Why Can’t We All Get Along?

Written by Father Bill 2 Comments

Why can’t we all get along?I think the conversation in the previous blog (“Tuning Forks, Iconic Men, and Masculine Resonance”) has pretty well run its course.  I thank Seamus and Michael both for their spirited exchanges in the comments. 

I’ll not engage each of Seamus’ criticisms as Michael has attempted to do.  Rather, I’ll indicate briefly why I mostly discount his criticism.  My reasons further explain how I answer a common plea offered by squishy complementarians and egalitarians alike ? why can’t we just get along?
 
First an observation on Seamus’ reliance on logic …

Time will temper that confidence, though it may take a while.  I had similar confidence in logic at that age, and it took me a couple of decades to retreat from it.  Actually, it’s not logic per se that captured my imagination.  Rather I was captivated by what I supposed was its short, straight route to truth. 

I eventually acknowledged what I heard at the age of 21 from the head of my undergraduate philosophy department (philosophy was my major):   “Logic makes nothing true.  It is a vehicle you may use to travel anywhere you please.  The most rigorously logical conclusions may be false; and the most illogical conclusions may be true.” 

Next, Seamus’ and others of his generation, when they offer their services as a guide to the unlearned (or, the illogical), lack standing for two reasons:  their youth, and the  parochialism that attends youth.  It’s the parochialism, the historical provincialism (a common feature of youth), that renders  egalitarians’ advice suspect.  In the case of egalitarians who are a tender 19 years old, I concur with Michael that their entire intellectual, moral, and cultural compasses are fashioned, formed, informed, and motivated by a feminist gestalt. 

The result?  They do not even understand the things we’re discussing here. 

You see, the world underwent a Copernican-like change in the area of the sexes before today’s crop of 20-somethings was born, and they are members of the second generation to be reared entirely within an educational, legal, cultural (and, probably, ecclesiastical) matrix that itself is commitedly feminist.  When people like Michael and me, who actually inhabited a pre-feminist culture, listen to apologists of the ascending feminist culture, we recognize that they do not know what WE are talking about as they critique the remnant of Western patriarchal values.

For two millennia, ever since the days of the Apostles, the Church has confessed and  taught and practiced the idea that men and women are profoundly different, that these differences are constitutional, divinely designed, and more than merely biological, that the moral and social dimensions of sexual distinctives are the critical differences for human happiness, productivity, and spirituality.  Oddly, the Church has never defended these ideas for the simple reason that they were never challenged until the mid 1950s!

In the current disagreements between the sexually orthodox and the egalitarians, our convictions conflict with those of the baptized feminists (aka “egalitarians”) in ways that show up in the disagreements between Seamus (and those who analyze things as he does) and Michael (along with myself and others like us) concerning the notion that men are saviors in ways that women are not and never should be.  But, these disagreements are, finally, “symptoms” of a far more fundamental disagreement about the nature and relationship of the sexes.  
 
However, the overwhelming reason we discount the egalitarian critique is this:  when it comes to matters where the Christian faith offers true certainty ? based not on logic, but on authority ? egalitarians dismiss this authority.  In the final analysis, Michael and I (and others like us) accept the Bible’s authority where it speaks to the issues under discussion here.  Modern-thinking folk like Seamus do not.

How do I know this?  A couple of touchstones are sufficient.

First of all, the idea that men are divinely created saviors arises from Biblical narrative, pattern, precedence, and prescription.  Peter tells us, for example, that women are “the weaker vessel.”  Seamus argues with vigor  that they are as strong as men.  Why should I credit him when Christ’s Apostle has spoken in contradiction to his profession? 

Another example ? Seamus is offended that Michael draws a conclusion from his boast that he wears his hair as long as Aragorn.  Then he dismisses Michael with a litany of contrary examples from history.  Leaving aside whether the historical evidence he adduces is factually accurate (about Jesus’ hair, for example) or relevant, Christ’s Apostle tells us flat out that long hair is a shame to a man.  Seamus glories in it.  What conclusion (we’re supposed to be logical, right?) am I supposed to draw about Seamus’ relationship to Apostolic teaching?  That he feels no shame with long hair is irrelevant.  I’m sure he feels no any shame at all.  But, either Paul or Seamus are correct; one of them must be wrong (logic again, right?).  I choose Paul; Seamus does not.   

