A witty answer to “How rosaries became the symbol of extremism”
I’m not going to write another opinion-based answer to a opinion piece by Daniel Panneton on how rosaries have become the symbol of extremism within the Catholic Church. And while I typically use this space to write about creating positive and inspirational Catholic content for social media, I find the Holy Spirit urging me to address both sides’ response to this article.
Let the least of us be heard
I wish I had more time to address this topic, but today’s news cycle has no patience for a thinker like me who still believes in civil discourse and fair and accurate answers. And though my opinion may be muted among the bigger outlets who have money and louder voices, I still feel that the God I serve uses the little and weak of this world to put the wise to shame.
If you haven’t read the article, let’s stop there. Put your ideas back in place. I won’t engage in a speech if you haven’t sat down and read the entire article. It is also not an academic piece, but an opinion; a reaction to what is now exploding on both sides of the fence on catholic twitter and beyond.
Are words just words?
God has spoken to me a lot lately about intentionality, in word and deed. That it’s not just the words we say, but what’s behind those words. This is very similar to how we look at the Bible as Catholics. Yes, we read the words of scripture, but we look at the intentionality of the words through the lens of Lectio Divina in a larger perspective. I know what these words mean, but what do they mean mean? What is the context behind these words? And after meditating on their meaning, how can I apply them in my own life?
And while the word of God is not comparable in context to a newspaper article or editorial, the process we go through to engage in a deeper way of thinking certainly is.
We can take the tools we have learned in Lectio Divina, prayer, and reflection to arrive at secular writing with a Catholic lens. As Catholics, we are taught to seek truth, and this is also important as our ever-changing world chooses a different truth at the next minute.
what’s in a name
As I approached this task prayerfully, the Holy Spirit quickly pointed out to me the title change that likely occurred as a result of the backlash The Atlantic received over this piece. The original title, “How the Rosary Became an Extremist Symbol”, has been replaced with “How the Extremist Gun Culture is Trying to Co-opt the Rosary”. For background, the graphics included with the coin also changed as people were quick to point out that the featured image did not depict a proper rosary. Another graphic showing a rosary made out of bullets was also removed from the piece.
Since The Atlantic has not given an answer as of the date of this article on why the title was changed, I will not comment further on pure speculation. But what I’m going to comment on is the title of the original piece, and how both sides of that argument could agree that it wasn’t a good look.
As a lawyer, when I go into mediation, I don’t start by saying, “Hey everyone, I can’t wait to put you on the witness stand and destroy you in court. Quite the contrary. I start the mediation by saying: “my intention is to resolve this case if possible”. There is meaning in those words, and it sets the tone for the next few hours on how these negotiations will unfold.
Choose your words wisely
The intentionality of the choice of words used in this title, publisher change or not, tells me that its purpose was to ignite and create a clickbait like purchase to read this article. Publishing an article that insinuates that the rosary is some kind of extremist symbol distorts any truth that occurs in the rest of the article. This is dishonest at worst and irresponsible at best. And I think that’s why you can even stop here and pause to see why someone who’s already enraged wouldn’t be able to read the article from a fair perspective.
With that in mind, it’s hard to get past why Daniel Panneton wrote this piece in the first place. There was no retraction from him indicating that the piece was mistitled or that he could have been clearer about what or who he was talking about. He also chose to cut off access to his Twitter page.
Do writers “owe” us anything?
On my own Twitter feed, there was a range of discourse on this topic. Much of the feedback centered around the idea that he “owes you nothing.” I agree with that statement, he doesn’t. But as a Catholic, I understand the meaning of social and moral responsibility, and that words have the ability to build or tear down. I read my Bible not to knock it over someone’s head, but to use its wisdom in response to what this world tells me I should or shouldn’t do. And if the layman’s answer is “he owes you nothing,” they might be right. And that’s why we’ve become such a damaged society.
Without the notion of truth, we believe things like that. We are not responsible for our words or actions. We can put words into the universe that hurt and divide and have no social responsibility to anyone. I dare say that anyone who calls themselves a humanist could agree with this notion.
A Catholic response
I am a Catholic writer. When I speak words, I am held responsible by my Master. He both praised and corrected me with love. He held my pen; he also asked me to write pieces that are totally and completely out of my comfort zone. And that’s because I do to have to report to someone. And not only to Him but to the people who will read my work. I must daily examine my writer’s conscience to ask myself, are these words from Him, or are these words from me?
And so I ask you to consider this perspective; a deeper, a meditative one that goes deeper not just to consider the words on the page but the reason they were written. You may look at these words a little differently now.