Tuesday, January 20, 2015

a general observation, let's put the "no true scotsman" defense away, especially if it's for "our" team

Whether we're looking at the life and times of a Mark Driscoll or a John Yoder or another hero for this or that team we're past the point where any of us can plausibly say there aren't some very ugly and putrid skeletons in the closets of our respective teams.  Now is not an era (if there ever even was one) to lean heavily on a "no true Scotsman" defense of "our team". 

In general it seems that it doesn't matter what the team is.  It could be Mark Driscoll or it could be Tony Jones or it could be John Yoder or Richard Dawkins or someone else.  Someone says or does something incendiary and a defense can be made on the idea that whatever bad might be historically associated with X is because X wasn't really that way but was Y.  Reality can be otherwise.  Just as it would be impossible to understand the Crusades without reference to religion it would be impossible to understand the Crusades with reference only to religion.  Wars don't get fought over religious ideals alone but over competitions for scarce resources.  Eliminate all the religions in the world and our supply of clean water does not thereby grow, does it?  Eliminating religion will not increase the labor market or put more food on the tables of people any more than making everyone adhere to this or that religious view will.  While a Hitchens, perhaps, could try to make a case that atheisms become malignant when they are treated like religions (i.e. Stalinist purges) that is itself ultimately a variation of "no true Scotsman". 

It's too easy to remind everyone else of the informal fallacy.  Knowing what it is doesn't make us immune from leaning on it to rationalize our own team allegiances. 

So there's some rumblings to the effect that a certain emergent leader handled a divorce badly.  Mistakes were made that someone was grieved by and apologized for?  Doesn't ... that ... sound kind of familiar?  Back in 2013 when the plagiarism controversy erupted there were those advising against taking those who were leveling accusations in public against the successful minister seriously.  There may still be people who think that Driscoll was somehow cyber-lynched rather than in some sense hoist with his own petard.  If quoting Driscoll accurately, in context, and with meticulous citation was all it took for Wenatchee The Hatchet to get identified as a watchblog or Driscoll critic then the bar was set remarkably low.  Wenatchee The Hatchet is a moderately conservative Reformed type and never really stopped being what would colloquially be identified as evangelical.  It could have been easy to decide to do what too often happens at evangelical blogs and fret about the threats from outside.  That didn't seem wise.  What seemed more necessary was to document the problems within the team. 

Would someone propose that it's bad form and bad theology to air the dirty laundry of the spiritual community?  Ever read the Book of Judges, ever, even once in your life?  Ever read even one of the prophetic books in the Bible?  It's strange to think how blind an eye some people turn to internal critique when the critique may be directed at someone they really dig because internal critique is how the majority of the biblical books, especially in the Old Testament, ever got written to begin with. 

At the risk of revisiting in quotes some things shared earlier (on September 25, 2014):
1. We must educate ourselves on how publishing and media industries work because the last year's worth of Driscoll scandals shine a light on how those industries may have made him a star to begin with.

2.  An unstinting internal critique of the actions and ethics of people on "our" team is vital and must be sustained and maintained even if it is awkward and painful. 
3. Identity politics as usual is not only not a way forward, it was one of the key reasons none of the last year's controversies did not come to light earlier.  This needs to change.

4. The last year's worth of controversy are simultaneously a commendation and condemnation of the state of "Christian" journalism and associated punditry, but the alternative is not necessarily blogging or "just" blogging, but a reappraisal of our ethics and interests in the public sphere
5.  Christians should not operate under the illusion that "our" heroes are not also capable of being monsters.
6.  We should attempt to understand the scandals associated with Mark Driscoll as indicative of the crimes and passions we excuse or berate in our various heroes as a mirror to critique our own loyalties and ethics.

It's one thing for an Evans to write that we must protect people over reputations but it remains to be seen whether when the shoe's on the other foot that's what happens. Looks like we'll get to find out how this plays out.

Meanwhile, Wenatchee The Hatchet's thinking about revisiting some string quartets by Rochberg.

No comments: