A preferential option against Christian apologists

I should have known better. Over the years, this blog has drifted away from its initial primary focus on theology, and I thought we had finally reached a point where it might be possible to discuss abortion without being mobbed by Christians. I was wrong, and the resulting discussion was a great example of the ways that typical Christian argumentative tactics clog and ultimately shut down any genuine conversation. (Disclaimer: not every individual who identifies as a Christian is guilty of all this, etc., etc., etc.)

The two key moves are, first, to presuppose some established orthodoxy and, second, to attempt to make people feel guilty for not adhering to it. So for instance, once the Christian onslaught began in the abortion thread, comments came out simply presupposing fetal personhood — which then provided natural guilt-inducing material, allowing them to speak of the duty of a “mother” to her “child,” of “vulnerable human beings,” etc. As if that wasn’t enough, I was accused of being disrespectful of the pro-life position and the people who held it (so that the pro-life men with their hurt feelings were the real victims here!), and then in a final bullshit move, I was smeared as adhering to the philosophy of Ayn Rand. (The fun continued in e-mail discussions that reached such a point that I felt compelled to set up a filter on Gmail to prevent messages from a particular person from ever reaching my inbox again.)

Abortion is obviously an extreme example, but long time readers can probably remember similar patterns with other violations of orthodoxy: for instance, not “respecting” the trend toward strong ecclesiologies in academic theology, failing to recognize that Karl Barth has so radically revamped Christian theology that all standard critiques of Christianity are essentially invalid and we have to start from scratch, etc., etc. Such argumentative tactics have marred our discussions for too long, but the abortion thread marks a breaking point for me, where it was clear that my tolerance for Christian apologetics was making the thread an unwelcoming environment for anyone with non-Christian (or differently Christian) views — not to mention creating a great deal of personal distress for me, as I began to have flashbacks of the kind of intellectual and emotional bullying that I was subject to throughout my upbringing and college career among conservative Christians.

Hence I rule that the AUFS Comment Policy necessarily implies a preferential option against Christian apologists. Comments by such people almost by definition fall afoul of the provisions against personal attacks on or psychologizing of AUFS bloggers, against telling us about things we already know, and above all, against boring comments. For the foreseeable future, enforcement will be harsh (I am leaving comments open in the hope of getting some good practice!), in order to break any perceived hegemony of Christians over the commenting community and make space for the wide range of views and philosophical commitments that are represented by AUFS’s silent majority.

Let us begin together a renewal of the comment threads — let a million lurkers delurk!

10 thoughts on “A preferential option against Christian apologists

  1. I’ll bite the de-lurking bait. I think this is a good emendation to the comment policy. The thing about theology blogging is that once you’ve been classified that way you can never go back. An army of pastors and divinity school grad students quietly wait for an opportunity to counsel you about your deviations from an orthodoxy you never or only briefly espoused. Even if you don’t post about theology for months at a time. I’ve experienced the same thing on a much, much smaller scale.

    I hope the comment threads are rejuvenated. They’ve always been the best part of this blog, but a little sparse lately.

  2. I just spoke to a colleague earlier this week who has “retired” after his church voted him out as pastor, by a vote of something like 19-18, for not doing enough with the American flag on Memorial Day. He said a letter was sent to the congregation by someone saying “if he doesn’t believe in America, what else doesn’t he believe in?” and painted themselves as victims of a hostile liberalism invading their corner of the backwoods of Pennsylvania (now that there’s GPS, the left can find us!). I applaud your qualification that not all Christians are this way, a point that should be obvious but not to many, and wish we could have more of a discussion within churches about this pervasive rhetoric that happens there.

  3. i’ve noticed that you get a lot of axe-grindy comments here, but i hadn’t noticed that they skewed christian. deleting tendentious comments is a wise practice, more power to you.

    the comment i would have made in that thread had it not been closed was actually a question, perhaps i can still ask it – the idea of a woman implicitly ratifying or acquiescing to a pregnancy by continuing it past a certain number of days/months, that’s a great idea that i was surprised i’d never come across. is that something you came up with, or is it out there in the literature? if this is an idea that’s been written about i would really appreciate a cite or two. thank you.

  4. That abortion comment thread was a mess. I’m tempted to think it was in part because your post lucidly exposed sentimentalised Christian pro-life rhetoric as a violent misogynistic discourse of power and control. And that simple truth is fairly unbearable for people who think of themselves as moral, ethical, blah. So of course the response is be part more passive-aggressive guilt (because topping from the bottom is so hot, fellas) and part just plain aggression.

    Though I did have to laugh at “and you call this a Christian position?” Won’t somebody pleeease think of the Christians?

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