Wednesday, November 27, 2013

P.S. I'm Jewish


The following is a genuine email exchange. Names and locations have been changed as appropriate.

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From: J. [NAME@hotmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 11:52 AM
To: Perry, David
Subject: Your beautiful article on pope Francis on cnn.com

Thanks David for a very well written article on the pope.

First big surprise: It is written in correct English, a first for CNN!!!

Second big surprise: It is written by a person who does not have a non-believer perception of papacy, and of the catholic church.

While pragmatic and devoid of emotion, your article scored a few direct hits with me, and I thank God that you wrote it as you did. I do find Francis' attitude, his behaviour, to be very refreshing, while at the same time, not deviating from Christ's core teachings and those of the church. I do think that Francis, over the course of his papacy, will have brought a large number of people to the catholic church, or at least to Christianity as a whole.

Thanks again David, and may God bless you!

J.
Somewhere
Canada
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Dear J,

Thank you so much for writing. It means a lot to me when people read my work, think it makes sense, and reach out to let me know. So much of the discourse on the internet is hostile or otherwise just noise and shouting, rather than conversation.

That said, your comments have provoked a few thoughts that I thought I might share with you. I would be very careful making assumptions about the relationship between identity, especially public identity, and truth. I do try to write in a pragmatic, careful, way, making only what claims I feel I can support, as a way of building a case for my perspective.

But while I don't wear my religious identity in public, plenty of CNN writers do, so I think you're wrong there to see some kind of CNN anti-Catholic bias. They employ John Allen Jr., of National Catholic Reporter, one of the great writers on the papacy in the English-speaking world. He's on CNN all the time, including today, to talk about Francis' latest encyclical (which is quite something!).

More to the point, CNN also gives a platform to Bill Donohue, the arch-conservative Catholic who has built a message of division and rigidity into a highly profitable media profile. In fact, CNN published an essay of Donohue's right next to mine, in which he argued that Francis' papacy has a new tone but no new message. I disagree with Donohue. I wonder sometimes how he can justify his positions and his profits in light of Scripture, but I was glad CNN put our essays opposite each other.

At any rate, I just wanted to suggest that message and identity might not always be as linked as they appear, nor do I see evidence of anti-Catholic bias in CNN opinion selections.

But I really do thank you for writing. I am filled with joy when people read my essays, consider them, and respond positively. It's why I am a writer.

Sincerely,
David

P.S. I'm Jewish

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