Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The need for Intellectual discussion

The reason I've been posting less of late is that I've been engaging some fellow Christians on topics on which we disagree. Specifically, they've been progressive Christians like Allen Brill, Matt Zemek, and J. Collins Fisher.

J. and I have been engaged in a cordial discussion of late on a wide range of issues, from abortion to papal supremacy viz. one's conscience.

J. recently decided that it was time to abandon the thread and move on, which is understandable. What disappointed and surprised me, however, was her reasons for doing so. In her final comment, J. stated,
    The problem w/ trying to have an intellectual discussion of these issues w/ you, ChrisB, is that I'm enabling you to believe that this is about an intellectual discussion. It is not.

    It is about rights. Human rights. God-given rights. *My* rights, and the sentient female-bodied persons who believe as I do (about the autnomy they have over their bodies). Queer people, who want to celebrate their God-given queerness, in the public square, and in the Church.


    This site is about being "In the World, Not of the World": in *my* world, w/ the decisions that I actually face, not some functionally meaningless "angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin/"active vs. passive potential" abstraction. [Ed: the final comment refers to the our abortion discussion and the difference between a blastocyst which has the active potential to develop into an adult human and a skin cell which only has the passive potential to do so.]
Here was my response:
    J., I'd urge you to reconsider abandoning this thread, for this reason: if we are unable to articulate a philosophical, reasonable explanation for *why* we have rights and *why* they are unalienable, then they will eventually be denied and taken away; maybe it won't happen today, tomorrow, next year, or in ten years, but it will happen, as it has always happened throughout history.

    I'm sure that given another consideration, you'd recongize that my "abstract" discussion is in fact *fundamental* to guaranteeing *our* rights, not just those of the youngest of human beings. At some point, J., *every* discussion which seeks to present the ultimate basis for who we are and what we are entitled to and obliged to do will become "abstract". An intellectual discussion thus is *necessary*.

    How does your argument not become a shouting match about what is and is not right? To simply assert that X is a God-given right and leave it at that is not an argument, J., and you know it. It's something which is typically expected of the *other* side of the Christian divide, and I'm disappointed to see you resort to it.

    I mean no offense by this post, J.: we've always had serious discussions in which the issues are discussed thoughtfully, and I'm saddened to see that you have no interest in continuing that in this instance.
I hope that J. is willing to re-engage the discussion, because her final comment is, frankly, dangerous, or more precisely, it is indicative of a position which has important ramifications for public discourse in our nation. If we are unable to have intellectual discussions in which we get to the metaphysical heart(s) of the issues which divide us, what is our alternative?

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