When I was in the latter years of elementary school, one of my great-grandfathers lived in a small travel trailer behind the house where I lived with my mother, brother, and maternal grandparents in the rural areas outside of Plant City, Florida. Although my great-grandfather was a very different sort of person in terms of his interests, I would frequently enjoy going over to his trailer to watch college football and drink root beer while he smoked Cuban cigars. One of the more intriguing aspects of the man was the way that he was definitely a man of his own times and not ours. For example, he would never cheer on Notre Dame because of his anti-Catholic prejudices and had prejudices against plenty of other people, from Germans and Jews to just about any group that he could label with colorful ethnic slurs. At the time I thought it was funny, not least because of his own complex ancestry (which included Jews and a lot of Germans), but in looking back on it I have been led to think of the ways in which casual prejudice hurts those who are prejudiced by cutting them off from fellow feeling with those who should and could be great natural allies.
When I lived in Thailand, it struck me I had a lot of reasons to relate to the students I was teaching, not all of which showed itself in obvious ways. By and large we had hill tribes students who were ambitious for a better life than they knew as third or fourth-class citizens (or not even citizens) of Thailand. Around town the students were thought to have been traumatized survivors of immensely difficult lives, and that is certainly something that I can relate to, and on at least one occasion watching a movie on Burmese history led one of our more gentle and mild students to have an intense panic attack because of the aggression of the Burmese soldiers on the screen. At other times I have felt a great deal of empathy with the complex lives of social outcasts in such occasions as a marriage in Argentina where I translated the wedding sermon (on Satan’s attack of the family) and ceremony and then found many of the local brethren snubbing the elderly and nearly toothless father of the bride simply because he was an unlettered indio among immensely race-proud mestizos, only to find uncomfortably that my own friendliness led me to be labeled as a progressive and leftist element (a label I personally abhor) simply for being a decent and friendly individual giving proper celebration for the joy a parent feels when their child has gotten married to another believer.
Growing up, there were a lot of reasons why it was fairly easy to look down on Catholics, not least of which was my own admixture of Scot-Irish heritage, a heritage I am particularly proud of, and one which tends to look down on vile popery. Yet as an adult I certainly found that Catholicism was a lot more complex than I had been led to believe, and found that as the Catholic hierarchy became ever more leftist and hostile to godly biblical morality, I became increasingly aware of the natural alliance of those who believed in a key set of doctrines and practices for personal morality as well as the support of freedom from tyrannical authorities. Seeing the Roman Catholic Church, previously a bastion of traditionalist morality and practices for many centuries, morph into a tyrannical and leftist organization run by immoral and decadent authorities, was a reminder that there were a great many Catholics who deserved encouragement and support rather than scorn, and that there are worse things than being fond of tradition, even if one does not believe tradition to trump biblical truth. It is strange how such moments often come too late to enjoy the friendship of natural allies before they too are beleaguered outsiders.
What is it that makes the Bible so hostile to the whore of Babylon? Revelation 17:1-6 speaks of her as follows: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.” When we look at this particular picture that the Bible paints, it speaks of the abominations committed by the hierarchy of the church, of blasphemy, of the persecution of the righteous, of drunkenness and fornication and filthiness. Such things are not to be found in the temperance of the lives of those who restrain themselves from evil and who have a high regard for traditions and godliness in their personal conduct, but they do describe the way that corrupt and filthy people seek institutional power in order to gratify their lusts and persecute those who shame them with courageous moral conduct. Who knew that it was not in being a traditionalist organization but in abandoning the old ways for statist and globalist decadence that the Catholic Church would be justifying all of the criticisms made against it during those times when it was on the defensive in the face of attacks from Protesetants as well as secularizing states?