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Pope promises to wash the feet of everyone on Earth. Conservatives attack President Obama's dog for hunting Easter eggs. American Atheists announce belief in higher power.

10 Comments

  1. Mr. Burke: While I normally enjoy the Roundup, I am appalled by your flippant commentary today on the Time magazine story regarding childhood religiosity: “My favorite line: ‘Some children suffer from scrupulosity, a form of OCD that involves a feeling of guilt and shame.’ Or, as I call it, ‘My Catholic Childhood.'” To people (and there are many of us) who truly suffer from OCD, your little joke is not funny; in fact, it is staggeringly ignorant and disrespectful. Regardless of whether the Time article “[brought] enough info to bear”, it did provide a reasonably accurate description of the sort of continual anguish that is faced by OCD sufferers. I suggest you read it again; this time, focus on the substance of the article, not on finding a quote that you can use to make a lame, tasteless joke at the expense of people with a debilitating mental illness.

  2. Daniel Burke

    Daniel Burke

    Article author

    Thanks, Michael. I did not intend to make a joke at the expense of people who suffer from mental illness. I was tweaking journalists who draw in such broad strokes as to categorize what can be perfectly ordinary experiences, such as scrupulosity, as mental defects.

    Journalism is awash in alarmist articles these days (usually directed at parents with small children), and I feel very little compunction about puncturing holes in bloated writing. If the magazine wanted to run a long piece examining this issue in depth, I’d happily read and recommend it. Instead, they dashed off a quick post with no actual parents or children interviewed and gave it a sexed-up headline.

    So I would ask that you read my post again and reconsider whether I’m making a joke at the expense of mental illness or alarmist journalism.

    Sincerely,
    Daniel Burke

  3. @Daniel Burke: I understand your argument, and I usually appreciate and applaud your efforts to call out journalists for irresponsible or unduly alarmist writing. However, even in your response to me, you’ve undercut your own complaint against the Time article: “I was tweaking journalists who draw in such broad strokes as to categorize perfectly ordinary experiences, such as scrupulosity, as a mental defect.” You are apparently unaware that “scrupulosity” is a clinically recognized cluster of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder characteristics, along with “contamination”, “checking”, etc. (See http://www.ocfoundation.org/uploadedFiles/WhatYouNeed_09%281%29.pdf for a partial list). Within the context of OCD, “scrupulosity” is not simply a casual, abstract term; it is a diagnostic one. When it is part of OCD, scrupulosity is not “perfectly ordinary”; it is an unwanted, stressful, and disruptive element. I understand that you did not intend to make a joke at the expense of the mentally ill; however, you have demonstrated — twice — that you are not informed on this subject matter enough to realize that your comments / jokes are reckless and potentially offensive.

  4. @dj spellchecka: My apologies. I should not have presumed to speak for anyone other than myself. I am especially sensitive to the way in which I believe OCD — and its sufferers — are often reduced to comedic punchlines in the media, by people who have no real appreciation or knowledge of the pain caused by the disorder.

  5. Daniel Burke

    Daniel Burke

    Article author

    Thanks, Michael.

    I am aware that scrupulosity can also be a characteristic of OCD, but I disagree that the article put that term into suitable context, or adequately drew distinctions between regular old religious morality and harmful mental illness.

    Take this line, for example: “Sufferers obsessively worry that they have committed blasphemy, been impure or otherwise sinned. They tend to focus on certain rules or rituals rather than the whole of their faith.”

    What is this supposed to mean? That Catholic children who ruminate on the Sacrament of Penance, or Jewish kids who memorize all 613 mitzvots or Buddhists consumed with karma, are ill?

    So that’s the point of my joke. I’m mimicking the article by conflating ordinary scruples with scrupulosity, and putting some distance between the Roundup and the article by hinting that I don’t think it makes its case very clearly. That’s something we do pretty often here.

    But here’s the bottom line: If you’re offended, I’m truly sorry. That’s never my intention. And if you’ve seen more resources on religious behavior and mental illness, I’d be interested in reading them.

    Sincerely,
    Daniel

    • @Daniel Burke: Thank you for engaging in some dialog with me over this. While I still believe that the joke was unnecessary (and that your point could have been made in a manner less exploitative of a specific disorder — particularly one that is already so frequently dismissed, misunderstood, and ridiculed in the media), I understand and support your general goal. I am also aware that I tend to be oversensitive to this issue from time to time, due to my own personal experience, so I apologize for the harshness of my earlier comments.

  6. You really are biblically illiterate if you actually think the passages in I Cor about homosexuality are ambiguous. The writings of Paul were informed by the Old Testament which clearly says, A Man should not lay with another man as he does with a woman. The N.T. is not foggy about homosexuality. The only fog is between the ears of the arrogant liberal professor that thinks he can worm his way around the actual meaning of the text.
    Sorry years of study in Greek and Hebrew make me as qualified as anyone you will find to interpret that text. Common sense, however, is a necessary prerequisite. The Old Testament writings inform the New Testament writers.

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