It's Not Just a Cracker

Communion Wafer

Remember back a couple of weeks ago when Prime Minister Harper may or may not have pocketed a communion wafer offered by a priest at a Catholic funeral? The controversy broke along strange lines, actually. There were your usual suspects, pouncing on this latest faux pas to try and wring as much benefit for Harper’s opponents as possible, and there were Harper’s usual defenders, trying to laugh this all off as a slow news day, or huffing that this was another example of gotcha journalism.

But there were voices out there which bucked this trend. Balbulican, for instance, wondered what the Catholic priest was doing handing Harper, a known Protestant, a wafer in the first place? And then there was Canadian Cynic.

OHMIGOD OHMIGOD OHMIGOD … heresy!! Whether our Prime Minister — the man charged to lead this nation — ate a goddamned cracker (albeit one with magical and mystical properties). Yes, dear Lord, this is news!

Yes, oh Jesus, let us drag out the eyewitnesses who will now testify regarding the cracker!

All of these people are completely, totally, batshit crazy deranged and should be locked up. From the Church who takes the wafer idiocy that seriously, to the official representatives of the PMO who seem to think that it’s a good investment of their time to respond to such inanities, all of these people are gibberingly mindless airheads who should be interned somewhere for their own safety, and the safety of the rest of us who should never have to listen to this kind of screeching stupidity ever again.


If I can infer what Canadian Cynic was thinking, here, he was frustrated that something so trivial (as he sees it) could dominate the news as this story did for those two days. There are, after all, any number of policy questions to pursue the prime minister on, such as issues of accountability with regard to the nuclear isotopes issue, or the allegations rising against Gary Goodyear. But what do the media and the pundits of the blogosphere focus on? Whether or not our prime minister inadvertently reserved the host. Canadian Cynic probably thought that the world went mad:

It’s a cracker. Get over it. Get a life.

But while I sympathize with CC’s frustration, here, and while I believe the media overreacted, I have to disagree with him. The respect that one shows to the host is important to a large number of people. And they are neither fools or rogues for holding this belief.

In calling the host “just” a cracker, CC is speaking from a stridently atheist viewpoint. He has been very open about that, and I don’t criticize him for it. His words also mimic those expressed by Mr. P.Z. Myers, who operates the famous science blog Pharyngula. Both have been dilligent in exposing the crazies that unfortunately call my religion of Christianity home, but there was one point where I thought that Mr. Myers went too far. A year before Stephen Harper allegedly pocketed the Host, Myers deliberately did the same, looking to evoke a strong reaction from Catholic believers to expose the nutcases that existed in that religion.

I should point out that I am not a Catholic. I am an Anglican and, as an Anglican, I subscribe to the official dogma of consubstantiation rather than transubstantiation. Anglicans are supposed to believe that the communion wafer and wine only become the body and blood of Christ for those who believe, and are truly repentant enough to receive such communion and be redeemed by the power of Christ.

On a personal level, as an Anglican, I apply the filter of reason and common sense through my understanding of Biblical literature. I believe that a literal interpretation of the Bible to be potentially dangerous and potentially opposite to the wishes of God. To believe that the communion wafer and wine could become the true body and blood of Christ strikes me as taking the text too literally, when the important issue is not simply consuming the body and blood so much as using these symbols to turn from our sinful ways towards a better life in line with Christ’s teachings.

So I believe that it is possible to get too hung up over symbols, but I would be wrong to deny the power of those symbols, or to deride those people who truly believe in those symbols who, believing such a way, lead lives as good and soulful as any that people can hope for.

Remember, at some level, Erin believed in that symbol enough to, at first blush, be viscerally offended by the news. Despite being educated as a nuclear physicist, she still believes in God, as do I. And our belief has helped inform our actions, which has included standing against those who would put Intelligent Design in our schools, roll back same sex marriage or deny the existence of the dark side of the moon.

CC and I have had a beer together, and I’m pretty sure that Mr. Myers would be equally welcoming should I introduce myself to him. CC probably means no disrespect to me personally that I choose to believe differently from him, and yet I care about this because some atheists would equate Erin and myself with Jerry Falwell.

I remember a fervent atheist attacking Chet Scoville, back when he was the Green Knight. A strident (but, I suspect, troubled) young man who called himself TX Atheist (Texas Atheist? I guess you’d have to be strident, coming up in that setting) took Chet and myself to task for professing Christianity, even though we were advocating a far more liberal political point of view from most Christians he knew. If I recall his words correctly, we were putting a false face on a barbaric belief system. When I pressed him on this, over on his blog, the fact that Jerry Falwell and I shared one thing and one thing alone — a belief in an unquantifiable God — made me no better than the hateful Jerry Falwell in his eyes.

