July 20, 2008

Dunce Caps for Everyone in Communion Wafer Prank

By Lyn Jerde

The headline words were enough to make any Internet news-cruiser stop and gawk - words like "hostage" and "holy heck."According to a feature article posted on the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Web site, a Florida college student briefly took a communion wafer "hostage" during a church ceremony.The idiotic perpetrator used the all- purpose cop-out that's supposed to excuse every act, no matter how offensive it might be: "It was just a joke."But, some who heard about the so-called joke didn't stop with calling the perpetrator an insensitive, rude jerk. Some threatened his life. At least one group, the Catholic League, called his prank a "hate crime."To add to the frenzy, there's Paul Myers, a University of Minnesota-Morris biology instructor and an avowed atheist, who writes on his blog that, if anyone would send him a communion wafer, he'd do much worse to it than hold it hostage.The blog's headline: "It's a frackin' cracker!"In a story like this, it's hard to know who's earned the biggest dunce cap - the prankster who had to know his "joke" would be viewed as blasphemy, the professor who threatened more of the same or the zealots who call for holy war, complete with real bodily harm, against both of them.When it comes to dunce caps, I'd say one size fits all.In an increasingly jaded society, it's getting harder and harder to shock people, which is why pranksters like the Florida college student might view it as a challenge - and, if a number of people respond with shock or anger, a victory.In a society that's experiencing backlash from the efforts of the Religious Right to dominate the culture's discourse (not just its government), there are bound to be atheists like Paul Myers who are more open in their contempt for anything that, to them, smacks of "superstition."In a society where everybody feels entitled to be considered a victim, anything that's offensive could be interpreted by some as a "hate crime" punishable by death.Everybody in this "holy heck" drama, and on its fringes, needs to step back and take a deep breath.College student: Count me among those who were offended by your "joke." I believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharistic wafer, and to treat it with anything but reverence is not funny, but appalling.To the professor: When you're ready to converse like a grown-up, you and I can talk about our theological differences, and perhaps we could learn from each other. But your "frackin' cracker" comment shows that you are dismissive of any views other than your own. And, until you can be as open to a faith-based perspective as I am to a secular perspective, you're not part of the solution to our culture's lack of civility - but part of the problem.And, to all who would wage the Christian equivalent of jihad in this case: In making death threats, are you glorifying the Lord of Love and Prince of Peace who is truly present in the Eucharistic bread? In focusing on this ridiculous situation, are you missing real acts of persecution, acts that don't just offend but threaten life and livelihood?Just asking.Jerde's e-mail address is [email protected]

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