Wednesday, April 29, 2015

When the Monstrance is an Abyss

There's a very interesting essay in today's New York Times entitled "When the Cyberbully is You." The essay considers the phenomenon of the online mob and "shaming" a person via social media. Most of us are familiar with seeing stories go "viral" and re-posted or re-tweeted. Outrage and indignation spread from one person to another, their contagion seemingly infecting all it touches.

I am reluctant to consider myself a "victim" of cyberbullying but, I will admit, I've had more than my fair share of trolls who have visited this page. Most of them, sadly, are fellow Catholics who feel themselves commissioned by God to point out flaws or anonymously post hurtful comments. It's hard to develop a thick skin when someone is taking shots at you...but I've grown increasingly indifferent to cowardly criticisms.

The author of the Times piece quotes Friedrich Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil. Some years ago, I taught this to my seniors. Quoted is, however, but the first of the two-sentence apothegm. IN §146, Nietzsche writes, "He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster." By this we should understand that we can be be transformed into what we most loath. We may rightly feel outrage at an injustice but, in our attempt to bring about order, we can stray easily into the realm of injustice.

Such, it seems, is the error of many in cyber-shaming. We are indignant at another's comment, or joke, so we attempt to "right" the scale by "calling him out." Stupid comments made on Twitter, things that should be reproved with an eye-roll or a, "Did you really write that?" become, through mob-shaming, the cause for a person to lose a job. Maybe that's justified, maybe it's justice...but I'm not so sure that a mindless mob is ever the best arbiter of what is just. It certainly wasn't the case for Jesus.

The second line of §146 is equally interesting. Nietzsche continues, "And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into you."

For me, this is the irony of the vicious so-called Catholic bloggers. They would be the first to extoll hours spent in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament but then, when they turn to the internet, they manifest the presence of an abyss where neither mercy nor charity can be found. Rather than being themselves monstrances embodying the sacramental presence of Christ in the world, they are the monstrous inversions of a sacrament.

I wish some Catholic bloggers would ponder whether there is too-great a gulf between the time they spend on their knees in prayer and the time they spend at the keyboard. Has Christ's presence reached deep into their hearts to transform it? Or has self-righteousness and smug self-satisfaction succeeded in blocking the rays of Christ's merciful light? My (blessedly few) encounters with rage-a-holic bloggers forces me to wonder: are they themselves not guilty of the profanation of the Eucharist when their cowardly deeds and words serve only to destroy and break-down the Body of Christ they believe they serve?

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