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June 20, 2006

Comments

evil_fizz

And I enjoy that; enjoy the friendship and the sparring and the sometimes jarring differences in world-view.

I think it depends on the nature of said jarring difference. My talking to my friend who grew up in abject poverty in rural New Mexico and is about to graduate from a top 5 law school and work in securities litigation in NYC is not the same as talking to another acquaintance who thinks that there's something inherently unnatural about me not planning to stay at home to raise my future kids.

There's this incredible book called Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood in which Kristen Luker interviews women who are pro-choice and pro-life activists and discusses how each sees the other as touting views that threaten their own way of life. I'm not really doing her point justice, but for someone to tell me that women can't be priests, have careers and kids, etc. threatens me. It's not a challenge. It's a direct confrontation as to how I'm living my life. Now, you can think that growth comes from that. I tend to feel defensive and angry far too soon for any discussion like that to be productive.

Hugo

I do think that Lynn and Antigone and evil_fizz are right, and that I haven't been clear on what I mean by friend. I'll admit, living in Los Angeles has led me to use the word loosely and inclusively. I will say "my good friend so-and-so" to describe someone I talk to twice a year; I use the same term for friends whom I speak with almost daily and who know the central details of my life.

Gonz, thanks for your eloquent defense.

Part of the argument is over whether or not our politics define our character. There are some folks who say "yes, they do" and others (like me) who say "no, they don't." Politics -- and I include feminism and even theology in this as well -- are part of our identity, but they are not reliable indicators of our moral character. I've hung out with Operation Rescue and Planned Parenthood, with Communion and Liberation and ACT UP!, with the Democratic Socialists of America and with some elderly John Birchers. I've liked folks in all of these groups and been exhausted and even repelled by others.

Like many people, I grew up with family members who could say shockingly bigoted things one minute and show staggering generosity to the very same group they had slurred the next. I can think of one important man in my life who regularly used the "n" word -- and gave hours of his time to a homeless shelter and was a board member of Planned Parenthood. Lesson one of growing up in my family: expect cognitive dissonance! Lesson two: people are complicated in ways both good and bad, and you can't let the latter trump the former or you'll end up bitter and judgmental.

But to get back to the point, I probably do use the word "friend" too easily and too broadly. Lynn's also probably right that that's a reflection of ENFP-ness.

Tony Vila

Gonz - Your flaw is that most liberals and liberal christians act exactly the way you say. Yes there are some vituperative drama queens's out there, and they are overrepresented in blogosphere discussions.

But if anything, liberal churches have been mocked for being too accepting of other points of view and a hippie live and let live attitude. The Unitarian church is mocked for a level of openness and ambiguity that makes it almost meaningless altogether. And don't tell me for a second that conservative Catholics are known for their tolerance of differing political views within a Church.

At the moment Hugo is saying he accepts ECUSA will probably split, but this wouldn't even be an issue if more conservative denominations across the globe weren't doing everything they could to kick the ECUSA out.

It is a liberal and a christian value to appreciate what good exists in people regardless of whatever else they may represent. And I would say most liberals are doing the best job they can of it.

The Gonzman

I can think of one important man in my life who regularly used the "n" word -- and gave hours of his time to a homeless shelter and was a board member of Planned Parenthood.

My Grandfather used to always use that word, even though he had black friends - and one day I sat in horror as he used it in the prescense of his black friend Sam.

I must have sat there with my mouth open, until Sam reached over, patted my arm, and said, "Son, back in our day, that didn't mean what folks hear it meaning now, and we're both to old to change. To him and me, it just means "Black," and matter of fact, if he'd have called me black 30 years ago, we'd a-been fighting."

Little Lion

Bernard Gert wrote, "to hold the standard view that there is a unique correct answer to every moral question does not naturally incline one to support a democratic form of government." Concerning political differences between Hugo Schwyzer and Glenn Sacks, it seems reasonable to agree to the position favored by most people. "The natural result of holding the standard view leads to is to favor a government composed of people who are most likely to know the correct answers to moral questions." And, I might add, to favor shunning those who might otherwise be our friends, because they came to different moral conclusions based on the same evidence.

Tom Head

Gonzman writes:
Now, Glenn is a fairly liberal guy on a lot of issues, believe it or not - and is regarded by many MRA's as soft on a lot of issues - and if you have evidence of him making personal attacks, by all means present it, but your clear - and in context - quote here, and implication thereof, is that since Glenn stands opposed to Hugo on a political issue, you would find it difficult to be friends with him; you don't understand it because it is alien to you, because opposition politically is a charcter flaw to you.