That he chooses as he does is a touchstone for me as I ponder his view of the Bible.  If the Bible tells me that women are weaker than men, that long hair is a shame to a man while it is a glory to a woman, if it tells me and shows me a great many similar kinds of things about the nature and relationship of the sexes, I will take those things as a starting point in my ponderings on the implications. 

Egalitarians do not do this.  They routinely dismiss egalitarian-unfriendly narrative, patterns, precedents, and prescriptions in the Bible.  This is one reason Michael and I discern the feminist framework from which Seamus critiques us.  We’ve heard these kinds of critiques many times before, from those who do not quibble with wearing the feminist moniker.


2 Comments

  1. Seamus   |  Wednesday, 04 April 2007 at 7:02 pm

    I would like to say in response that authority on some of these matters is much less stable than you might think. I have attempted, throughout my argument, to cite Scriptural passages that seem to me to be quite relevant to the discussion. Particularly, I believe many of the actions and words of Christ seem to support my views. I can find many other examples from the Old and New Testaments as well for various points I’ve tried to make (again, what about Samson?). Your own arguments rest less on Scriptural passages than they do on tradition, culture, and a particular kind of interpretation–again, this does not mean your views are untrue, just unsubstantiated by logic and, hence, by authority, because you have to use logic to get from authority to everyday applications of authority.

    For example, your view than men should fight wars to defend women is backed up largely by your reading of Christ’s sacrifice. You assume (not prove, or explain) that 1) Christ acted in a way all men (and importantly, NOT all women) should, 2) Christ was incarnated as a Man and not a woman for this very reason, 3) the concept of Christ’s Bride is meant to be universally analagous to actual brides, and not simply a very apt incidental analogy about the joyful expectation of a divine Savior (which is the most immediate context of Jesus’ words on the subject), 4) Christ’s nonviolent spiritual sacrifice is in some way analogous to a human man’s violent physical sacrifice, and the list goes on. I don’t disagree with all of these assumptions, but they are, importantly, assumptions. Literarily, you are reading the symbols of sacrifice in an interesting and perhaps true way, but that is your act, not necessarily God’s stated Truth.

    Similarly, regarding sexual dimorphism in the human soul as well as body, I came across this passage the other day, and I’d like to know your thoughts:

    Matthew 22:28-30 :
    “Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.” Jesus answered and said unto them, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
    For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.”

    Do angels have different sexes? Or is there another explanation to this passage? Realize that I’m merely doing here what you are doing with the Savior and Bride analogy: considering a statement and extrapolating it to reach a more general hypothesis: if angels are sexless, and men and women will be as angels, in Heaven, then men and women will be sexless in Heaven. If God’s will is done on earth as it is in Heaven, then the souls of men and women should not be sexual differentiated here. Again, this is not airtight, but neither are you when you make your statements about. And both of us are interpreting Scripture (“authority”) to be used as premises in our own arguments, not as direct and unequivocal revelations.

    And regarding societal influence and age: I don’t intend any offense by this, but it’s been shown that the human mind becomes more fixed as it ages–not less wise, but more fixed. Psychologists call this “crystallized intelligence.” In contrast, youth have more creative and searching minds–not smarter, but more creative. Psychologists call this “fluid intelligence.” I mean nothing personal by this, and have the utmost respect for both you and Michael’s years of experience. But I say this because you should realize that you really more the products of the culture around you than I am, since it has been influencing you longer, and since you have reached a settling point on these issues. The culture that influenced you, at first at least, was predominantly in line with the complementarian views you now hold. (Michael himself said this when he pointed out that I have no direct experience with “the world feminism destroyed,” I believe was his phrase.) This is all well and good, and in no way does this mean that your views are untrue. But you cannot rationally argue that my views are untrue simply because I’ve grown up in one culture or another. And again, I’d like to point out that I was homeschooled and raised in the church.

