Projecting Hostility

I must admit I am confused by the rants in which Roger Pearse is engaging over on his blog. He began by misconstruing what I said in a blog post of my own. Then, when I repeatedly tried to clarify my meaning (which, to be honest, I don’t think was all that unclear to begin with), he has now accused me of “brinking” because I refused to allow him to twist my words and set the terms of the discussion when he had misconstrued my meaning, often in bizarre ways.

I invite all those with skills in dealing with difficult people to try to get Roger to approach this matter fairly and rationally, before he embarrasses himself further by accusing others of the behavior in which he is himself engaging.

The sad irony is that Roger’s behavior illustrates my point. Conservative Evangelicals often project a hostility onto others that simply isn’t there, and may in fact reflect an assumption that others are as hostile to them as they are, deep down, to others. My initial point was the irony of a more exclusive group calling a more inclusive group “less friendly”. I can appreciate a good bit of irony, but things seem to have gotten seriously out of hand at this stage.

Thinking back to my more conservative days, I wonder whether a key reason for maintaining that one is facing hostility even when one isn’t has to do with the Bible. The New Testament reflects contexts in which real persecution (arrest, imprisonment, even execution) were part of the church’s experience. Might one reason conservative Christians treat the world as hostile in this way, even when they live in a country that safeguards their religious freedom, be that if the world they inhabit doesn’t allow for direct application of the New Testament, then they simply don’t know how to make sense of their lives? Could it be the desire for a simple hermeneutic (or conversely, fear of a more complex process of interpretation) that is at the heart of this phenomenon?
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  • Jared

    It might just be an apocalyptic mindset in which if you are not for us (in every detail), you must be against us (e.g., the antiChrist or one of his minions). As someone who formerly thought that way, you (and I for that matter) are even more dangerous. You could more easily seduce others away or “you should know better.” Inclusion, a radically different mindset, then becomes the enemy, the moral cancer of relativism that competes with the exclusive “truth,” keeping it from spreading. I like to quote Herodotus at this point when he says that everyone thinks their own way is right–it levels the field a bit. I remind my students that the Iliad and the Odyssey claim divine inspiration too. So does the Quran…and so on and so forth. Perhaps Hebrews was right: God speaks polumeros and polutropos.

  • Eamon Knight

    Pah. “My followers shall be persecuted as I was” is part and parcel of fundamentalist theology (I speak as another “ex”). If it ain’t happening, it becomes necessary to invent it. The fact that they often find their views (on science, on Biblical history, on whatever) marginalized (by virtue of being at odds with reality) is just grist to the mill.Help! Help! I’m being repressed!

  • Angie Van De Merwe

    I think that identity is contained and defined within the text and group mentality, therefore is threatening to the conservative ego. Ego strength has to do with the past in upbringing, I believe. Whenever someone threatens the understanding of themselves as special, chosen, and inhibits their hope of the “future and vision “God” has given them”, they feel threatened. Their understanding of love is not diversity, but conformity, because their understanding of truth is the “right” and only one. Consevatives have an inability to listen with an open heart because they must give out the truth that they have found, as truth is a destination, or experience and not a journey. The world must be, in this sense, simple because that makes life more bearable and safe. But, part of growing up in faith is understanding that life isn’t simple and protected. And the personalization of our faith is childish.Love is not exclusivistic in regards to understanding. Anyone with understanding of communication theory understands that meaning has to do with a various number of things.The issue becomes for others how to deal with those who are so certain of their faith. Whenever one thinks that they have arrived at truth and must perpetuate their view on others, because it is true, It becomes almost impossible to reason or communicate outside their “box”. But, I think that it is not only conservatives that have this problem, we all do, at various times and in various situations, as it is a self-protective mode, when there has been too much stress or challenge to overcome, for our own ego strength.I think a psychologist of religion would call this way of approaching religion a coping mechanism. It is not healthy faith.