Gonzman, the quote you provided is accurate but you seem to be confusing a comma for a period. Let me bold the relevant text:

So I guess what I'd say is that I'm not at all concerned that you have a personal friendship with Glenn Sacks, but I can't understand why, if you consider yourself a "pro"-feminist (whatever that is), you're willing to appear multiple times on a radio program that is devoted to antifeminism. What do you do there? Do you represent feminism as a whole, or do you represent the "good" feminists and share his disdain for the "bad" ones? How does that dynamic operate?


Cheers,

TH

Tom Head

(As for opinions and character, I often quote Borges: "I believe that most people are more important than their opinions.")

Aegis

Gender politics and ethics are complicated enough issues that it is possible for reasonable people to disagree. Small intellectual differences can translate into large political differences. That is why I can be friends with people who can have large political differences from me.

Chip

Hugo,

The last few days here in Columbus have been painful. The strong differences between different groups have been obvious on the floor, and I've thought more than once that without the common grace that God gives, people would be throttling each other in the House of Deputies.

I see far more division now than I did in either 2000 or 2003 (the other two conventions that I attended); this convention has been extremely tense at times. Also, I'm sure that I'm not the only one on the orthodox side who found the vote on A161 today more grievous than the Robinson vote three years ago.

On principle, I can't call a divorce "good," Hugo. But even if you take a divorce as a foregone conclusion regarding our future, judging from what's going on here in Columbus, there will be nothing "warm and amiable." Some people in leadership are still talking about how united we are despite all of our differences, but it just isn't true. (To cite just one example, if you want to call a committee united when every person except one consistently votes one way and the remaining person continually votes the opposite way, you're dreaming. No matter how small the minority, consistent differences are evidence of a serious divide.)

Peace of Christ,
Chip

perplexed

Lesson one of growing up in my family: expect cognitive dissonance! Lesson two: people are complicated in ways both good and bad, and you can't let the latter trump the former or you'll end up bitter and judgmental.

Well said Hugo. This is turning into a very refreshing thread, with people opposed politically agreeing about what's good in terms of content of character. Hugo, you've gone up in my estimation further, and like gonzman, I will disagree with you on many, many things. Doesn't matter - if we can be civil, and show each other respect, sometimes good character can even push the politics to one side.

John

Chip, be assured that orthodox Episcopalians are not alone. We Pentecostals have been storming heaven for you the last few days, and we're 3,000 kilometres away and in another denomination. Lift up your heart, and have courage. Divorce or not, God's will will be done.

Amyl

Evil_Fizz writes:
I'm not really doing her point justice, but for someone to tell me that women can't be priests, have careers and kids, etc. threatens me. It's not a challenge. It's a direct confrontation as to how I'm living my life.

Evil_Fizz makes a good point.

I can be friends with people whose views on various topics are widely divergent from mine -- but I can't be friends with someone whose views indicate that s/he essentially views me or anyone else as a lesser human being.

I lived with a Christian guy a few years ago who was very friendly, humourous, and apparently kind. However, he once told me that I was 'eternally subordinate' to men because I am a woman, and he believed that women should obey their husbands and not be pastors. Now, I can imagine lots of 'pro-feminist' men being able to get along well with that guy because he was - well - nice, for the most part, and because his views wouldn't have affected them as personally as they did me, a woman.

It's easy to ignore a person's less desirable views when they're not actually about YOU.

Chip

Thanks, John, for the words and prayers. We're not despairing here in Columbus at all, but I wanted to let Hugo know that all has not been "warm and amiable" here. Civility has been kept, but it would be far too much to call it "warm and amiable.

Q Grrl

Somedays Hugo I'm more dismayed at your Christianity-lite than I am by your feminism-lite.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer delineates between cheap grace and costly grace, cheap grace being that which feeds the massess the easy message that Christ died for our sins, thus all is forgiven. Cheap grace never moves beyond Christ's sacrifice to address the sacrifices that the modern Christian must make:

"Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. "All for sin could not atone." Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin. That was the heresy of the enthusiasts, the Anabaptists and their kind…. "


I would say it is your heresy too, Hugo. Your Christianity and your feminism make *you* feel better. They leave little meaningful impact on others, however.

perplexed

I lived with a Christian guy a few years ago who was very friendly, humourous, and apparently kind. However, he once told me that I was 'eternally subordinate' to men because I am a woman, and he believed that women should obey their husbands and not be pastors. Now, I can imagine lots of 'pro-feminist' men being able to get along well with that guy because he was - well - nice, for the most part, and because his views wouldn't have affected them as personally as they did me, a woman.

