Damien Thompson, who is probably one of the world’s top journalists, (and who thinks I look like Bruce Willis) writes very well here about the Pope’s visit to Britain this weekend. I also like this comment piece by Telegraph writer Jenny McCartney which says that Richard Dawkins is becoming more and more like Ian Paisley. I couldn’t help noticing the ingongruity myself that the homosexualist, feminist, atheist lobbyists were pretty much indistinguishable from the fundamentalist Protestants.
What comes across most vividly about the Protesters is their shrill tone, their irrationality, their lack of any real understanding about the Catholic Church and most of all their rage. More and more, whenever I come across rage, negativity, blaming others, protest and narrow minded criticism I’m inclined to write the person off. Sometimes a commenter skulks onto this blog and throws mud at the bishops and the clergy because of our corruption and hypocrisy and our venality etc. etc. blah blah blah moan moan whine whine whine.
When I hear negative criticism the first thing I try to do is listen. Is the grumble fair? Has there been a real injustice? Is something wrong that needs to be fixed? Then the criticism is a good thing. You take it as such and you thank the person for pointing out something that can be better, apologize and if it is in your power, get on with fixing what is wrong. If there’s nothing you can do about it, then why entertain the grumble any longer?
However, that kind of protest is pretty rare. More often you get whining and grumbling and blaming others or outright rage and anger. When that is going on, and there is no specific problem that can be remedied, the grumbler usually has a different agenda, and it’s worth listening more closely. Maybe they just want attention. Maybe they feel neglected and excluded. Maybe they have ideological disagreements with you and you’ll never appease them because they will disagree with you no matter what you do. Maybe they’re just an unhappy, wounded or sick person. If this is the case, move on. If you can’t help them, don’t expend the energy to reply because even a polite and kind reply will only make them madder.
Often the grumbler is simply the kind of person who is only happy when they’re unhappy. They view the world as an imperfect place and everyone in it as imperfect people (except them of course) and you’ll never satisfy them. Maybe they’re one of those outsiders whose favorite hobby is to criticize anyone who seems to them to be the ‘establishment’. You have to understand that they like the ‘prophetic outsider’ role. It makes them happy to protest like that. They feel that it gives their life meaning and purpose. What’s spooky and kooky about this type of grumbler is that not only can they usually not do anything about the problem, they usually don’t do anything even if they can.
This sort of protester personality type will never be satisfied, and they exist in just about every subset of religion or politics or in any community or workplace. For example, I’ve known some traditionalist Catholics who are like this. One of their basic foundational assumptions is that the ‘Vatican II Church’ is corrupt, probably invalid and that it is filled with the ‘smoke of Satan.’ You’ll never convince them otherwise and the Pope could come to them quoting Latin, wearing a fiddleback chasuble, smelling of incense and celebrating Mass with classical music and they’ll only say, “He’s even more dangerous when he’s pretending to be conservative.” Fuhgeddaboudit. They’re looped.
I’ve known wacko liberals with the same underlying mindset. They’re convinced that the Vatican is totally hidebound, dangerously conservative and hell bent on turning back the clock. For them the Pope and his thugs are part of a medievally-minded, homophobic, misogynistic, out of date institution that wants only to enslave people. Let the Pope speak about the role and dignity of women, compassionate treatment of homosexual people and the rights and freedoms of all men and they’ll say, “It’s only window dressing. We want action not talk.” You get the idea.
I could go on. The problem is not traditionalist Catholics or wacky liberal Catholics or conspiracy theorists or Protestants or any group of people, but a mentality–a perspective–a paradigm. This ‘Protest’ way of looking at the world is essentially pessimistic. The Protester is an idealist. He thinks the world ought to be better than it is, and he is frustrated because he can’t make it better and he blames all the people in power for the world being so imperfect. This underlying ‘protest’ mentality conditions the way he looks at everything in the world so that before long everyone else outside his little group starts to look like the enemy. It’s only a short hop from there to full blown conspiracy theory craziness.
In addition to this, they’re into blame. Their inner deep unhappiness is always somebody else’s fault. Their world isn’t perfect, but it’s never their fault. It’s always ‘them out there’–the ‘liberals’ or ‘the conservatives’. There’s never anything wrong with them and their group of course, while in fact, they and their group are often operating within a very sad and sick group dynamic.
These are not happy people, and when they are actually religious people they spread their poisonous protest perspective to others and the sickness becomes infectious. Not good. Not good at all, because what can happen then is that they all get together into a little religious sect or a survivalist militia group or a sub set political party, and if they get enough money and power they’ll then start to make the world just as they think it ought to be, and when that happens get ready for the revolution and get ready for heads to roll.
How do you peg them? Crack a joke about their protest. If they can laugh at themselves and see their complaint in perspective they’re ok. If they get mad or more mad and go all serious and self righteous you’ve got a protester personality on your hands.
What to do about it? Be strong and of good courage. Rejoice in all things. God made the world to be a good place, and we are all created in his image. Life is good, the apocalypse probably won’t happen any time soon, and if bad stuff does happen to you, be brave, be noble and bear your suffering with dignity and grace. When you encounter the protester type, give him a big hug. He needs it.
But look out. He’ll probably punch you after