Most xians believing in the deity of Jesus=fundamentalists. That’s all I’m saying. You can deny it but I label that a fundy. No one wants to be called one but I refuse to not call them one. Like I told green knight, only being half as bad as Falwell is not a prize. I didn’t want to go there but I will. Mary wasn’t married. That makes Jesus a bastard. That’s even better to hear but another belief xians don’t want to believe, hear, accept. Mary had sex with a guy to get pregnant, not god. If you believe god got her pregnant, fundamentalist view. The faith thing goes both ways. Jesus said faith alone in me is enough and then said faith without works is dead. Contradictory but you can rationalize it to yourself. I really think it’s a convenience depending on how a xian wants to view it. What makes fundamentalism a problem even if only 2 points are believed. They are not true scientifically. My problem with you and your church members believing it? Nothing. Sharing that nonsense with me and my kids in school. Everything. That’s why our evolution in science problem exists. That’s how ID is getting a foot in the door in some places. Your ignorance bleeds out into the real world and we all have to tread lightly on that ignorance in the public realm because there are so many of you.


I will say it again. Believing 90% of the garbage Falwell does makes you nearly as bad. I didn’t say anything about actions unless you considering perpetuating that religious nonsense as action. I definitely wouldn’t say you think you’re better than me. You’re right it’s not logical in thinking anything like Falwell. I really wish you’d stop saying most christians don’t like ID and creation science. When only 10% of the USA thinks evolution happened without the work of any god, that makes 90% ungrateful or respectful of science. Also most xians do think that xianity is a better religion and they are worthy of heaven. It’s a subtle arrogance so again you are pretending or unaware of that self-assessment of xians.


Be sure to read the whole post and comment thread, as it’s a good debate back and forth, in my opinion. It is, unfortunately, the blogger’s last post on his blog (and this was three years ago). I hope I didn’t inadvertently force him from blogging.

When Mr. Myers pocketed the host and walked out of a Catholic Church, a discouragingly large number of fanatics obliged him with an over-the-top reaction, sending Mr. Myers death threats. His point, such as it was, was made. However, Mr. Myers actions were still a deliberate attempt to show disrespect to Catholicism in general. If you were offended by Mr. Myers actions, he was saying, you were being stupid and foolish, getting upset over a cracker.

But this applied not only to those lunatics that responded with death threats against Mr. Myers, but also to average Catholics, like my wife, who wouldn’t ever think of such a thing. Who lead otherwise normal lives. Who, I suspect, might drive next to Mr. Myers on the bus and who might not give any other indication that they are Catholic.

One could argue that this is what the religious fanatics do: fundamentally disrespecting those who dare to believe differently, or who choose not to believe at all. But those atheists who return that disrespect, who blanketly refuse to see the merits of decent people who choose to believe in God, they act like the people they profess to hate.

Over on Stageleft, there is an interesting debate forming around a tragic news item about a man who sat and prayed rather than take his daughter to hospital to get her simple medical treatment that could have saved her life. I would hasten to point out that the father’s actions is inconsistent with how most Christians I know act. Intelligent Christians know that God helps those who help themselves, and that good things can come through the use of the brains God gave us, not to mention the science and medicine we thought up through those brains. I appreciate that Balbulican felt that, for some, there was still a place for faith, within reason.

My mom died of cancer. A good Catholic, she went to Lourdes AND Fatima. The exhaustion attendant on her travel and the failure of a miracle to occur may have hastened her death: or perhaps the hope (which was illusory) hastened it. I can’t say. But her behaviour was simply consistent with a belief in a merciful god.

“Dawkins would say they are either stupid or lying. Do you agree?”

You’d have to define “stupid” for me, I guess. My mom was neither stupid nor a liar, but she believed there was at least a chance her supplication would change the unfolding of the universe. It didn’t. It may have given her a brief sense of control, or of hope, she might otherwise not have had.

I choose to believe, as do a lot of other people, both inside and outside our churches. I still function in a multicultural society where dozens of faiths and even an anti-faith or two, co-exist for the most part in harmony and even friendship. A lot of other people do too.

So I have to say to Canadian Cynic, to Mr. Myers and Mr. Dawkins: what I choose to put in my own head is my own business. You have every right to consider me foolish for believing in an unquantifiable deity, but I think I have a right to be judged on more than just whether or not I believe in God. I have a right to be judged on my actions; on how I have conducted myself towards you, towards my friends, towards society in general. Even though my actions are often informed by my beliefs, my results are often no better and no worse than those achieved by decent people such as yourselves.

So, I would say that it’s not just a cracker, CC. And we do have lives. And I’ll thank you to respect that, even though we both cringe at the wackos in our midst.

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