US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Too much hate

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I'm sad for humanity right now. Representative Bart Stupak's column in Newsweek reveals just how bad we (collectively) are at "loving your neighbor as yourself."

Stupak's column is a good reminder that politicians are real people with a feelings and a conscience, as he describes how he prayed and lost sleep over his internal debate about abortion and healthcare. His negotiations until the end convince me that he really wanted to make a difference with this bill. I would love to hear more politicians speak out genuinely about their internal debates (but what is truly "genuine" when another election lies around the corner?).

Perhaps part of the problem is calling amendments by their author's name. "Stop Stupak, the amendment" becomes "stop Stupak, that evil man." Then as a consquence of being the public face of the amendment he ended up speaking out against, Stupak receives drunken phone calls, hate mail, and death threats. Is it possible to make our debates less personal and venomous?

Unfortunately, spreading hate and anger "is good work if you can get," as Joe Feuerherd writes over at National Catholic Reporter about Bill Donohue of the Catholic League and his associates. Now I sometimes agree with Donohue that certain representations of the church in pop culture are in bad taste, and Feuerherd points out that anti-Catholicism exists. His idea that the Catholic League could do research into the impact of antichurch prejudice intrigued me.

But it's the tactics of assuming the worst of everyone and responding with hatred that bother me the most. As Feuerherd writes, "you can say almost anything, impugn nearly anyone, make the most outlandish public statements, and you're never held accountable."

I try to see the best in humanity--those who act with hate are driven by faith and principles, at least I hope. But even if Stupak says he can handle the hate, it just makes me depressed. Thankfully, I'll have happier news to share tomorrow.