We are the Culture

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August 1, 2018 by lucieromarin

Those who have never been seriously hurt by their religious communities will think of apostasy in terms of truth and non-truth. Your religion is true, and that is the only thing that matters, so the failures of community or hierarchy are, at most, a hiccup in your history, and should be to you as is bad weather or the late-running train.

The apostate of doctrine and the apostate of culture are judged differently. When someone apostasises on the grounds of doctrine, people will ask themselves how they might go about better explaining the truth. Yes, there might be judgement of the individual, but a certain responsibility is taken, too. People write books and share them; they learn definitions and ponder translations; they look for ways to meet a need. However, when someone is driven from a church by the actions of its members, no such responsibility is taken. Have you ever heard the line ‘the bad actions of some Catholics don’t change the truth?’ Loyalty to the injuring community is assumed on the grounds of true doctrine, and any end of that loyalty is failure simply.

This adds to the loneliness of survivors’ experience of religion. Not only do they live with the usual sequelae of trauma; they do so in a context in which any expression of those sequelae causes them to be judged as failed Catholics. Well, it’s difficult enough to stay faithful to the truth when your own teachers are the ones who abused it; it’s even harder when your community thinks you’re an idiot for enduring any struggle at all, and this, of course, together with the pressure to conform, means that community life, which is supposed to be a healer, only deepens the survivor’s isolation, complicates her grief, and prolongs her stress.

How do you remain in a culture with which you no longer identify in full? The thought struck me recently that this aspect of survivor-experience relies on the assumption that certain members of our culture are its representatives and we are not. The off-grid home-schooler telling her friend that she endangers her child’s soul by sending him to school does not speak from authority; she speaks from confidence in herself as representative of true culture. But that confidence comes across as authority. Thus, she can tell you that your skirt is too short, but you cannot tell her to mind her own business.

For the lover of philosophy but hater of zero-accountability pious fob-offs, the only thing to do is to resist the assumption that you and your ilk do not represent our culture. We do represent it. It is true that we share a creed with our perps, but that is all we are obliged to share. Healing doesn’t mean becoming like the people who hurt you. Healing in faith doesn’t mean becoming like the people who judge you. Instead of seeing your judge as the representative of Catholic culture, as the one who gets to tell you how you’ve failed that culture, understand that you, in fact, are the representative of culture. Who made the zero-accountability soul the default Catholic? It certainly wasn’t God.

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