Amyl, how did your friend manifest this belief that women are 'eternally subordinate' in terms of his behaviour towards you?

I know Christians who think I'm going to Hell. I don't mind at all if they believe that. If they start ACTING in a bad way to me though, that's something else.

The Happy Feminist

I couldn't live with a guy who told me that he thought I should be "eternally subordinate" to men no matter how he acted. His statement reflects what I would consider a fundamental lack of respect for me that I would find intolerable.

Hugo

Q Grrl, I'm a bit stunned at the charge of cheap grace. My relationship with Christ turned a self-destructive, narcissistic addict incapable of NOT using others into a decent (albeit still massively flawed) human being. Christ's atoning work on the cross changed how I live, how I talk, how I act, and how I think -- and more than that, it's forced me to give up so many of my old pleasures and live very differently. Has it led me to the cross? No. But has following Jesus led me to significant pain? You betcha. If I come across as preaching "feel-good" Christianity, then I have indeed misrepresented my faith and my identity grievously.

Q Grrl

I think you should read Bonhoeffer's own words on "cheap" and "costly" grace. I, by many means, do them an injustice. Most Christians do practice "cheap" grace, an imperfect understanding of the gift of grace and what that gift asks of us in return. There is also a significant difference between "feel-good" Christianity and my observation that you practice your Christianity (and feminism) on lines that mold to your personal safety and comfort levels. You recognize that Christ changed those aspects of you that were most self-damaging, but the sense that I get is that your focus is still on how Christ and Christianity affect *you*, how they have changed *you*, and how *you* benefit from them. You still seem to see Christ outside of yourself.

I see that you firmly believe that there are no contradictions (on a deep level) in maintaing friendships with people whose worldviews are destructive and antithetical to fundamental Christian ethics. On the surface this appears to be a "love the sinner, not the sin" continuum. Yet I do not see you facing said sins. You acknowledge them, yes. But then you accept them as inevitable; as a product of human frailty and flaw. IOW, you accept Christ's grace as personally redemptive but not as universally or fundamentally necessary. You are willing to commit to Christianity because Christ's grace saved *you*. Would you still be committed if it hadn't?

What if you couldn't be saved, but you could save others? What would grace look like then?

Hugo

Q Grrl, I've TAUGHT Bonhoeffer's works before. I didn't get a Ph.D. in Christian history for nothing! But I shouldn't get defensive.

Like most Christians, I fall woefully short of the mark. I am a sinner, and sin is real and omnipresent, and none of us can fully escape it manifesting in our lives. On the other hand, God gives us the power to live differently, and not only to live differently, but to carry that message of grace and salvation to others.

Nowhere does Bonhoeffer say that "costly grace" involves relentlessly confronting others about their shortcomings. We are to remove the logs in our own eyes before we examine the specks in others; that process of "log removal" is rarely instant, even for those who have given their lives to Christ.

Jenny

Yeah right.

Vacula

People can be extremely inconsistent - always taking them at their word and rejecting them when they say sexist or racist things runs the danger of sterotyping them and rejecting their full humanity before you understand why they say what they do. You won't change their minds that way either.

My mother believes all kinds of crap about women being subjected to men, but she's also a strong woman with plenty of self-confidence and leadership ability. Do I reject her because her beliefs are insulting to women and could apply to me? No! Will I call her on it all the time? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. If it will help her appreciate how she's undervaluing herself and others, yes. If it only defines our differences sometimes it isn't worth it. She may parrot oppressive, intolerant ideologies but that doesn't mean she'll treat women disrespectfully or discriminate against minorities. She says many of the things she does because she's lived her life by much more conservative authoritarian ideals than I could ever accept. She has unnecessarily high respect for people like James Dobson and dislikes my "negativity" about them, but that doesn't make her an evil person. Her values are skewed towards gentleness, mine toward honesty. I need to learn to tone down my irritation and be more considerate, she needs to face the implications of the things she says and not whitewash their effects. Because we're human, we both have plenty of room to grow.

