Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Philip Jenkins speaks on 'The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice'. There are some very good observations here. Much as people talk about the level of prejudice directed against evangelical Christians it seems to me that we are often not the direct target of prejudice. Rather, we are caught in the crossfire of prejudice directed against the Roman Catholic church in particular. Evangelicals do not possess some of the key signs of the scapegoat victim, which Roman Catholics do possess. Firstly, the allegiances and identities of evangelicals are generally too similar to the allegiances and identities of generic Americans and Britons to represent any significant threat. Evangelicals are seldom 'outsiders' to the same degree as Roman Catholics are. Evangelicals resemble the culture too much to really threaten it. Evangelicals have a weak doctrine of the Church and the gospel that they proclaim is one that poses the political order no real threat. The powers that be do not have that much of a problem with private spirituality. However, a strong institutional Church that actually calls the powers to account and challenges their hegemony, calling them to submit to a higher authority, and representing a genuinely new and visible kingdom in the midst of the kingdoms of the world: that represents a real threat. Secondly, evangelicals are really not that significant a force on the cultural, political and social levels. Roman Catholics are. Roman Catholic movements tend to be more far-reaching and possess a greater strength than evangelical movements. Evangelicals are generally fad-followers; Roman Catholics have a longer-term perspective and pose a far greater threat to liberals. Whilst evangelical political, cultural and social movements can easily be blown off-course, Roman Catholic movements are far less easy to remove. Roman Catholics are also less likely to be under the thumb of any one social class. The carefully-crafted mythology about Roman Catholics that we have inherited from our Protestant ancestors is something that is deeply ingrained in our society and can be appealed to by people at all points on the political spectrum. Both Protestants and liberals use such mythology as a unifying force, converging on the Roman Catholic church as the scapegoat. If many of the myths about Roman Catholics perpetuated by many Protestants and liberals (about the crusades, the inquisition, modern sex scandals, etc.) were to be exposed as the lies that they are, a very potent unifying force would be lost (particularly in certain Reformed churches).