Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Fun at the airport

My experience at Midway Saturday morning reminded me of a conversation I had recently during a walk I took around the Bridgeport neighborhood (in habit). A group of young people were hanging around in front of a building as I passed, and one of them hollered out, "Whoa, man! What's that [thing] you're wearing?!" I stopped and replied in a friendly manner, "It is called a religious habit. This is a tunic and this is what is called a scapular."

"So are you one of those guys who blows people up?"

Now recall that Bridgeport is traditionally and still nominally overwhelmingly Catholic. I do get the regular, "Hey, Father!" on my perambulations. But this was the most astounding question I have gotten yet. My response: "No. I serve the Prince of Peace. I am a Christian!"

I normally travel in clericals for the sake of simplicity at security, but since I am travelling with Mother Mary Clare who has no choice but to wear her habit, I opted for Benedictine solidarity and wore mine. This was the cause of consternation for the fellow who had to frisk me at security. "This is a baggy outfit!" My inconvenience was shared, of course, by Mother Mary Clare. Two baggy outfits! Worn by the worst sort, religious zealots! Who obviously blow people up!

That a teenager in Chicago could assume that anyone in traditional religious garb is to be linked with fanatical violence shows just how well the Enlightenment (or as Fr. Roach, SJ, used to say, the Endarkenment) has succeeded in controlloing public discourse. All religion is automatically superstitious unreason, linked to oppression and the restriction of freedom. No religious display can be tolerated in public. Only people in immodest and revealing (secular) clothing can pass easily through airport check-points; persons who insist on the mysterious power of the body and its proper veiling are suspect.

You can find, in a matter of seconds, stories on the internet about journalists in everyday clothes sneaking all kinds of dangerous objects onto airplanes right now. The alleged 9/11 highjackers 'disguised' themselves as regular Americans, forsaking baggy outfits (a la Bin Laden) and turbans. But religious display gets singled out for special opprobrium. People who believe in God are assumed to be more dangerous than those who do not. Have we forgotten the Soviet threat so thoroughly?

1 comment:

Ascending Incense said...

Ah, but spiritual people are ok, just so they're not religious!

I've heard the case of an Orthodox priest who was harassed at the U.S./Canadian border because he was in clerical garb and "looked suspicious" (i.e. not in secular clothing).

I teach, and in school several students have asked me if I'm Muslim. I don't know why. Possibly because, on my youtube page, I have videos of Orthodox priests, monks and bishops with long beards and long black robes. It's ridiculous.


This blog is published with ecclesiastical approval.

If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
Locations of visitors to this page