Thursday, May 20, 2010
Good grief. By way of Mark Shea’s blog, I’ve come across a blog post from Thomas Fleming (who is Catholic) at Chronicles magazine, in which he derides marathoners as — yep — “pagan flesh-worshippers.”
Wow! Who knew?
So I guess the young women who are prepared to commit their lives to the service of the Lord, and who are running marathons to pay off their student loans so they can enter the religious life, are pagans. Ditto for the priests and seminarians running in their behalf. And the countless Catholic runners who bear witness to Christ every time they enter a race? They’re just obsessed with creating the perfect body. (Which, of course, is best achieved by running marathons — haven’t you noticed?)
Now, maybe I’m being over-sensitive on this one. Fleming’s crack strikes close to home, and it’s certainly possible that I’m taking it a little too personally. I understand hyperbole, and I know the Internet often does a lousy job of conveying tone.
But still. Given that Fleming’s post also trashes most cops as “goons” who “could not hold a job selling shoes at the mall” (thereby taking an elitist swipe at retail clerks, too), I suspect there’s more here than a case of web humor gone awry. Fleming sounds an awful lot like a certain breed of cranky Catholics who, mindful of the toxic state of the culture, condemn anyone and everyone involved in any part of it, and ask questions later (a vice to which I am also sometimes prone).
Which is a shame, because for many runners, running is a powerful way of experiencing and sharing the Faith. I’ve catalogued countless examples of this phenomenon on this blog. There’s a lot of goodness to be found at marathons, assuming one is more interested in finding goodness than in rendering blanket judgments. (And even when marathons fall on Sundays, serious Catholic racers will still always find a way to get to Mass.)
To be sure, ours is a culture that too often places excessive importance on physical appearance (although not always; just witness the current obesity epidemic). And as I’ve discussed before, vanity can be a real temptation for an athlete (just as sloth can be for the non-athlete). In a fallen world, nothing is without its vices and occasions to sin.
Which is why, in charity, we should be reluctant to cast aspersions on the faith and the hearts of anyone, let alone on thousands of folks, even if it’s only meant in jest. And if there are any honest-to-goodness “pagan flesh-worshippers” at marathons, we are far more likely to lead them to Christ by sharing His love than by venting our scorn.
Let’s just hope Thomas Fleming was having a bad day when he wrote that one. A nice, long, prayerful run might be just what he needs!