Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company in New York.
If you are lucky, you may have missed the current debate rippling through the Catholic interwebs. Actually, it is a debate that comes up from time time to time, this time it just happens to involve video provocateur Michael Voris.
Voris contributes to the website RealCatholicTv.com. He produces several videos a week talking about issues related to faith, politics, and culture. No big deal, lots of us speak or write about these subjects every day. What makes Voris a hot topic of debate is mostly style and occasionally a little substance.
Having only watched a handful of Voris’ videos, I do not intend to debate the prudence or sagacity of all his remarks. But I do want to talk about style.
I recently weighed in on a cobbled controversy that popped up after remarks by Voris in which he advised people to run, not walk, from their parish to an orthodox parish if their priest offers a homily, at the request of Al Gore and Global Warming Inc., on the topic greening the planet on Easter Sunday.
Now while Voris’s remedy may be fairly debated, so much of the debate surrounding him is based on his style. Voris, you see, is loud, in your face, hyperbolic, and sarcastic and as everyone knows—you can’t be like that AND be a good Catholic. Or can you?
Before I go on, I wish to un-tether myself from the specifics of Michael Voris to debate the relative value of “in your face-ness” by Catholic commentators as this has even come up in many of the discussions surrounding the relative love/detestation of Fr. Corapi.
So I ask, what is so wrong with bluntness? With having an opinion and speaking it? Why is it that straightforward criticism is so routinely criticized?
Speakers and preachers who prefer declarative sentences to interrogative ones are perceived to be bombastic and thus, somehow, un-Christian.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone has preferences and I am not immune. But if one prefers the Ned Flanders approach to Christian commentary, fine. But does that mean that anything other than that contains only vice and no virtue? Might some people be more effectively reached this way?
As long as one does not contradict the teachings of the Church, why not speak in the declarative? Why not use hyperbole to make a point? If you do, you will be in good company.
Remember St. John the Baptist? He called the Pharisees snakes, “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”
That St. John guy, do you hear the way he speaks to people? He won’t win over anyone speaking like that. Who does he think he is? Only the greatest of all men born of women. Who says so? Jesus says so.
Oh, and then there is Jesus. Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites and whitewashed tombs. That sounds more like Voris than Ned Flanders. Not very nicey nice. And then there is hyperbole. Jesus was fond of that too as when he said “it is easier for an camel to go through the eye of needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And then there was that whole “Get behind me Satan” thing he said to Peter. That is about as in your face as you can get. If exaggeration to make a point is good enough for Jesus, it is good enough for me.
And why not a little righteous indignation from time to time? Jesus threw the money lenders out of the temple.
So why did St. John the Baptist and Jesus sometimes use blunt criticism and hyperbole to make points? Because they knew, as some others do today, that this can be an effective way to reach people. Not everyone can be reached by soothing tones and polite discussion. Sometimes it takes a little more.
So in the pantheon of Catholic commentators and preachers, isn’t there a little room for the blunt? Isn’t there room for a little fire and brimstone among the soothing pastels of the preponderance of today’s preaching? I hope so.