Saturday, October 29, 2011

Blessings and Curses, Part 3b

I had a priest tell me once, "Never get into a Scripture spitting contest with a Fundamentalist...you'll lose every time." While to a certain extent true, I feel I must say that this particular priest was the stereotypical example of an Anglican cleric: he was smug, arrogant, and probably could not have quoted a bible verse to you off the top of his head to save this life. Likewise, if you had asked him how one defined "a Fundamentalist," he probably would not have been able to give you a coherent definition.

"Fundamentalist" is often used by mainline churchy types (and the New Atheists for that matter) much the same way people now use the term "Nazi" in everyday conversation. That is to say, they view the very accusation of being a "Fundamentalist" as the ultimate rhetorical trump card. If you can just label your debating opponent as a "fundamentalist" or a "Nazi," then somehow they assume they have won the argument, and the debate is suppose to end. For example, a teacher corrects a student's grammar, and the student retorts, "Well! You're just being a grammar Nazi!" Somehow being linked with the Nazis is suppose to end the debate, regardless of whether the teacher making the grammatical correction is correct or not.

The same is true with the term "fundamentalist" in most modern, mainstream religious discourse, as if "fundamentalist" is the ultimate zinger of an accusation. If one is engaging in polemics and not actual debate for the sake of learning and the general betterment of one's own position and thinking, then that tactic is valid. If one is actually trying to search for the Truth, then such rhetorical tactics are little more that tit-for-tat point scoring that neither proves nor disproves one's argument logically. One might say such discourse is non sequitur, which is Latin for "does not necessarily follow."

To toy with people's minds, if I ever get accused of being a fundamentalist, I usually short circuit that rhetorical "gotcha" trap by saying, "Well, maybe I am. If being a fundamentalist literally means I have baseline fundamental principles, what's wrong with that?" I love saying that in such a context because you can literally (no pun intended) watch the wind go out of the sails of your opponent's ship because they have no earthly idea how to respond because they thought in playing the ultimate insult, they would win the game, only to find that you trumped their trump card and upped the ante to a whole different level by making them try to define their bogeyman insult. Logically, at this point, they either try (and fail) to give a definition of fundamentalist and usually drop the subject because (at least if they have two brain cells to rub together) they realize that such labels are really at best a shibboleth that has little meaning or at worst bigoted in nature.

I bring this up because I think some of the readers of this blog (and facebook commenters) would portray my letter writer as a "fundamentalist," and as such simply wrote him (or her) off. In my research on this topic of blessings and the bible, I have not yet run across a good treatise on this issue that takes the writer's theological notions of blessings seriously. I found a lot of the responses that people wrote to me in private very dismissive. And some of that I think is justified, as it was somewhat threatening and unsigned, but had the writer actually signed it, I am convinced had I posted it the same way, people's reactions would have been the same. Suffice is to say, "Well, she's a fundamentalist...and you know how those people are." Nothing gets under my skin more than when well meaning and intelligent Christians start making snarky comments, either directly or indirectly, about those people, in whatever context or manifestation those people might be made. Again, I think we have to be careful when we get that kind of smarter-than-thou attitudes because Jesus went out of his way to hang out with those people.

As such, I find myself in the curious position of actually defending my anonymous letter writer at least in one way. I think I need to actually layout from Scripture a rationale for the Blessing of the Animals that my letter writer could understand. She, or he, would probably never agree with it, but I am, upon further consideration, going to start by laying out just such a rationale based on Scripture and go from there. Interestingly, I could find no such exposition online. So, instead of being snarky and blowing off my writer as one of those people, I am going to attempt to answer the questions posed on his or her level. I will probably fail, but I think I can make a stand alone analysis based on Scripture. Then I will delve into theology in subsequent posts.

Please stay tuned...

1 comment:

The Underground Pewster said...

Looking forward to it.