I have just sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org regarding Wiscon’s failure to address multiple incidences of harassment. I won’t say anything more about that, unless it becomes clear that only public outcry will have an effect. This is not to say that I at all disapprove of anyone else engaging in said public outcry right now–quite the contrary. If everyone involved had refused to say anything publicly up till now, no one would know there was a problem. And that’s exactly how harassment keeps on happening.
So, except for that part of things, I had a great time at Wiscon, hanging with friends old and new. I was on some panels, all of which were a lot of fun, including the “SFWA, is it Relevant?” panel, which for some reason the Deities of Panel Assignments had decided I ought to moderate. But all the panelists, and the panel audiences, were awesome and smart and fun. I am well aware that I lucked out.
I don’t generally attend as many panels as I used to, certainly not as many as I intend to when I first look at the schedule. One of the few that I did was about gods as characters, and there was one small moment of “hrmph?” that, later, I wished I’d thought of raising my hand and saying a particular thing in response to.
So, one of the panelists had grown up Muslim and was now, ISTR, Episcopalian. They remarked that Ishmael had been a major and central figure to them, growing up, and that it sometimes startled them how little emphasis he got in Christian traditions, sometimes it seemed (I am paraphrasing here) as though he barely existed for Christians.
Another panelist replied that, no, actually, Christians knew about Ishmael!
And I sat there, and I went, “hrmf.” And it was only this afternoon in the shower (as often happens) that something sort-of-parallel occurred to me.
A friend of mine, who is Roman Catholic, married a lovely man who had grown up Southern Baptist, and who had decided to convert to Roman Catholicism. So they attended the sort of classes that you do, when you’re converting. In one of these, the instructor was trying to explain to the students just how incredibly central the Eucharist is to Roman Catholics.
One student said, “Oh, but it’s central to the church I grew up in, too! We have Communion at least once a month!”
Reader, did you just laugh? I’ll lay money you have been, at some time in your life, Roman Catholic. In case you didn’t laugh, to a Catholic, that statement sounds a lot like, “Bathing is very important to me! I take a bath every month, whether I need it or not!”
The thing is, I’m quite certain that student was utterly and completely sincere–no doubt the Eucharist was very important to them, and no doubt they felt quite sincerely that their devotion was equal to anyone else’s–but, not (yet) having been Catholic, they had no freaking idea just how central and important it is to Catholicism. Catholics don’t have Communion monthly, or quarterly. Weekly is a bare minimum and I’ve known quite a few people who attend Mass daily. Even if you don’t go to Mass every Sunday, it can be kind of weird to visit some other Christian denominations and find so many things missing, things that point to that very centrality of the Eucharist. It’s not that denominations that have Communion monthly or quarterly don’t care about or understand or value it–but until you’ve been a Catholic, or spent a lot of time with Catholics and/or Catholicism, or attended Mass on a regular, long-time basis, it can be hard to appreciate the differences in scale and intensity, between the way Catholics do and quite a few other denominations do.
I wished I’d remembered this story, to tell it. I’m sure the panelist meant well, but I’m equally sure they don’t actually have any idea what the first panelist meant, or how big that difference the first panelist was describing probably is.