The other night, I was finishing up dinner talking to my mother who we live with, and the topic of conversation swung around to Catholicism.
My mother is a staunch fundamentalist in mostly the Baptist tradition, and she very much shoots from the hip when it comes to talking about religious issues. (You can see where I get my inspiration for this blog) We’ve been praying for each other’s conversion for years now, and we tell this to each other regularly.
All to say, we’re comfortable airing our opinions. Much of the time, I don’t get into it with her. We know where each of us stands. But I shared some news that was happening at my parish, and one thing led to another.
We argued for around twenty minutes. She said everything she usually says like, “I can’t believe you don’t see this in the Bible!” I said everything I usually say like, “If you want to convert me, you need to show me the church actually believed what you believed for the first thousand years of it’s history!” We ended with a hug, said good night, and that was that.
But in my heart this time around, something didn’t sit right. I’m used to having these debates with people online or in person. I’m used to having them with her in particular. My tone and hers were as they always are when we argue about religion: slightly condescending, incredulous at the other’s ignorance, lightheartedly disagreeable, benevolently disregarding of the other’s views. But after years of debating her, I began to feel uncomfortable with this for the first time..
This is my mother. She helps me raise my children. Her wisdom is golden when I desperately need it. She is the lynch pin in the wider relational web of uncles, aunts, and cousins. She cares as much about my family as I do. Talking to her like she’s an internet troll, even if I think her views are grossly off, feels wrong. Maybe she has the right to take that tone with me. It was her job for a good eighteen years to wag her finger at me in disapproval. Habits die hard. But it doesn’t seem right for me to take that tone with her.
This points toward a larger issue. The internet has boiled people down to numbers. Me expressing my views is just “content.” Someone taking time out of their day to read what I write is just a “viewer.”
No. I write what I write because it means something special to me. And you, reading this, are a person made in the image of God who is giving me the gift of your attention. In our very busy world where time is precious, that means something. We may hide behind pseudonyms, but there is always a real person behind the name.
None of this changes my values. None of this changes my stubborn opinions about things. But especially on the internet, it’s worth remembering that, as a priest I know said awhile ago, the most sacred thing outside the Eucharist itself that we will ever see on this earth is another human being. Sure, a human being we may argue with, but also a human being who is a mother, a father, a friend, a human, a soul destined for eternity.
God forbid we forget that.
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