Friday, March 1, 2013

we're over here and you're over there

Sometimes you need to set things out before you begin, a prologomena of sorts, because darn it otherwise some folks start thinking that, y'know, we're all really alike.

OK, yes, we're all sinners, I get that, but you know what I mean.  There are differences in this world and the trouble starts when we act as if those distinctions don't exist.

Like this interview by Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review;  pets outnumber children more than four to one.

W-T-F?  No, seriously....

Over the past couple years, in my esteemed role as a college faculty, I had drummed up the hobby theory (almost typed "pet theory" there--bad pun) that American life these days is fundamentally divided between "kid people" and "dog people."  Right, that mammalian distinction must be made;  cat people know they serve at the behest of the feline dictator.  Dog people, though, make two crucial presumptions:  1) dogs are kids, so it makes perfect sense--and should not be questioned--to compare  as equals kidcare and dogcare:  day care, toilet training, exercise, food habits and diets, health concerns ("hey, dogs get diabetes too!"), "grandpuppies" instead of grandchildren, etc.; and 2) dogs, lacking all the problematic issues of children--human maturation, puberty, college costs, acne, etc.--are thus more preferable.

And here's an article that basically proves my point.  We're poop-scooping our way to a demographic nightmare.  Nice that your dog won an obedience class award, but who's going to care for you when you're in a nursing home?

One more thing:  there are several dog people with kids.  that's right--they have both, but they identify as dog people...because the dog's viewed in human terms.  Adopt a child, adopt a dog--what's the difference?

Well, lots.  Human dignity...which includes the humane treatment of animals (see the Catechism #2415-8), but c'mon the child and the dog are not the same.  Cute? of course.  Companions?  of course.  But children represent humanity's creative gift given by God--and this includes adopted children, who actually best embody Paul's notion that through Christ we all become children of God (Romans 8:14-17).

Not "pets of God."

Mentioning this in the wrong social circumstances instigates reactions similar to denying the validity of same-sex marriage or embracing the teaching authority of the Roman magisterium.  Your dog-owning friends will glance at each other...and "know." 

Too bad.  We're over here...and they're over there.

Something similar to this surfaces with the upcoming conclave.  So many voices call for a pope "with the courage to change Rome".  Effectively these are the dog people, ecclesiology style.  However, Mark Shea notes, there'll always be a gulf between what the Church declares according to God's revelation and what the world wants.

1 comment:

  1. Question for you, and maybe one that we can discuss when we meet up next week. Regarding same sex marriage, is it valid as a civil institution alone? Are all marriages sacramental, particularly at a time when many of them that take place, do not take place sacramentally? Even when they do, it is not always by people who are completely immersed in the life of their local church?

    I ask this because the ongoing conversation that gets so focused on what is wrong about same sex marriage is based upon teachings, but that are often used to take away the dignity of those persons. I have had more than one conversation that zeroed in on the sexual part, but that had no element of the interpersonal relationship and the fidelity. Those two elements may not justify the teaching of the Church, but that they are never mentioned seems to prop up a weak argument. As someone who is married, and friends with many gay married people, I struggle mightily with this.

    And they we are here and they are there argument seems so very not-Catholic. I am not trying to give you a hard time or to be prickly or pedantic, but I almost never comment as a result of not wanting to appear that way. Since I tend to read every word that you write, I figured that I better speak up. Plus one comment also helps to get the conversation started.

    On the main point, and as someone with a child and two pets, I will say this. There is an overemphasis on our animal companions to be sure; the culture is saturated with this problem. And many people with kids suffer from it as well - the pets take precedence at times.

    These are all elements of life in postmodern times, but I worry that the us-vs-them argument never says or does anything that is truly Catholic. It invalidates and disengages and if I understand anything, it is that I must be wholly Catholic in the world. To withdraw is to be anything but Catholic or catholic. And sometimes it makes us sound so self-superior, and filled with condescending pity.

    Are you sure you want to have coffee next week? :-) I hope so, because I look forward to it.

    PS - What is wrong with a pope with the courage to change Rome? Isn't that what every pope has done, at some level? (I know, I must sound so contentious, but I really ask these questions straight out of my very Catholic heart!)