I know pastors that I disagree with vehemently who have made horribly abusive, sexist statements to women in their congregations. But knowing the hurt they have done doesn't cancel out my knowledge of the good they have done and will keep on doing. I understand their personalities and family history and education enough to know where their blind spots are coming from. I could never belong to their churches and I will confront them whenever I can make my point in a worthwhile manner. Sometimes I have to avoid them because I know I would speak out in anger and not help the right cause. To do real good in that case, my best route is to encourage and/or challenge friends who belong to their churches and will listen to me. These pastors are people who care about doing the right thing. The problem is they have a lot of authoritative good people and sources that they thing tells them this bad thing is "right." I can respect some things about them while I reject a lot of other things. What good does it do for me to act only on the rejection?

There are many things that irritate or even infuriate me about other people. I don't have to hang out with people that only infuriate me, but I should be able to recognize (as a Christian) that there are things God loves in them, if only their potential to improve. :-/ If we act purely out of anger and self-righteousness we may end up "in the right" but I don't see how we're helping make a better world.

Oriscus

Umm, QGirl, it's not "cheap grace"; Grace is utterly free. However, it changes *everything.

Ignore the Church(es). They are, like all the Principalities and Powers of this world, including Patriarchy, Family Values, and Feminism (as definable institutions and concepts) bound to distort the truth. None of this means we have to hate our Fathers, dispise/abuse our families, or treat women as anything other than wholly equal human beings who have been oppressed as a class for millennia. It only means you don't have to buy into anybody's claim of power-over-you as a right. The radical Christian notion of Grace subverts *all our categories and submits them to a judgment which is, by definition, above and completely alien to our own.

Back to the topic: Christians are instructed to love their enemies. Somehow, aimply being friends with one's ideological opponents seems like a half-measure by comparison.

Oriscus

um, for "aimply," read "simply." duh

blogging under the influence.

[Gay-boss-whom-I-dispise (not because he's gay but because he's a sloppy musician) fired me this evening, thereby depriving me of the opportunity of presenting him with my resignation later this summer (after, I had hoped, securing another gig) as was my plan. My frustration with him-as-a-musician is in conflict with my solidarity with him-as-a-gay-man because I am a guilty recovering racist/sexist/homophobic Southern liberal, and this has greatly affected my work for him as a singer. And so I confront middle age semi-unemployed (without steady paycheck in "my field" at any rate). I expect no sympathy, this is just background for a typo. Thanks for listening.]

Amyl

Happy Feminist gave the answer I would have given to you, Perplexed. The fact that he believed that I was lesser than him showed that he didn't respect me, and I couldn't be a friend of someone who doesn't respect me (BTW I wouldn't have lived with him if I had known his beliefs beforehand).

Believing that someone is going to hell is a little different IMO in that the people believing you are going to hell at least believe that you have the capacity to go to heaven (unless they're calvinists, I suppose). It's not that they regard you as being intrinsically disallowed into heaven. The guy who said I was subordinate - and ETERNALLY subordinate at that - believes that no matter what I do I am and will always be beneath people like him.

mythago

Hugo, to be blunt--as you've admitted in the past, you also place a high premium on being liked, and that probably influences your friends-but-we-disagree relationships a lot more than serious consideration of shared ethical values.

Which is, after all, where your argument breaks down. There's a difference between disagreement in values and disagreement on means. Of course you can be friends with the latter, but why on earth waste time with the former?

For example: you and Friend A both agree that racism is bad and inequality between 'the races' should end. However, you are pro-affirmative action and Friend A is strongly opposed. Of course you can be friends; it's not that A is a racist, it's that she believes the negatives of affirmative action outweight the positives, and that it's a poor means to achieve a noble goal.

But what about B, who believes that Jews are the children of Satan, and that affirmative action is a positive good because it will get African-Americans to push the Jews out of their ill-gotten superiority? You wouldn't (I hope) want to be friends with B, because no matter how much you may agree about one issue, B's values are repulsive. You certainly wouldn't (I hope) excuse a friendship with B because "friends disagree" or handwave it with "well, granted I'm not Jewish so this doesn't affect me, but I can't insist all my friends agree with me."

Now, I'm certainly not calling Glenn Sacks the equivalent of an anti-Semite. But when you pretend that any disagreement is OK because "friends disagree", or put your need to be liked first, you really shouldn't pull the who-me? innocent routine when you get called on it.

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