Fighting in the Culture War is pretty draining. I’ve been having a “debate,” if you can call it that, with a person on the Blog of Daniel comment boards. I’ll call her Baptist X, since her viewpoints seem to be fairly representative of the typical conservative Southern Baptist Christian. In truth, I have no idea what her religious affiliation is.
Baptist X expressed some concern that another poster had compared the AFA’s campaign to cancel The Book of Daniel to The Crusades.
The Crusades? Are we a bit extreme? Please provide examples of how the Christian right is FORCEFULLY bringing about change?
I made a small joke about that bit, but the truly shocking part of her post was yet to come.
On the other hand, liberals have committed genocide slaughtering 47 million babies since 1973. Which is scarier?
That last part just leaped out at me. “Liberals.” “Genocide.” “Slaughtering.” “47 million babies.” So many generalizations, so little time. I responded:
Erm.. it’s actually pretty scary to think a presumably educated American voter can make a blanket statement like that.
Baptist X responded with some vehemence. You might think she would have produced some facts or references to back up those generalizations, but you would be wrong. She took the opportunity to post her resume:
Presumably educated? I have 6 degrees including 3 graduate degrees, and will be attending seminary in the Fall.
47 million babies aborted…That’s not genocide? Pfft!
Good Lord. Six degrees and still no common sense? What is this world coming to? (Maybe it’s already there.) I declined to comment on her incorrect definition of the word genocide, but I still thought I might be able to make Baptist X see the error of her earlier statement:
With 6 degrees you can’t see anything disturbing about repeating a sound-bite-sized talking point about a monstrously complex topic that could easily fill a dozen books?
There was a pause while Baptist X gave us her review of the webcasted episode of The Book of Daniel. Can you guess what she thought of it? Here’s some of it:
Actually, in my opinion, the writing was rather atrocious. … Portraying Jesus as a wimpy 60s throwback didn’t help either. Knowing that he was a reflection of Daniel’s view of Jesus doesn’t make me shrug my shoulders, rather, it scares the heck out of me. THAT is how an Episcopalian priest views Jesus?
I did not say, perhaps you would have been happier if Jesus had been portrayed as a dark-skinned man of Middle Eastern descent. Instead, I thought I would again be helpful and point out the obvious to her.
How else would an Episcopal priest (or even non-priest) view Jesus? That particular image (visually, that is) of Jesus has been drilled into Anglicans since time out of mind. And I think the “hippie” Jesus personality is typical of modern fictional representations. Which makes sense, since he was pretty anti-establishment in his day.
Meanwhile, Baptist X had also replied to another poster:
I have no idea what you are talking about, and insulting me is not permitted by Christ simply because you don’t seem to like me. “This is my command: Love each other.”
I figured I could take this opportunity to give Baptist X some tips on Bible quotations as well:
I’m hopeful that seminaries teach people not to pick random Bible quotes to defend themselves. “Love each other,” taken out of context by itself like that, could mean just about anything. It doesn’t necessarily mean, “don’t insult each other” and certainly doesn’t mean “don’t disagree with each other.” Suppose two brothers are playing in the backyard, and one says to the other, “eww, you stink.” Is he going against Jesus’s command?
Nice parable, huh? I briefly considered adding something like, if a woman calls a writer’s work atrocious, is she going against Jesus’s command? I restrained myself because the irony probably would have been lost on her, and it would have been too easy for her to brush it off.
Anyway, my offhand scripture interpretation must have really rankled Baptist X, because she wrote:
Look up the context. It’s not my responsibility to do it for you. You should already know thay [sic] this is what he is commanding — and expecting from — his disciples. Since we are His disciples, He expects us to love one another. I’m pretty sure that means treating one another with respect.
Abortion doesn’t need a dozen books, nor have I chosen any soundbites since I do not watch television, except on rare occasions.
It’s not complicated, especially in America, where Thomas Jefferson saw fit to write, “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
It seems Jefferson didn’t need to fill 12 books to see the basic right to life, which is endowed by our Creator.
At this point I realized with regret that this was a hopeless case. This one was already gone. Baptist X was like a walking, talking tape recorder set on a repeating loop of talking points. How do you enlighten someone like that? How do you have a reasonable discourse? I find religious debate somewhat stimulating, but it’s hard to get a lot of enjoyment from a conversation with a person who a) doesn’t see beyond her own point of view, and b) has no intention of even looking beyond her own point of view, and c) plucks out her own eyeballs so she can’t see another point of view. For every reasonable point you make, she will respond with something completely irrational or, if all else fails, change the subject.
I could have dissected her words all day. Pulling out the Declaration of Independance to justify a right-to-life stance is just plain silly. Thomas Jefferson is the authority on abortion? Seriously? The guy with the slaves? The guy who didn’t even give women the right to vote? Life, liberty, etc. indeed. All you have to do is look up the definition of the word “liberty” to find that he must have meant for people to have the freedom to choose. If you want to get literal about it, his words would only apply to “all men” anyway.
But I learned my lesson. Resistance is futile. Maybe that’s the conservative Christian plan: They will be so irrationally obstinate that eventually everyone will just get sick of talking to them, and they’ll win by default. I finally wrote:
I’m not going to presume to know Thomas Jefferson’s views on abortion. I’m kind of sorry I said anything about it now; it’s not relevant to TBoD. I do think it’s important to challenge absolute, black and white thinking every now and then, though. (Even if it feels like beating one’s head against a brick wall.)
I wanted to add, remember, only a Sith thinks in absolutes, but I figured that would have opened a whole new can of worms. Maybe I should have paraphrased the AFA’s response to my email: “I respect your opinion and it’s okay that you’re closed-minded.” It’s actually pretty effective, now that I write it out.
So anyway, the moral of this story is: Don’t bother arguing with a zealot. Unless you want some writing material for your blog.