Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Shields Up

Several times lately I've had cause to be reminded of my deep seated tendency not to talk in person about what I really believe on various topics: faith, politics, etc.  (If this seems odd from someone who has written a blog on precisely these kind of topics for nearly 20 years: congratulations, you are reading my long term pressure release valve.)

Thinking of Rome many times a day -- and also Facebook's weird tendency to show a blogger link as censored if I don't include an image.

There is, of course, the conventional wisdom about topics not suited to dinner conversation, with religion and politics topping the list. No one wants to be at the dinner table where someone throws out a conversational gambit like, "So, what do you think, should Israel just ethnically cleanse Gaza?"

Certain topics are recognized as being contentious and so we tend not to bring them up in situations where we don't want to have contentious conversation.

But I think there's a deeper sense in which society is pretty good at teaching us that if we're far enough off the beaten cultural path, people will not like you if they know what you believe. And having internalized this pretty thoroughly, even when I'm talking with people who are also interested in topics like religion, it takes a sort of effort to say something like, "The Catholic Church teaches that using artificial birth control is wrong, and that's in some ways hard and frustrating to live by at times, but I also thing it's true and important, and so we do that and would not want it any other way."

There's a feeling of incredible relief when you meet another person under circumstances that make it clear you actually agree on such topics and can discuss Church teaching openly on any topic without feeling like you're suddenly going to be attacked and have to defend yourself.  It's not that I'm averse to arguing (again, look at my online activities, though I don't have the energy I once did) but the sense that "other people don't like people like us" is so strong that one doesn't necessarily want to spoil an otherwise congenial social relationship.

Additionally tricky is that for most of my life, just because someone goes to the same Catholic parish and is active in the parish doesn't mean that they actually agree with the Church on any number of topics, or indeed that they don't hold Church teaching in contempt.

Indeed, growing up in '80s parishes in California, it was pretty much the assumption that everyone from the catechists on down thought Church teaching was misguided at best and evil at worst.

In the intervening 40 years, a lot of those people have physically left the Church, as they had intellectually long before.

But even so, one often feels one needs to look for clues before one knows whether one is talking with someone who thinks cohabitation, sterilization, abortion, and euthanasia are normal and reasonable things or moral evils.

The result is both that I usually find myself living behind a shield, and feeling especially close and grateful to any group which makes it clear to me its possible to let the shields down without fear of being suddenly labeled as some kind of a moral freak.


Antoinette said...

Well written and thoughtful.

Bellomy said...

Yep. One of the most refreshing things about speaking with the young lady I am currently in a relationship with is that I can say things like "I think artificial contraception is immoral" or even, horror of writers, frankly discuss the submission verses in Ephesians without feeling like I'm at risk of alienating her.