    Also, though I find your advice to me in this latest post to be acceptable in light of the situation, I want you to know that you cannot hope to influence this generation with the tactics you, and particularly Michael, are used to employing. You could have tried to persuade me as an adult, instead you mock my age, give overly generalized and pejorative labels to the things I say, patronize me, condescend to me, draw unflattering caricatures of me, dismiss me when it’s convenient for you, and accuse me of elitism, hypocrisy, precociousness, impertinence, and even irrationality and insanity.

    Father Bill, you’ve been gentler in these injustices than Michael has, but consider your last statement: “we’ve heard these kinds of critiques before.” You think that gives you an excuse not to address them? Or an excuse to ignore me? I am not merely a stinging gadfly, I am a human soul, and I am not simply one of many faceless critics of “these kinds,” I am an individual seeking enlightenment and salvation. If these theological points are truly so important to you, you have committed a grave sin in attempting to alienate me as you have done. I asked for bread, you gave me a stone. I asked for an egg, you gave me a scorpion.

    It is your intention to change the world for the better, is it not? It’s your goal to make people hear the Word of God, correct? Or do you really feel justified in withdrawing into your own concept of the Truth, and closing the doors against undesirable questions? You’ve left an entire generation outside, as well as many, many thinking people of other generations.

    Again, young people have questions, it’s a God-given desire. Suffer the little children. Out of the mouth of babes. Let no one despise you because you are young. Please, answer them with patience, and please, try to make sure that your answer makes sense in the contexts of what they observe around them. If it doesn’t, explain why. Explain why women have been practicing kung-fu for centuries in China, or explain why this is irrelevant. I am well aware of the bounds of logic, and the beginnings of faith. But I truly want to understand His world, and understand WHY I should do virtuous and not sinful things (can anyone be considered a sincere practicioner of a religion if they are simply doing what they’re told? What about conscience, the Holy Spirit, absolute truth, the knowledge of good and evil?). What I can’t explain with logic, I will try to accept by faith. But please, help me know the difference.

    This is what all young people, deep within themselves, feel–a desire to know. Feed that, do not belittle them and call their zeal misdirected, or improper.

    I earnestly entreat you to abandon any inertia or self-satisfaction you might feel, and henceforth, actively and humbly commit to a more loving attitude and more patient approach to young people and the questions they bring you. Not for my own sake, but for the sake of those like me who are reading your words, or whom you encounter in the outside world every day.

    Sincerely yours, I remain–not the “critic” you paint him to be, but the friend you failed to recognize. I forgive you, and bless you.

    Seamus

    Two post-script points:

    I hope you understand that the long hair statement was not really meant as a boast, I was mostly attempting polite sarcasm about how stereotypically “manly” I am (since Michael thought I might be a woman) by playing to an established motif of manliness (which long hair has, I assure you, been since before Paul). I didn’t quite expect Michael to turn it around and consider it serious or a strike against me, which was the cause of my incredulity. I’m sorry that has had to become a major point in the discussion.

    I also would be interested in reading any posts you might write on the ethical nature of violence and warfare, since I realize that many of my questions, which hypothesized qualities about the “ideal” Christian man, relied on what I think may be different perspectives on violence from your own.

  2. Michael   |  Thursday, 05 April 2007 at 3:54 pm

    > Again, young people have questions, it’s a God-given desire.

    Hello Seamus,

    Cool, but there is a difference between youth trying to instruct us and youth asking questions. We’ve been instructed plenty for the supposed errors our antiquated beliefs as to the new-found truths in the Bible, which I hope will explain why we hit the ground running when we were getting another dose of it from you. I realize that probably doesn’t help you much personally for us to do that. We should have more compassion for those who have been exposed to this ‘feminist, post-modern, everything’s relative, there’s no absolutes, can’t legislate morality, diversity & tolerance’ propaganda from the cradle.

