If you seek to destroy a community united around a set of ideas, but you can’t effectively refute the ideas or persuade the allegiants to abandon them, the most promising alternative is to attack the community’s icons and its symbols.
We’ve already seen quite a lot of this, these past few decades. Note the assault on the great men of America’s past. It’s not confined to the removal of their statues from public places. History is being rewritten to cast them as villains, regardless of their convictions and verified accomplishments. For example, many schoolchildren of today are entirely unaware of the importance of George Washington to American independence from Great Britain, or of Thomas Jefferson to American ideals of liberty and justice. That’s not because their monumental historical roles were innocently omitted or downplayed by their teachers.
Symbols have been under equally determined attack. Many a homeowners’ association has made it “an offense against the community,” punishable by a fine, for a homeowner to fly the American flag. The Christian cross, the indispensable grave marker of a fallen soldier, is gone from other kinds of public places today, under the bizarre notion that it constitutes an “establishment of religion.” The Ten Commandments plaques and monuments once found on virtually all public buildings are largely gone as well.
The mind, like Nature, abhors a vacuum. When the symbols we revere have been driven from our consciousness, and the icons that personalize the ideals we honor have been defamed, other conceptions will flow into the vacated space. Perhaps it isn’t quite so simple as “Remove Christ and you get drag queens,” but the progression from the one to the other is observable nevertheless. The really scary part is that the drag queens aren’t the terminus of that progression.
Which brings me to this article from The Atlantic:
Just as the AR-15 rifle has become a sacred object for Christian nationalists in general, the rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or “rad trad”) Catholics. On this extremist fringe, rosary beads have been woven into a conspiratorial politics and absolutist gun culture. These armed radical traditionalists have taken up a spiritual notion that the rosary can be a weapon in the fight against evil and turned it into something dangerously literal.
Their social-media pages are saturated with images of rosaries draped over firearms, warriors in prayer, Deus Vult (“God wills it”) crusader memes, and exhortations for men to rise up and become Church Militants. Influencers on platforms such as Instagram share posts referencing “everyday carry” and “gat check” (gat is slang for “firearm”) that include soldiers’ “battle beads,” handguns, and assault rifles. One artist posts illustrations of his favorite Catholic saints, clergy, and influencers toting AR-15-style rifles labeled sanctum rosarium alongside violently homophobic screeds that are celebrated by social-media accounts with thousands of followers….
Militia culture, a fetishism of Western civilization, and masculinist anxieties have become mainstays of the far right in the U.S.—and rad-trad Catholics have now taken up residence in this company. Their social-media accounts commonly promote accelerationist and survivalist content, along with combat-medical and tactical training, as well as memes depicting balaclava-clad gunmen that draw on the “terrorwave” or “warcore” aesthetic that is popular in far-right circles….The “battle beads” culture of spiritual warfare permits radical-traditional Catholics literally to demonize their political opponents and regard the use of armed force against them as sanctified. The sacramental rosary isn’t just a spiritual weapon but one that comes with physical ammunition.
We’ve moved past the atheistic arrogance of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, and have reached the “know your enemy” stage. Catholics – Catholics! The original Christian church! The only denomination that welcomes interaction with persons of all faiths, without exception! – have become an imminent threat to public peace. Fantastic. Just fantastic. Canadian author Daniel Panneton must have been bitten by a Catholic in pre-school. Or perhaps he was frightened into incontinence by the sight of a habited nun.
The funniest element of Panneton’s diatribe is his association of “rad-trad” Catholicism with America’s most popular rifle, the AR-15. Great God in heaven, if I were to set out to write something this fatuous and ridiculous, I don’t think I could do it. But then, Panneton is a Canadian, and to Canadians the AR-15 is a token of the ultimate evil. (Free-market medicine comes a distant second.)
There are more than 70 million self-described Catholics in these United States today. I have no doubt that in a number that large, there will be a few screwballs. Possibly even a couple of mass-murderers in the making. But rosary beads as symbols of Christian nationalism? Really? Is Panneton unaware of how non-Catholic Christians view us – i.e., with a considerable degree of disdain and distrust? Is he unaware of how consistently Catholics are told to seek peace and accommodation even with those who hate us?
But the larger point is the one that matters. The “know your enemy” stage is penultimate. It comes just before the word goes out to “get them before they can get us.” Whether innocently or not – and I’ll reserve judgment on that, thank you – Panneton is promoting a pogrom against Catholics, particularly Catholics of the traditionalist / Tridentine Mass variety.
It’s a damned good thing for Daniel Panneton we’re taught to love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us. Not only is he perfectly safe from us, he desperately needs the prayers – and the example.
Applause to Pacific Pundit for the citation of the Atlantic article. Under normal circumstances, I’d be about as likely to read that relic of a magazine as I would be to poke myself in the eye with a fork. But it may not yet have reached its nadir. Perhaps the Atlantic’s next issue will feature a full-color spread of St. Teresa of Calcutta in leather fetish gear, or St. John Paul II in a grenade-festooned tactical vest and brandishing an AR-15. We can only wait and see.
Have a nice day.
PS: My beloved wife Beth – not a Catholic, to my pastor’s unending chagrin – chides me for omitting all mention of the ultimate weapon: an AR-15 that fires rosary beads! However, that modification is only available to the military at present. Non-Catholics can relax.