Unstoppable Force vs Immoveable Object

 

I love a good argument.tweet

Mind you, I would run away from a fight as fast as I could in real life. But, while I flee in haste when any type of confrontation arises, it’s a different story on Twitter.

This hit me when I was scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day. I had chosen to argue with a well-known controversial Australian political figure. He sided with Aussie Rugby start Israel Folau and argued that we must have legal protection so people like Izzy could safely tell every LGBT person that they’ll burn in hell forever without threat of reprisal (in his case his multi-million dollar contract being torn up).

I asked him if he would afford the same freedom of speech to a Muslim person who advocated jihad against Australian ‘infidels.’

His response to me: ‘You’re an idiot.’

I looked at his feed and saw that several hundred tweets had protested his false logic and I was so tempted to strike back with some smart, well-thought-out response.

But it was then that I realised that here was an immoveable object and our collective tweet-attack was like an unstoppable force.

He wouldn’t budge an inch.

We wouldn’t let up.

Stalemate.

So what good is Twitter anyway?

I concluded that Twitter is great to let off steam and offers a chance to find like-minded haters in the fight for right. But, as far as actual change goes, it is a rather ineffective and useless tool.

*  *  *  *  *

Contrast that with the work of David Fleischer of the Los Angeles LGBT Center whose work has been to change people’s minds regarding LGBT inclusion. His work method has exploded on to the scene since his appearance on the public radio broadcast This American Life.

He comes from a place of awareness that it is a very rare thing to change someone’s mind simply by a well-crafted argument or by logical thinking.

I recently listened to an interveiw he did with HumanizeMe’s Bart Campolo. Using the Californian Prop 8 referendum as an example, he demonstrated how all manner of logic and emotion was thrown at the people of the state to convince them that marriage equality was a proposition worthy of their ‘Yes’ vote.

The proposition failed.

He and his team went back to the drawing board.

In their work of evaluating what went wrong, they studied on their method of canvssing the general population and revisited electoral districts that had overwhelmingly voted against marriage equality–this time using a different strategy: one of connection. Rather than bombard the resident with facts and appeal to their sense of justice, the canvassers tried a different approach: having a comnversation with the person and drawing out from them their story, building trust, and then sharing their own story in such a way that it relates to that person’s own emotional connections and relationships.

It worked.

Using the new technque, they were actually able to convince far more people that marriage equality was something worth considering based on the new relationship they had formed.

Essentially, Fleischer discovered that prejudice can be overcome with relationship built in a non-threatening way using conversation.

I have read accounts of the same thing working in conversatons between African-American folks and KKK members, between youth and the elderly, between Christians and Muslims, and between Israeli and Palestinian people.

What Israel Folau, Mark Latham, Lyle Shelton, Pauline Hanson and others like them must come to realise is that it’s only in the context of relationship and connection with others that trust can be built in such a way that people begin to understand you and your message. No bashing-over-the-head-with-a-Bible can build consensus in anywhere near the same way as a heartfelt, sincere comnversation that addresses underlying feelings, emotions and experience. Our stories are so different, but in them is a point of intersection where we can agree and connect and understand each other.

I’m all for dialogue. And yet I let my need to be right get in the way too many times. My first thought was to delete my Twitter account and start again. But when I had time to collect my thoughts, I realised that I don’t need to be part of that unstoppable force that expends its energy trying to shift that immovable object. I can back away from the comments section. I can refuse to scroll. I can, instead, ask sinecer questions about folks and their closely-guarded beliefes and, somehow, I may be able to make some small difference. Twitter is full of angry people. Maybe we need to become an unstoppable force of kindness that, as kindness often does, breaks down piece-by-piece seemingly-immovable objects.

Scriptural Marriage

What is it with the fixation Evangelicals in the U.S.A. (and, increasingly, here in Australia) have on standing against marriage equality?

It seems that the majority of conversations I have with American Christians online somehow end up on this issue.

And these conversations are more often than not liberally sprinkled with phrases such as “God’s Word says . . .” or “We need to get back to Scriptural Marriage.”

To the first, I will reply: “Do you mean your interpretation of one of the many English translations of the collection of documents determined by the Church of the 4th-5th centuries to be included in what is called ‘The Holy Bible’?” (For the briefest of history lessons, see the Christian Canons section of this Wikipedia article.)

To the second, there are numerous answers, but this is one of my favourites from Chad Estes, written during the ruckus caused by the revelation that proceeds from the sales at Chick-fil-A (an American fast food chain) were going to right-wing Christian ‘family’ groups fighting same-sex marriage:

Thank God. At least somebody has the guts to stand up for our scriptural heritage. I guess I’m just not sure which heritage he is referring to.

  • Adam and Eve– married a woman created from his own rib. Kind of cool. Kind of weird. (Personally, I couldn’t find one of these, even on Craig’s list.) It was also necessary, although creepy that their kids had to marry each other. (I know my kids wouldn’t stand for that.)
  • Abraham – had a wife, Sarah, and a concubine, Hagar, and he fathered nations from his sons from both of them. When Sarah got jealous Abraham sent Hagar and their son out in the dessert where they nearly died. (Somebody should have gone to jail for abuse.)
  • Isaac & Rebecca – His dad sent a servant to go pick his wife. (I don’t have a servant and my kids want to choose their own spouses.)
  • Jacob married both Rachael and her sister Leah. (I love my wife’s sister, but not like that.)
  • Onan and his sister-in-law – They were supposed to get married after his brother died, but Onan didn’t want to have kids with her. (I told my brother’s wife that I was available for her if the unmentionable happened and she would have nothing to do with it. She gagged and walked out of the room.)
  • Potiphar and his wife – she tried to pull Joseph into her bed. (I do own a shotgun, Jamie.)

