Monday, December 19, 2016

Catholicism has been "appropriated"

One of my ministry assignments is a university, and so I follow fairly closely the types of things being discussed in university settings.

In addition to the much-publicized "safe space" and "trigger warning" phenomena, many university-types speak often about "cultural appropriation"

"Cultural appropriation" is Culture A takes elements of Culture B and incorporates it into Culture A without really acknowledging the original Culture B setting of said element



Most commonly you hear things like "white culture appropriates rap music into its own culture" or "white people appropriate Indian outfits on Halloween" etc.  The guilty party, as far as I can tell, seems to typically be white people



I would say it is important for academic think tanks concerned with appropriation to acknowledge the greatest victim of cultural appropriation: the Catholic Church



At the outset it is important to acknowledge that there have been countless instances of missionaries utilizing pagan cultural customs and giving them a religious dimension.  That is not cultural appropriation as it was never being done in that instance by a dominant culture.  Trying to explain the Christian faith by missionaries through the use of local symbols, pagan or otherwise, is not cultural appropriation.  White people stealing inner city cultural elements is not white people trying to explain white culture to black people.



A couple of the major examples of how Catholicism has been completely appropriated by our larger secular culture:


1) Christmas.  Christmas is made up of two words - "Chirst's Mass".  Our American culture has taken Christmas and murdered both the "Christ" part and the "Mass" part.  Beyond the mainstream secular culture, a smaller subset of our culture has kept the "Christ" part but still jettisoned the "Mass" part.


Today many people are upset that our world doesn't say "Christmas" enough.  I say the opposite.  I say our culture says "Christmas" WAY too much!  No one should really say "Christmas" unless they are talking about the celebration of "Christ's Mass" on December 25th.

I highly encourage those who have appropriated Christmas to stop immediately, and, if they seek to get rid of both "Christ" and "Mass" to find some alternative phrase like "Season's Greetings"

I highly encourage those who have appropriated Christmas, but want to keep the "Christ" part to immediately begin using a phrase along the lines of "Merry Christworshipservice"





2) Halloween.

I recently heard a national talk show host say, the day after Halloween: "Halloween needs to be a day that gets moved year to year so that it is always part of a three day weekend."


If it is possible to have something Catholic more culturally appropriated than Christmas, Halloween would be it.


"Halloween", like Christmas, is a Catholic word and celebration.  Hallows Eve - the night before All Hallows Day or All Saints Day.  That's what Halloween is.  People dressed up like saints the night before to celebrate the great holy day the next day.


To dress up as nurse-prostitute or a demon or a bloody horror film star and to speak about a desire to move Halloween to a more convenient day so that a person can drink and stay up later partying seems to be the zenith of cultural appropriation and a swallowing up by one culture of another and, while keeping the name the same, spitting something out that is its exact opposite.


All Hallows' Eve in its proper cultural context.  Stop "appropriating" our celebration!!!!


A GREAT IRONY EXISTS: One of the greatest moments that sends liberals into "cultural appropriation accusation spasms" is Halloween - because so many college students dress up for Halloween parties in culturally appropriated outfits (rappers, native American Indians, Mexicans, etc.) BUT THE CONCEPT OF HALLOWEEN ITSELF HAS BEEN APPROPRIATED BY THE APPROPRIATION POLICE THEMSELVES!!!



All I'm really lobbying for here is just acknowledgement at this point.  I'm not sure I'm ready to go to war over these particular issues, and I don't think fixing these two particular instances (among many) will actually fix the deeper issues of our society.  All I'd like at this point is for those that feel so violated by cultural appropriation at least acknowledge Catholicism as its greatest victim.