    > This is all well and good, and in no way does this mean that your views are untrue.

    It is good to hear that you are not saying Fr. Bill is definitely wrong.

    > Psychologists call this “crystallized intelligence.”
    > Psychologists call this “fluid intelligence.”

    Things are way too fluid today. No foundation to society, only sand, and they insanely/foolishly think that is “progress.” A little solidarity and flint is needed under the circumstances.

    > You assume (not prove, or explain) that… 3) the concept of Christ’s Bride is meant to be universally analagous to actual brides

    Paul says as much in the latter half of Ephesians 5: husbandly sacrifice, wifely submission, and all the rest. It is really hard to ignore, which is why feminists go at it with pick-axes.

    > You assume (not prove, or explain) that… 2) Christ was incarnated as a Man and not a woman for this very reason.

    [Yikes, not that again!] The Bible says Christ is the second Adam and He came to undo the curse of the first Adam, so that makes his manhood rather necessary. If he was a woman, he couldn’t have been the second Adam. The strong protect/lay down their lives for the weak. Women are called the weaker vessel, so why would Christ have come as a woman? He is also our Great High Priest. What were all the priests in the Old Testament by command of God? He’s also our King, the son of David. Kings are male. It isn’t that hard to figure out. It all goes together quite nicely, unlike feminism’s “logic.”

    Despite what the Bible says, egalitarians want any sexual distinctives to be removed as being artificially created by society. Totally contrary to this reasoning, Paul *strengthens* gender distinctions by requiring different modes of dress before God: covered and uncovered heads. Even the length of hair is discussed. That doesn’t sound the least bit egalitarian — to draw attention to the differences to such an extent. Even “conservative” Christians have tossed this one. And despite the story of Sampson, Paul tell his Christian readers (please read slowly): “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her?” Sampson is an historical episode about one man, the Corinthians is an apostolic teaching for “the churches of God” [1 Cor 11:16], addressed specifically to “all who in every place call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Cor 1:2]. Which should carry more weight for believers, what Paul teaches, or the fact that Sampson had long hair? Which is more “logical” to use as a basis for one’s beliefs about men and women? Which is more “authoritative”?

    [I don’t know if you’ve heard me say it one of the many times I have, but my cut-off line, allowing for differences throughout history, is that hair above the shoulders is “medium-to-short.” (Which means we’ve gotten used to calling short hair on women “long,” though they didn’t say so in the 1920s, when Flappers started cutting it that way. In other words, “page-boy” cuts are for boys.) To be a covering, hair needs to be *long,* like it used to be understood to be.]

    Your reference to angels: the point in Matthew seems to be that angels do not marry. Angel biology is beside the point. It is sociology that is the issue. Elsewhere, we are told we will have resurrected bodies like Jesus. Is the only begotten Son of God sexless in His glorified state?

    > “For example, your view than men should fight wars to defend women is backed up largely by your reading of Christ’s sacrifice.”

    No, check the Old Testament. Lots of references to men protecting their women and children there. I don’t recall any female ninjas with Gideon or Joshua. Who is Joshua talking to here when he made his big speech taking command before going in to conquer the land?

    “Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle shall REMAIN in the land which Moses gave you BEYOND the Jordan, but you shall CROSS before your BROTHERS in battle array, all your valiant warriors, and shall help them, until the Lord gives your BROTHERS rest, as He gives you, and they possess the land…” [Joshua 1:14] In the next chapter, Rahab the harlot helps the spies out, but not with sword play.

    > I also would be interested in reading any posts you might write on the ethical nature of violence and warfare…

    I am not one of those violence-infatuated males, or mindlessly patriotic hawks. I was an officer in the Marine Corps for nine years, though.

    > 4) Christ’s nonviolent spiritual sacrifice is in some way analogous to a human man’s violent physical sacrifice, and the list goes on.

    If you think He’s non-violent, read Revelation. How high was the blood?

    Well, time’s up for this go-around.

    Take care and have a blessed Easter, if I don’t get back here before then.

    –Michael

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