It’s odd to me how angry and resentful anti-religious people often seem to be — at least as angry and resentful as religious people often seem to be. What is the source of this compulsion to think of oneself as better than other people? Christians call it the vice of pride. I don’t know what anti-religious people call it.
Here’s a shining example of it, from the LA Times article about the new translation of the Mass. The first paragraph focuses on the Nicene Creed, a prayer which expresses the essential elements of the Catholic Christian faith. Specifically, the reporter is calling attention to the word “consubstantial.” The paragraph reads:
“The word “consubstantial” does not roll naturally off the modern American tongue. It’s one of those $5 words with Latin roots that tend to make the speaker sound pretentious or, if he trips over it, like a pretentious idiot.”
Does this sound sarcastic and demeaning to you? “pretentious”? “pretentious idiot”? How could the LA Times editors possibly allow this kind of sneering in the lead of a news article? When I first saw these sentences, I assumed this was an op-ed piece, written by someone obviously not on the staff of a professional news organization, but someone who had some real anger issues and a subliminal sense of his or her own irrelevance. And then I found, not only is this a reporter on the paper’s staff, but he obviously has an editor above him who is either equally bigoted or tone deaf. Someone needs a serious reprimand, at least.
Here’s an English lesson for the LA Times. One of the great beauties of the English language is its adaptability. Flowing from so many sources, it can be fluid in expressing new ideas, or old ideas that need to be re-expressed. For example, when we started getting daily reports from the surface of Mars (thank you NASA), we started referring to one rotation of the Red Planet as a “sol,” to avoid confusion about which “day” of the mission was being reported (for the non-scientific, a sol on Mars is about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day). Obviously, sols have been happening on Mars for a long time, but a new word was still needed.
“Consubstantiation” is the same kind the word. The manner in which Jesus was both human and divine involved, in Catholic theology, a new and unique state of existence. New things require new words. Go ahead and sneer at the theology, if that’s what you need to do, but you can’t fault the semantics.
We are not interested in what the writer of this article thinks about how a Catholic in prayer looks to him. We don’t like boors, in conversation or in reporting.
So, Dear LA Times reporter: Keep your lowbrow opinions on the opinion page. Or better still, keep them private, until you’ve worked out your hostility and discovered when, and how, to express them appropriately.