[EDITED 3/5/06] A parish friend has been visiting seminaries in preparation for postulancy. He's quite orthodox and has been looking for a traditionalist seminary. He recently mentioned that he was surprised and troubled by the rancor, the ad hominem attacks against others with different viewpoints, that he had been encountering in many traditionalist precincts.
I said that I’d had the same experience many times. I speculated about a possible reason. It's a sweeping generalization, but it seems to me that:
- many trads don’t really believe what they profess (or at the least, they have nagging doubts);
- as a result, deep down inside,
they'rethey can be just a bit insecure and fearful;
- their insecurity and fear can cause them to lash out at those whose views fail to validate their own.
I don't understand it when someone gets angry or hostile about matters of unprovable theological conjecture. It's as though they're afraid that if we don't "get it right," then the universe will somehow go horribly wrong. I have to wonder whether they truly trust in God that all will be well.
Author's note 3/5/06: I've edited this post to respond to some thoughtful criticisms. I was also remiss, in the original post, for not acknowledging that (i) many traditionalists are loving, caring Christians, including people I'm honored to count as friends, and anything but hostile; and (ii) the hostility doesn't always come exclusively from the traditionalist side. I invite readers' attention to the Rules of Engagement I proposed last year, summarized as:
- Take the hit
- Don't get personal, even indirectly
- Take the trouble to signal your friendliness
- Let the facts argue for themselves
- Be careful about categorical statements
- Watch your phrasing
- No-no's: Some things not to say