When is a cracker not a cracker?

Jim Downey's picture

OK, you've probably heard about the little dust-up that PZ Myers has been having with a bunch of Catholics. If not, here's the initial post at PZ's site, with follow-up posts here, here, here, here, with this being the most recent post, featuring some of the hate mail sent to Myers. That's over 6,000 comments on his blog alone, by my count. And of course lots of others have weighed in on the subject, including UTI alum DarkSyde yesterday at Daily Kos.

I'll admit to having spent *way* too much time the last couple of days following this insanity. Why? Because watching people become unhinged is fun and educational. As a friend said about this debacle:

Every so often, I am cool with letting the fundies make raving fools of themselves.

OK, for those of you who don't have a background in Catholicism, pretty much the central core of their faith revolves around "Communion" in which the Eucharist is shared. For a lot of Catholics, this is merely a figurative ritual, but Roman Catholic doctrine holds that the communion wafer and wine is transubstantiated and literally becomes the flesh and blood of Jesus. Yes, it is ritual cannibalism, but they don't like you to portray it that way.

So, in characterizing the communion wafer as a 'cracker', PZ stepped right into the middle of their faith and said "this is absurd". Read his actual posts to get the details. Of course, this pissed off a whole lotta Catholics and other religious types. And it was that reaction that I found interesting and educational.

There has been the usual and predictable "this is hate speech!" nonsense, what you would expect from someone who has been told that their belief in Sky Daddy is silly. There has also been the occasional barely-disguised death threat (what actually got PZ interested in the whole matter to begin with). The student who started the whole thing was physically assaulted, and efforts have been made to make his life at his university miserable. People have been calling for PZ Myers to lose his (tenured) position. All of that is pretty much par for the course in these flare-ups.

But what I have found to be extremely interesting, and insightful, and more than a little disturbing, has been what someone over on PZ's site dubbed "fatwa envy". A very significant portion of the email PZ posted, and comments in the various threads from self-identified Christians, revolves around the idea that PZ should do something to offend Islam (which he actually has done on many occasions), so as to earn himself a death sentence.

Think about that for a moment. These people were expressing a palpable hunger for violence to be directed at PZ, via a religion that most of them consider 'wrong'. I'm not sure whether this is a measure of our civil society holding these people back, or a moderating influence of Christianity, or what. But I am certain that there's a bunch of these nuts who would just love to have the freedom to kill us heathens.

Ah, well. Oh, and should this post get noticed by the crazies, and someone wants to send threats my way: It's been done. I'm unimpressed. And armed. Like many good Americans who believe in the entire Bill of Rights.

Jim Downey

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Steve James's picture

Soylent Jesus is made from People!

It's a were-cracker. You need to apply silver before the next full moon, otherwise Jesus will regain his human form and rip out your throat with his powerful jaws.

That's in Mark, I think. Er, maybe John.

After that, anyway, don't eat it. Not just because Soylent Jesus is made from imaginary people, but because that's what's supposed to happen. Cheez-whiz or not, it isn't really sacrilege to eat it.

What you do is: You don't eat it, forever.

Seal the cracker in a block of acrylic and use it as a keychain or paperweight, thus trapping the WereCracker in your pocket or desk for all eternity.

And you know, he can't come back again until he gets all the pieces back. Look it up.

Steve "I think that part's in Revelations." James

The Repressed One's picture

Science? We don' need no stinkin' science here....!

I'd like to correct just a small bit of definition error here regarding the notion of "transubstantiation". Just when you think it couldn't get any more ridiculous, here's how the Catholic Church circumnavigates around the whole idea of being able to investigate it within any mortal scientific means (from the Wikipedia page):

"...the Roman Catholic Church believes that, when Jesus made that declaration,[2] the underlying reality (the "substance") of the bread was converted to that of his body. In other words, it actually was his body, while all the appearances open to the senses or to scientific investigation were still those of bread, exactly as before. The Church holds that the same change of the substance of the bread and of the wine occurs at the consecration of the Eucharist."

So, basically it smells like a cracker, it tastes like a cracker and it will react physically like a cracker, except that it's actually supposed to be human flesh and blood simply because they say so.

The power of rationalization, everyone! :)

Mike O'Risal's picture

Charge Filed Against Campus Catholic Ministries

Webster Cook — the student who "stole" the magic cracker — has filed an anti-hazing charge against Campus Catholic Ministries. The university's rules prohibit any campus organization from forcing students to consume any food against their wills as part of their anti-hazing prohibitions. It brings up some interesting questions.

Is anyone here familiar with the special significance of the term "cracker" in Florida, by the way? The idea of a "magical cracker" in Florida is kinds funny if you are.

Soitgoes's picture


The term "cracker" is derived from the term used to describe the foremen that wielded whips on the slaves.

ML's picture

CCM is not a fraternity?