Okay, let’s just say I don’t want a biblical marriage from the book of Genesis. Let’s move on to the rest of the Old Testament.

  • Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she’s yours. — Deuteronomy 21:11-13 (I bite my own nails, I’m not going to start trimming someone elses.)
  • Marry a prostitute like Hosea (Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light.)
  • Purchase a piece of property, like Boaz, and get a woman as part of the deal, like Ruth, who will come to you when you are drunk and night and uncover your feet (If you know what I mean).
  • Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife.– Benjaminites  in Judges 21:19-25 (Actually, this one might work.)
  • King Xerxes found his wife through a yearlong beauty contest. (But ever since Donald Trump started running the beauty pageants I just want him fired.)
  • Solomon – Marry a thousand women (how could the world’s wisest man be the craziest?)

Isn’t there a man after God’s own heart when it comes to marriage? How about King David? How did he get a wife?

  • Circumcise 200 of your future father in law’s enemies in order to win his daughter’s hand.
  • Kill a friend of yours and take his beautiful wife that you watched bathing.

Okay, let’s leave the Old Testament out of this. Let’s look at some New Testament examples.

  • Joseph and Mary – (Immaculate story, but hands off my wife’s womb please, God.)
  • Um, New Testament couples please? Are you serious? There are no examples of “biblical marriages” and how they met, married, had kids, and got along? How in the world are we supposed to figure this out by being Biblical?

Here’s another interesting take on this topic:

So please do not say ‘Biblical Marriage is between one man and one woman’ because, as you can see, that is a premise that just can’t be solidly defended from the Christian Scriptures.

Unless, of course, you refuse to consider any verse that does not support your own definition of marriage. (In which case, I would recommend you read the results of this study: ‘God, as it turns out, looks a lot like you‘)

Another Slippery Slope

Many people use the “slippery slope” argument when warning others about what they perceive to be the danger of a certain way of thinking or behaving.

When worship music took a turn toward contemporary styling back in the 60s and early 70s, I heard many pastors preach against “the devil’s music” (it was actually 20 years later in my church circle–that’s how behind the times we were). They claimed that this was the first step down a “slippery slope” that would lead to all sorts of sinful behaviour in churches including drugs, drunkenness and sex amongst the young people. (Obviously, such pastors weren’t aware what was already happening in their youth groups . . . but I digress.)

When the issue of women clergy began to be an issue (and some still believe it is), the slippery slope argument went something like this: “You permit a woman to be in the pulpit and women will get the idea that it’s OK to tell men what to do, they’ll start doing this at home, and the family will experience upheaval and possible disintegration.”

When the Emergent Movement started gaining momentum and receiving attention, preachers like John Piper (among a multitude of others) warned that those who accepted such a theological shift would find themselves on a “slippery slope” that would lead to ultimately denying the existence of God.

Which brings me to today.

The most prevalent argument in conservative circles today is that accepting homosexuality will inevitably lead to a breakdown of morals; legalising gay marriage will surely lead to the breakdown of the family unit. Some take it further and actually name the sins that will follow as we travel down this “slippery slope.”

Bruce Reyes-Chow has made a excellent point on the Patheos blog how that not promoting and legalising equality for LGBTQ people is also a slippery slope, as demonstrated by the recent exploits of now-infamous Pastor Charles L. Worley and his declaration that LGBTQ folk should be locked behind electric fences and kept there until they all die out.

. . . [I]t would be easy to dismiss him as some radical, fringe person that should be given little attention or thought. After all, no reasonable and faithful person would ever think these things, let alone say them.  My friend Eugene Cho, in his excellent post chastising Worley and others, says, “No matter where you stand on the issue of gay marriage, there are some boundaries of human decency that should never be crossed.”

For the most part I agree, most people who think homosexuality is a sin, probably do not think that LGBTQ people should be rounded up until they die off. And then I think back to some meetings/debates among those whom I would consider “thoughtful and faithful” communities in my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA). When it came to homosexuality, the slippery slope argument was always busted out, “homosexuality will lead to … [insert perceived sexual ‘deviance’].” After an awkward moment of “Whoa, did he just say what I think he said?” most of us would simply dismiss these folks as fringe, after all, the slippery slope argument is unwinnable — and what does it matter anyway?

And then you hear people like Worley and others who do in fact verbalize what we know already happens, people take anti-LGBTQ thought, theology and rhetoric and walk down that slippery slope to the point of killing people who are gay. I am generally not a slippery slope kind of person, but in this case, I will borrow a page from some of my brothers and sisters in Christ who believe that the affirmation of of homosexuality, as choice or creation, will lead to the destruction of all that is good and holy and say this:

You can wrap your theological position in all the “speaking the truth in love” or “hate the sin, love the sinner” rhetoric you want, but if you hold the idea that affirming homosexuality will lead to the destruction of societal “norms” then you had better claim the other side: anti-homosexuality rhetoric will lead to the death of human beings because they are gay.

He continues:

. . . [T]hose of you who continue to give life and validation to anti-homosexuality thinking must know that you have been given the privilege of being thought of as reasonable and faithful. This protection has given you a false security that your words, no matter how diametrically different they may sound from Worley’s, do not lead to violence.

They do.

(Click here to read the rest of the post.)

I suppose the biggest problem I have with slippery slope arguments is that they tend to be mostly conjecture. We don’t really know where following a certain path will lead because we haven’t yet been down that path. All we have to go on is history.

Has contemporary music in church brought illegal drugs, booze and sex into the sanctuary?

Have women in leadership positions in our churches resulted in the breakdown of families?

Has the Emergent Church been the birthplace of increasing numbers of atheists?

Will granting equality to our LGBTQ family & friends bring about a rise in perversion and the destruction of the family unit?

Based on all information available–and the testimony of history–the answer is and must remain “NO.”