Friday, April 16, 2021

Patient Explanation

There is a tone of patient explanation, especially within the church, when political issues are being presented from a liberal perspective.  Two years ago we listened to an explanation about gay marriage that our position wasn't loving, and Jesus was about being loving. The Chesterton training in me rose up and asked (to myself) "Could it not be that you are the one being unloving?  Where does your assurance come from that it is I?" This last year it has been about race, with the reminder that we should be listening to black people - not to mention listening to Goodwhites - about racial issues in the church, the implication being that "You might all be very nice people, but we have thought about this a lot and once we explain some simple things to you you will begin to see that we are right. So let's all study this from that perspective." This is the foundation of the claims that such-and-such a view perpetuates the status quo and white dominance in the church, to take one example. See, you didn't think of that, did you? But we've been thinking about it for years, so it's obvious us to us now. You either have to agree with us or you're perpetuating white power structures.  Not that you mean to. But now you should get it that this is the way it really is. 

Because what else can telling people that they should be listening mean? I can't see another possibility when people are being told to listen.

It is rather insulting to suggest that I haven't thought about these things as much as you have, even if it is delivered in the kind, we're-all-in-this-together tone of kindergarten teachers. I may have thought about it a great deal more.  In fact, I suspect there are pieces of this where I have thought through, or read those who have, to a point of clarity - of seeing that the various opinions and general points-of-view actually coalesce around some central ideas in ways that are unrecognised or even denied. For example, framing everything in terms of power/status/influence might not be a correct Jesus POV, but a materialist or even Marxist one. (To assert that it's going to be about power anyway is simply a restatement that this is indeed your POV.)

Secondly, it is accusing me, personally of bad motives for my ideas. The possibility that they may be correct is sidestepped under the assurance that the views are somehow convenient for me too hold for less-attractive reasons. But once such possibilities are on the table, the table can be turned. If my position is held for bad reasons, we may now look at yours.  What psychological benefit, material gain, additional power, or increased status are on the line for you?  Do you really want to go there? If not, then you should retract your accusation against me that I somehow benefit from these positions.  I may or may not. You can't know.


Korora said...

"The Professor has his own explanation ... he thinks that I am unconsciously motivated by the fact that I ‘stand to lose by social change’. And indeed it would be hard for me to welcome a change which might well consign me to a concentration camp. I might add that it would likewise be easy for the Professor to welcome a change which might place him in the highest rank of an omnicompetent oligarchy. That is why the motive game is so uninteresting. Each side can go on playing ad nauseam, but when all the mud has been flung every man’s views still remain to be considered on their merits. I decline the motive game and resume the discussion." -- C. S. Lewis, "Reply to Professor Haldane"

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I am sure that my quick inclination to upend the motive game came originally from Lewis, who got it from Chesterton. But both of them say such things so much better than I. Thank you for the quote.

It is evidence of one of my favorite sayings of the last few years: "The answer to everything is to read more CS Lewis."

Roy Lofquist said...

There are many very clever sophists who would lead us astray. This does not change the fact that they are evil.

Korora said...

Roy Lofquist:

And in a culture increasingly inundated with the voice of Saruman--or rather his real life counterpart...

Aggie said...

The I'm-morally-superior-but-will-indulge-your-ignorance approach is always the first step in a power play, in my experience.

On this particular subject though, I am highly experienced with racism in many flavors. I have lived for many years in old-time cotton country, and the habits die hard. Many many years ago in the Bank Teller line, I had an older black man subtly step out of line in front of me, and walk around to the back of the line before I figured out what he was doing. Our county courthouse still had, up to about 30 years ago, the two different water fountains, one plain, one fancy (with a chiller). No signs, though, they were just an artifact of the segregation era. There are a myriad of other things I won't go into, experienced long ago first hand, the way society was structured during that era. Terrible things - and some things remarkably decent. And I've also been lucky enough to live in other countries, to see how they address racism in diverse societies (generally very badly). I've been subjected to unpleasantness myself, in countries where white people make up less than 5% of the population. So yes. I don't think I have much to learn from someone providing helpful moral instruction on racism as learned on their Facebook group about racism. Things are pretty good in modern America, by all the measures I have experience with - with the exception of those trying to amass power and influence, using it as their wedge.