Friday, August 14, 2015

quack, quack, zombies!

For reasons legitimate and not-so-legitimate, the right side of the American political spectrum has been characterized as inundated with conspiracy theories.  And this beyond the garden-variety 9/11 & "birther" stories.  This certainly includes Christians and even some Catholics who should know better.

 Let's not forget, though, that the Left suffers from this malady, too. Here's a recent installment:  the POW-MIA flag should be grouped with the Confederate battle flag as symbols of hate.  Author Rick Perlstein concludes:
That damned flag: It’s a shroud. It smothers the complexity, the reality, of what really happened in Vietnam.
We’ve come to our senses about that other banner of lies. It’s time to do the same with this.

In the short time since the article's publication (August 10, 2015), Perlstein and an American Spectator editor issued apologies over using the term "racist." (Found at the end of the linked story)  However, Perlstein stands by his claim:  the POW flag derives its power from a secretive and sham process that hides the real truth.

So we have quacks on the right (already presumed) and quacks on the left.  Maybe this is why scenes like this from World War Z resonate so well:
Here we are, minding our own peaceful business, when suddenly over the wall come these crazies hell-bent on our destruction!  They're mad!  They hate us!  Only solution:  shoot.them.in.the.head.  (Corollary:  watch Father Robert Barron [bishop-to-be!] give a Catholic theological take on the movie here.)

Over a decade ago Michael Barkun noted some of the reasons why conspiracy theories gain so much traction in American life.  Significantly, "stigmatized knowledge" -- theorists claim to possess "true" knowledge that all others outside the enlightening community consider worthless, irrelevant, or just plain wrong--fuels the intransigent passion.  The more the "true" knowledge is debased by outsiders, the more fervently they adhere.  Hence a spiritual diabetes angle:  conspiracy theories are the attempt to slake thirst with full-sugar/corn-syrup soda pop.  You need water and a sensible diet to combat diabetes, not something that will send your already-elevated blood sugar sky-rocketing.  Spiritually, as one might expect this blog to argue, the remedy lies in the Roman Catholic tradition wherein natural law and revelation work together, each providing unique knowledge, while maintaining freedom for the individual. And animating all of it is the Gospel.  This is not always sexy nor thrilling, and occasionally it's stigmatized itself, but it is the only sure remedy and preventive care for some of the whackiness that seems to inundate our world.

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