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Today’s story is beyond hilarious to me. CNBC recently ran a story about Pew Research Center’s recent study about the ongoing decline of Christianity in America. Yes, indeed, more Americans than ever before say they’re unaffiliated with religion. Millennials lead that shift, though I suspect that Gen Z will outpace them soon enough. Also, we saw an unsurprising but still dramatic uptick in the number of Americans who say they’re praying less often.

The story also prominently featured one James Martin, a 61-year-old Jesuit evangelist for Catholicism (and the “editor-at-large” of America Magazine, a Jesuit endeavor). In the story, he discussed his strategies for reaching kids today. He also expressed his great frustration with the younger generation he’s targeted as his marks.

GYAHH, everyone is just so intolerant of his intolerance

James Martin is clearly frustrated with his religion’s dealbreakers. As the article puts it:

Disagreements on where church doctrine stands on specific issues remains a struggle for a number of younger Catholics.

“When it comes to the Catholic church, there’s some significant differences between church teaching and what young Catholics think,” said Martin. “I think probably two of the biggest issues are women’s ordination and the way that the church treats LGBTQ people.”

“I think the difference is that maybe 25 years ago, people would have said, ‘Uh, how can I stay Catholic and have difficulties with church teaching?’ Now, I think, young people just say ‘I’m leaving,’ ” Martin said. “Right? There’s a lot less tolerance for what they see as behavior that is intolerant, according to them.”

“Millennials lead shift away from organized religion as pandemic tests Americans’ faith,” CNBC, December 29, 2021

My reaction:

Ya don’t say!

Ugh, marks today, right? They’re just so intolerant, y’all! Intolerant, I tells ya!

These intolerant marks are just so intolerable!

Gotta love that snide little insertion, too, that little “according to them” modifier. James Martin clearly doesn’t think his overlords’ behaviors and decisions are, in fact, intolerable. Instead, he blames his marks for thinking so. They’re the problem here. Not his overlords.

Twenty-five years ago people could stay Catholic even if they didn’t fully agree with everything Catholicism’s leaders said. And we know this how, exactly? Years ago, when I was in my teens, I visited my super-Catholic grandparents. On that visit, I heard them discussing a great-uncle of mine. He’d left the fold a few years earlier to join a very mild Protestant flavor of Christianity. On that day, he became a black sheep, and remained so ever after.

I’m guessing that Catholic leaders’ massive misogyny, entrenched sexism, and endless horrific bigotries are indeed quite a dealbreaker for younger adults. I’d worry about someone who didn’t consider that stuff a dealbreaker.

His complaint got my attention for another reason, though.

Did you notice what was missing from it?

I sure did.

A very strange omission in an intolerant complaint

James Martin doesn’t even mention his religion’s biggest scandals: billions paid out to the many victims of child-raping priests; stolen babies and graveyards full of dead women and children; financial fraud galore; and, of course, systemic cover-up of it all going to the very top levels of Catholicism.

If objections to misogyny, sexism, and bigotry are what he snidely dismisses as overly intolerant, one wonders how he’d describe all those scandals.

I find it absolutely impossible to believe that Martin never gets rejected because the product he’s selling—active membership in Catholicism—is unsafe, untrustworthy, and abusive. These scandals do indeed seem to be making a big difference in Catholic sales and retention figures. Catholic laypeople themselves sure think so.

But Martin doesn’t say boo about them.

In short, it almost looks like he’s not presenting the real reasons why he’s not making a lot of sales. Instead, he focuses on minor reasons that he hopes will make his marks sound really unreasonable.

The missing missing reasons in this complaint

In her classic internet series about the narcissistic people inhabiting estranged parents’ forums, Issendai tells us what “missing missing reasons” are:

Members of estranged parents’ forums often say their children never gave them any reason for the estrangement, then turn around and reveal that their children did tell them why. But the reasons their children give—the infamous missing reasons—are missing. [. . .] When members do say what the allegations were, they paraphrase heavily, choosing the most trivial offenses and trimming away all context. 

“The Missing Missing Reasons,” Down the Rabbit Hole, updated 2015

Narcissistic people do this because they want to paint those rejecting them as being completely, utterly, and in all ways unreasonable. They want their listeners to feel sympathy for them, and maybe even help them get whatever it is they want out of their targets.

In a sense, James Martin is triangulating readers into his imaginary fight with young adults. If his sickening message gets out to those marks, maybe they’ll feel bad about rejecting him. Maybe they’ll hear him out more often and give his product more consideration.

In his dreams, he is free indeed.

Why -isms should be a dealbreaker

Let’s pretend that James Martin is only being rejected because of the misogyny, sexism, and bigotry inherent in Catholicism.

When we’re looking at groups to join, we should consider -isms a serious red flag and a dealbreaker. No matter what those -isms are—be they bigotry, racism, sexism, classism, whatever—they indicate that the group is okay with stripping power from some members and then handing that power over to other members. Where a demographic lacks power in groups, it also lacks a voice. And where a demographic lacks power and voices, it gets seen — and treated — as prey by abusive people in the powerful demographic.

In groups that declare that women can’t hold positions of great leadership and that LGBTQ people aren’t allowed to do all the same stuff straight and cis people can, we can be sure of one thing above all:

Abuse is already happening. It’s already there. We might not know exactly what forms it’s taking or exactly what names are involved, but we can know it’s there. All that’s left is for the news headline to burst forth, fully-formed like Athena from Zeus’ brow, and ready for war.

Ultimately, salespeople don’t get to complain about their marks anyway

And there’s this, too:

James Martin, like all evangelists for Christianity, is simply a salesperson.

Salespeople do not get to complain and whine about their marks. If James Martin, the salesperson, can’t score sales, then one of two things (or both) is happening:

  1. His product sucks. People don’t want it. He needs to find a better product to sell.
  2. His sales skills are lacking. If other salespeople are scoring sales and he isn’t, then he needs to figure out what lightning they’ve caught in their bottle.

We know that #2 isn’t the problem here. All Christian flavors are having tons of trouble with recruitment and retention right now. So we’re left looking at #1.

Unfortunately, Martin can’t stop selling this one product. He’s latched himself to it. Nor can he change it in the least to be more like what his marks want to purchase.

In the end, then, it’s a lot easier and safer for a Catholic evangelist to blame his sales marks for being intolerant of Catholicism’s intolerance, and just go for broke on the hope that they can be shamed into a purchase.

That means good news for the rest of us, by the way. Not one source I’ve seen in years gives Christians a single chance in Hades of recovering from their cultural decline. And it’s very unlikely that Catholics will ever regain the coercive power over dissenters that they had in my youth. So there’s that, and it’s a good thing indeed to know on a wintry day like today.

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...