The notion of “fandoms,” while by no means a new concept, is being defined more recently in a broad manner. There are fandoms for practically — almost literally — every conceivable work of fiction: television shows, movies, video games and game franchises, comic books, and novels. It could be said that there are fandoms for prolific authors, such as William Shakespeare.
Leave us not forget sports teams. The area of NJ from which I come is a crossroads for both the New York and Philadelphia media markets, so my TV screen has been a parade of every single professional, semi-pro, and college sports team for every kind of marketable sport imaginable. The combinations are astounding, and while the mathematician in me would love to post the numbers, I know that anyone reading this would likely not have the interest in the numbers and the math that I do. Besides, this is not about numbers. Although, this is about logic.
Fandoms and aficionados of athletic teams or events are rather fervent in how they display their love for their teams or fandom bases. As this is the start of American football season, a married couple that I know well posted a picture to social media of themselves and their two children in Oakland Raiders apparel. Personally, I have begun my initiation process into the Husker Nation, as my brother seminarians from the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska have welcomed me into the fold. Being a sci-fi and fantasy nerd, I can tell you from experience that there are a multitude of fandoms — Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Transformers, Supernatural, Doctor Who, various Anime series, comic books and characters from them. There are even subgroups, elements of the sets of fandoms, such as Star Wars fans who love only the original trilogy.
There are several elements that are common to all fan bases:
- Devotion and loyalty
- Regular viewing of the shows/events
- Joining up with larger groups for sharing in the fan base
I would hope that those activities sound familiar…
Fans of sports teams have jerseys, t-shirts, sweatpants, and hoodies, season tickets, and the team’s schedule posted on their refrigerator. Those from fandoms go to conventions, dress up as characters from their respective fandom (“cosplaying”), collect merchandise of all varieties, and eagerly await the return of their favorite shows at the start of the new season. They all invest heavily in ways to support and to show their love and loyalty for that which they cheer. Examples of the real diehards are the ones who wait in line for hours to see the latest movie on opening night, or show up to tailgate hours before the game begins, or arrive at the stadium shirtless and painted in their team’s colors in the middle of a cold December day.
And no one sees a single issue with it. This is normal behavior, socially acceptable, and even applauded.
In mid-January of 2018, a brother seminarian and I headed out for some fraternity in Philly. There was a group that entered the restaurant in full costume for what they called “Game of Thrones.” Now, for anyone who is a true fan of the work of George R.R. Martin, it is really “A Song of Ice and Fire,” with “A Game of Thrones” being the first book in the series and the name adopted for the rather graphic TV show. As he and I struck up a conversation with members of the costumed group, we learned that their cosplaying adventures were a regular thing. Some were decked out in actual metal armor, which could not possibly have been inexpensive.
While not considered nearly as “normal” as compared to sports fans, it is still within the confines of that which is socially acceptable.
Yet often times, people of faith (in general) and we Catholics (in particular) find ourselves under criticism for what and how we invest in our faith. There is a certain amount of ridicule that comes our way. The most popular argument seems to be, “the Church is always asking for money,” while the most profound has to do with actually attending Sunday Mass. Recently after he was brought into the Church, my father encountered one such argument while on the job. One of his coworkers, after learning of Dad’s conversion to the Catholic faith, laid out the argument of the collection basket. Dad, being a smart man who is open to the Holy Spirit, asked his coworker a series of questions.
Dad: “Aren’t you into hunting and fishing?”
Dad: “Do you belong to a rod and gun club?”
Dad: “So there’s a lodge where you meet, yes?”
Dad: “And at the lodge, you have heat in the winter and AC in the summer? Running water and electricity?”
Dad: “And when the lodge needs maintenance, that costs money, right?”
Dad: “And all of that costs money…”
Dad: “So you pay dues?”
Dad: “Well, we like to have heat and AC, running water and electricity, the church needs to be maintained. And that costs money, just like your rod and gun club.”
Oh. Yeah, that kinda makes sense.
That is not to reduce the tithing at a parish to a mere matter of facilities. So much more happens with the collections, but Dad got his point across to get his coworker to back off from the Church — at least with regards to money.
As I said, I subscribe to many fandoms and now to the Huskers. I am in no way condemning the fandoms and followings that exist in our world. The issue that I have is that there is a gross imbalance. Catholics attend Mass with the same regularity of a football game. We pay for the utilities and facilities of our church buildings, and for the services that our parishes provide to the poor and needy. Christians meet to worship God Almighty, to thank Him for the sacrifice of His Son on our behalf. Meanwhile, the shirtless football fans and the cosplayers think that we are the crazy ones. None of the fandoms I enjoy matter in the face of Christ. And while I have spent money on the things that I like, I have spent that much more — in talent and time as well as treasure — for Christ’s Church.
I understand that persecution is our lot as Catholics. It happened to Jesus, and that means that it should be good enough for us to have to endure it.
I just find it amusing that Catholics do what fandoms do, and yet we are considered odd, in spite of the fact that our points of praise and worship are so much more than particularly talented athletes or imaginary characters from fantastic worlds.