- Grinding axes
- How dare you be moral that way?!
- A talk radio interrogation
- Who incites more violence?
- Method’s My Magisterium
One of my professional listservs has a contentious thread running on the issue of Physician-Assisted Suicide. One of the persistent participants got snarked at after quoting her own scholarly article on the topic:
No offense, but you wrote this and have a definite axe to grind. I am sure you are a very nice person, but I don’t generally find the articles of authors having an obvious bias all that persuasive – kinda like why no one can really trust Fox “news”.
In [persistent participant]’s defense, “axe to grind” can mean “has thought about the subject a lot, has formed strong opinions, and has heard the objections before, finding them unpersuasive.”
“No axe to grind,” “no horse in the race” and other variants can mean “haven’t thought about it all that much, and I don’t really care to.”
These observations would be true even if I did not agree with what I’ve read of [persistent participant]’s opinions.
I got a private reply from the Mr. Snark:
Possibly – I get what you are saying – but all signs seem to point towards bias The domain name – not the article name – but the domain itself (which must be registered for a fee) is [pointed, but omitted]. This is not a neutral statement. She is entitled to her opinion – which I respect but strongly disagree with. As [another participant] pointed out … we are not likely to change opinions on this subject, but to say it is more than opinion ignores the obvious – I was born at night . . . just not last night.
This makes me happy to be a blogger. Indecision after decades of debate on an issue like PAS, is a marker either of unseriousness or a rhetorical ploy to seduce readers who want to think they’re careful and objective.
Mr. Snark appears to be in the unserious category. He “respects” the female persistent participant condescendingly (“I am sure you are a very nice person”) while tacitly assuming that feigned indecision is a virtue (“I don’t generally find the articles of authors having an obvious bias all that persuasive”).
The purpose of thought ought generally to be reaching a conclusion, it thereupon being no vice to advocate the conclusion vigorously — right down to registering a domain name to signal your conclusion — even if one lacks a Y chromosome.
Prepublication update: It’s depressing to see how many attorneys descend quickly to personal insults and brain-dead accusations of “imposing morality.”
I’m tired of people objecting to a policy like this, when really their objection is that the church teaches homosexual relations are sinful. It’s disingenuous. People freak out, not really because of the policy, but because they disagree fundamentally that homosexual activity is a sin. It’s entirely consistent for the church to make policies like that to prevent its members from sinning (in their view) and from supporting sinful behavior. If you disagree that homosexual activity is a sin, fine, but let’s keep focused on the real issue at hand.
(Reader IsaacH on Rod Dreher’s blog; the “policy” he refers to is the LDS policy on how to handle same-sex marriage.)
David Brooks notionally interviewed our founding father Alexander Hamilton on the topic of climate change:
First, he was struck by the fact that on this issue the G.O.P. has come to resemble a Soviet dictatorship — a vast majority of Republican politicians can’t publicly say what they know about the truth of climate change because they’re afraid the thought police will knock on their door and drag them off to an AM radio interrogation.
A great line, with just enough ring of truth.
Interesting question. Who has incited more violence against abortuaries:
- Mild-mannered former Conscientious Objector bloggers using terms like “abortuary”?; or
- Hubristic pro-choice taunters like the Slacktivist, playing the “I know your convictions better than you do” game, saying that if pro-lifers were sincere, they’d be shooting up Planned Parenthood?
Or as Rod Dreher put it:
Some commenters on this blog have been saying since Colorado Springs that if we pro-lifers mean what we say about the sanctity of life, then we ought to be doing things like attacking abortion clinics. Be careful what you wish for, people. You may think you are trying to demonstrate how pro-lifers are actually hypocrites who, because we aren’t doing violent, extreme things to stop abortion, don’t really believe what we say — and that therefore you will shame us into abandoning our convictions. It won’t work, and (God forbid) there may be some unstable people on the fringe who respond to these taunts and provocations by agreeing with you, and calling your bluff.
Ask yourself: Would you really think it wise to taunt faithful Muslims by telling them that if they really believed what the Quran 8:12 says — “I (Allah) will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them” — they are logically bound to start chopping off the heads and hands of infidels?
Progressive Protestant Richard Beck trenchantly observes of Protestantism that “We Follow Our Conscience, Not the Bible.” His little anecdote really does illustrate the truth of that, in my estimation — and it’s something I couldn’t un-see after I saw it 19 years or so ago in different garb.
Conservative Protestant Alan Jacobs admits that the charge stings and that the only antidote is “some doctrine of Holy Tradition”:
This happened largely as a result of Protestant theologians’ responses to Catholic charges that they, lacking guidance and correction from a Magisterium, were liable to say pretty much anything about the Bible. The charge stung: What was to prevent this or that Protestant leader from offering a bizarre interpretation of some passage of Scripture and claiming as warrant for it the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? From the need to answer this charge arose the characteristic trait of Protestant biblical scholarship: an obsession with method. Method would be the Protestant scholar’s Magisterium — that is, his or her principle of constraint and limitation; therefore, ultimately, training in biblical exegesis would become training in the kinds of intellectual skills that could be described in methodological terms: grammar, textual history, historical philology, and so on. Sensitivity to metaphorical nuance is perforce not a part of this training; nor is general literary knowledge.
There really is no way to promote general agreement among Christians about the interpretation of Scripture without some doctrine of Holy Tradition.
There remains a trenchant question some thoughtful and observant Protestant might ask: This being America, does anyone really honor Holy Tradition when “conscience” beckons?
Maybe not, but our ability to re-interpret Holy Traditions seems to me more constrained than the ability of re-interpret the Bible.
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“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)