ourselves that Myers is not alone in his lack of love for the feelings of his neighbor.... Finally, we must defend without reservation Professor Myers’ right to express private opinions.

Dohanue on Swastikas and Burning Crosses

Donahue’s statement, in calling for the University of Minnesota to fire Myers, from MYERS DESECRATES THE EUCHARIST

“It is important for Catholics to know that the University of Minnesota will not tolerate the deliberate destruction of the Eucharist by one of its faculty. Just as African Americans would not tolerate the burning of a cross, and Jews would not tolerate the display of swastikas, Catholics will not tolerate the desecration of the Eucharist.”

The important point to note here is that the Swastika and the burning cross (and the Confederate flag, for that matter), are symbols of actual violence committed against Jews and blacks. These are symbols of organizations that not only advocate, but who have actually committed, physical and violent crimes against the people involved.

Nothing in what Myers has done consists of a real or threatened act of violence against a human being.

So, what Donahue is doing in making this analogy to say that the act of putting a nail through a cracker is equivalent to the slaughter of 6 million Jews, the lynching and segregation of blacks, and a century of slavery.

To make such a statement, of course, is to denigrate - to utterly trivialize - the Holocaust, segregation, and slavery.

On the other hand:

The case for firing PZ Myers

I am unapologetically secular, but I hope that Myers gets fired. It disgusts me to agree even for a split second with the likes of wingnut Bill Donohue, but I agree with him. Myers is calling for people to take a religious artifact from a church under not only false pretenses but with intent to degrade that artifact's rightful owner. It is fraudulent and larcenous to present oneself to a priest or a bishop as a Catholic in good standing in a perceived state of grace (as defined by the Church) and to receive the Church's sacrament with intent of defiling it.
Similarly:

P. Z. Myers Must Be Fired

He also is in violation of the University of Minnesota Code of Conduct, which holds that faculty members "must be committed to the highest ethical standards of conduct" (II:2) and that "Ethical conduct is a fundamental expectation for every community member. In practicing and modeling ethical conduct, community members are expected to: act according to the highest ethical and professional standards of conduct [and] be personally accountable for individual actions" (III:1).

It also stresses that faculty members must "Be Fair and Respectful to Others. The University is committed to tolerance, diversity, and respect for differences. When dealing with others, community members are expected to: be respectful, fair, and civil . . . avoid all forms of harassment . . . [and] threats . . . [and] promote conflict resolution."

P. Z. Myers has done none of these things. He is in fundamental breach of the University of Minnesota's Code of Conduct and must be discharged.

I’ve said from the beginning that I don’t think Myers should be fired, no matter how disrespectful his comments—and I still think it would do more harm than good—but I am beginning to appreciate the opposing argument. At the least, I can’t condemn those who are demanding his dismissal, even if I disagree. It is one thing to speak disrespectfully about a religious symbol—it may be rude and counterproductive, but it should certainly not be illegal, nor should a tenured professor have to fear for his job for doing so. But to go the next step and acquire (though deception, if not fraud) the sacred object itself and then to publicly desecrate it—that is something else. Should it be illegal? I don’t know, but it certainly violates the dictates of civil society (and the Code of Conduct of the University of Minnesota). It also sets a precedent which could lead to many similar acts of desecration. Whether that justifies his firing, I’m not sure—in fact, if he were fired that itself would likely spark many more acts of desecration!—but I also must respect the freedom of speech of those who believe he should be.

UPDATE: It looks like freedom of speech is going to win out over decency. I'm shocked that he isn't being reprimanded at all, but I'm glad he's not being fired (HT Greg Laden):

Morris chancellor defends instructor who defiled Eucharist, tore Qur'an

The chancellor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, is standing up for a faculty member's freedom of expression after the instructor posted on the Internet a photo of a defiled communion wafer with pages ripped from the Qur'an....

In response today, University of Minnesota, Morris, Chancellor Jacqueline Johnson said the school has deactivated the link between Myers' personal blog and the university website, emphasizing his views "do not reflect those of the University of Minnesota, Morris, or the University of Minnesota system."

At the same time, Johnson said, while she believes "behaviors that discriminate against or harass individuals or groups on the basis of their religious beliefs are reprehensible," the school also "affirms the freedom of a faculty member to speak or write as a public citizen without institutional discipline or restraint."

In the end, I still think Rod Dreher's response is the most in line with what Jesus would have done:

P.Z. Myers desecrates the Eucharist
It's plain that the raging of Christians only feeds Myers' hatred. But what would he do if the response to his hideous blasphemy is ... love? What would he do if Catholics and other Christians, and even sympathetic members of other faiths, turned up en masse on his campus simply to pray quietly for him? What kind of witness would that be to the wider culture? How might that make straight the path to salvation for P.Z. Myers, and many who now admire him? Wouldn't that be blessing those who persecute you, as Christ commands us to do?

3 comments:

N. Adam said...

What would he do if Catholics and other Christians, and even sympathetic members of other faiths, turned up en masse on his campus simply to pray quietly for him? What kind of witness would that be to the wider culture? How might that make straight the path to salvation for P.Z. Myers, and many who now admire him? Wouldn't that be blessing those who persecute you, as Christ commands us to do?

Supposing prayer does, in fact, work, the need to show up, en masse, and most probably disrupt the going-ons of a University should prove redundant. If your aim, however, is to capture the attention of a few television cameras and make a broader political point, however, that is called a protest.

Not saying that there is anything wrong with protests intrinsically. But let's call a spade a spade.

It's plain that the raging of Christians only feeds Myers' hatred. But what would he do if the response to his hideous blasphemy is ... love?

Myers' objection to religion is not rooted in hate. (This is not to say that Myers does not hate religion--he probably does.) He happens to be one of those scientific types that demand evidence before affirming implausible propositions. I am not just saying this to be a smart-alack. The only thing that persuade Myers to change is position is through reason. Whether or not you're sending him death threats or prayers, his actions are not going to change. The only way to save Myers is to persuade him with reason.

Ken Brown said...

You're probably right on those points, and for what it's worth, I hope that my own response has been marked by reason. But love is still the best possible response to such a case, and certainly the one the Jesus of the Bible would have advocated.

N. Adam said...

The only thing that persuade Myers to change is position is through reason.

Excuse the extra sentence. It was an artifact of a previous edit.