I note that he included this charge:

Cook also filed charges accusing the Catholic club of violating the school's underage alcohol policy by serving communal wine to underage students.

I'm not sure about Florida, but in some parts of the South a "cracker" is a perjorative term for a loudmouthed, nouveau riche, flamboyant new-in-town person. Cross Paris Hilton with a carpetbagger, and you'd be close.

Mike O'Risal's picture

"Cracker" in Florida

Hmmm... that's definitely different from what the term means in Florida then. Crackers are native Floridians; the term originally refers to settlers, and now it refers to people who are the product of several generations spent in Florida, generally in a rural setting. The equivalent term elsewhere is something like "hillbilly" or "redneck," and it's used with pride, as a self-identification for the most part.

I think the term comes from a Spanish word that was used to describe the first English-speaking settlers in the state, but I don't recall what that word was or where I heard it.

ML's picture

Maybe that's what they want you to think..........

I had not heard of the term being exclusively to Floridians, nor that it had a Spanish origin. So I did a little looking online.

According to an etymological dictionary it comes from the verb "to crack" meaning "to boast," and was originally taken by Georgians but extended to northern Floridians:

Cracker, Southern U.S. derogatory term for "poor, white trash" (1766), is from c.1450 crack "to boast" (e.g. not what it's cracked up to be), originally a Scottish word. Especially of Georgians by 1808, though often extended to residents of northern Florida.

One story I heard is that it also comes from, rather like Soitgoes said, the class of person cracking a whip. However, instead of being the foreman over slaves, it was the reckless young man driving horses, who wanted them to go showily fast and used the whip to make a noise not only to spur them on, but so people would notice him. Back to being showoffy and boastful.

The Free Online Dictionary of Computing noted that the word

in Middle English meant an obnoxious person (e.g., "What cracker is this same that deafs our ears / With this abundance of superfluous breath?" -- Shakespeare's King John, Act II, Scene I) and in modern colloquial American English survives as a barely gentler synonym for "white trash".

There are several similar bits of history at dictionary.com - none particularly flattering to Floridians. I get the impression they have now adopted the term to indicate a person whose family has been in Florida for many generations in an attempt to overcome this history. Apparently the Spanish word you were thinking of, Mike, was a derogatory word for Protestants used by the Catholic Spanish to refer to anglos.

sapphoq's picture

The Heist and Hostaged Host

I think the thing should be auctioned off and used to pay off a few of the lawsuits brought on by the folks who were sexually abused by (a minority of) Roman Catholic priests as children.


Hank Fox's picture

Desecration Watch

My picture of a proper method to desecrate "the host" would be to spray it generously with Cheez Whiz, balance it on the nose of a well-trained dog, and then, after a suitable delay to build up tension, say "Okay!" And watch it snapped up and eaten. Filmed on video, and posted on YouTube.

And even if PZ doesn't do it, it would be funny if there was an outbreak of Holy Cracker desecration videos on YouTube.

Norman  Doering's picture

Cracker desecration

Maybe we should get a bunch of bloggers together to threaten cracker abuse and help defuse the situation for PZ?

I am too scared of the loonies to make a real threat, so I cloaked my threat in humor:

george.w's picture

I've been thinking about what kind of desecration

what kind of desecration PZ could visit upon the unfortunate consecrated host someone will inevitably place within reach of his tentacles. Subjecting it to scientific analysis comes to mind. You know, photomicrography, chemical analysis, etc. And if by some miracle it starts bleeding, he'll be right there with the equipment to document it all.

You'd think Catholics would jump at the chance to have him do that.

yorickoid's picture

Fatwa envy.

I was following the Pharyngula thread at the time, and that was what struck me reading (most of) the posted e-mails.

It's the synergy resulting from the simultaneity of the vicarious wish for violence and the wish for other faith's sacred items to be desecrated to protest the desecration of their own that's ironically striking.

ML's picture

Christianity isn't the religion of goodness it claims to be.

So many times through history, Christians have shown their religion to be one of oppression, suppression, invasion, and intolerance. This reaction to PZ and the wishes for a Christian version of death orders seems to fly quite in the face of Jesus' teaching. Or is this a case of selective Bible study on the part of those calling for Christian fatwa?

Steve James's picture

Theology to the rescue!

Aw, you know it's just a matter of interpretation. It's clear from a proper reading if the Bible that Jesus certainly didn't seriously intend to prohibit Christians from do anything they might want to do at any point, let alone anything inconvenient. Mostly, Jesus wants Christians to lay the beat down on whoever they might perceive as inferior--er, I mean sinful. Which mostly includes, of course, everyone else. Forgiveness, of course, is theirs alone.

Steve "The Good Lord Never meant to be an Inconvenience" James

Sporkyy's picture

First Free Cracker Doctrine

The question I've taken away from all of this is: Does First Sale Doctrine apply to items given away?

"Ponies are atheists, you know, technically."
- Me

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