  • Bryan L

    Honestly I don’t know what either of you are trying to say to each other anymore or even what you want from each other. I can see your beef with each other from both of your perspectives: I can see how you think Roger may be becoming too defensive or paranoid (not your words) and I can see how he might think you are not engaging his points or attempting to “brink” (a term I had not heard before but a tactic which I had seen). I think both of you have valid complaints.Maybe y’all can start over and make one or two concise points, let the other respond (just as concisely) and then go from there. I think the conversation is worthwhile to have but there just needs to be better communication and direct engagement. Sometimes too many words just causes confusion.Just a thought.Bryan L

  • Scott F

    I have to agree with Eamon. The Fundamentalist must be persecuted to prove his bonifides. If he isn’t being persecuted then Satan must not feel him to be a threat. Since few of them will put themselves in situations where they might suffer actual martyrdom, they have to invent it in their own lives – you might call them Armchair Martyrs. It is all rather desperate and sad.

  • Jim

    he’s a nutjob. do what i do. ignore him. pretty soon he will slime away into oblivion again.

  • James F. McGrath

    Bryan, I’d love to try. But I did think that’s what I was trying to do: start over, clarify my point, express myself differently.Part of the problem with evaluating the discussion now is that he’s removed a number of my comments, and so I’m not sure whether it is possible to figure out how the attempts at communication went.He’s clearly an intelligent individual who has made useful sources available online when he was under no obligation to do so. I can only assume that perhaps he has heard things about SBL, not being a member himself, or has made some assumptions. But one reason I find his approach to the subject so objectionable is that it is still unclear whether he has ever attended SBL, and to what extent if any his statements reflect actual experience of conferences.

  • Bryan

    Wow. I thought Roger had gone over the edge on this one yesterday. The brinking nonsense is quite odd.It is rich that he erases the posts he considers unfavorable while simultaneously accusing others of behavior that is “immoral” “nasty” and “not natural or normal” (whatever the latter means). Probably no way to pursue dialog in this manner now particularly with him un-approving the posts he wants to hide. However my reading is he was willing to discuss his claims regarding objectivity and bias and his comment: “Isn’t treating the bible as NOT inspired just as much a religious position as treating it as inspired?” Perhaps you can address that point. But he is not willing to discuss the irony implicit in the SBL being labled least friendly to certain viewpoints from an organization that excludes all outside viewpoints.

  • James F. McGrath

    Here are the comments I left that have been removed (for posterity’s sake):“Lynch the Christians”? Why would I want to have myself lynched? Presumably you have brought a great deal of baggage to this subject, and have made some assumptions about where I am coming from. I am sure you will remain persuaded that I am the one projecting, and I’m open to that possibility. But be that as it may, I sincerely doubt that I am the only one.Your response, I might add, illustrates my point. Criticism is treated as persecution by lots of conservative Christians. I know I viewed it that way in my more conservative days. No one has called for Christians to by lynched in connection with this discussion. In fact, what I pointed out is that a metaphorical “lynching” is more likely from conservative Evangelicals than from SBL, but conservatives regularly project their own hostility onto their opponents. Really, could you have illustrated my point better than in your reply above, which clearly not only misses the point of my initial post, but projects onto me and onto the whole discussion a hostility that I certainly didn’t introduce?-Presumably because you don’t want to have people see that the whole “lynch the Christians” thing is not something I reflect, represent, or brought into the discussion.Ironic in a discussion about who is “less friendly”…-I fear this comment may likewise be “unapproved”, but it simply is not the case that at SBL one has to presuppose that the Bible is “untrue”, whether you mean by that theologically untrue or historically inaccurate. Certainly in places where significant evidence has mounted that the Bible does not provide an accurate account, the burden of proof may be on the one challenging the consensus. But the only thing that is typical of SBL is that scholars use agreed-upon scholarly methods. Many of those methods not only do not presuppose scholarly objectivity, but directly challenge it.It really doesn’t sound to me like you are talking about the same SBL of which many Evangelicals are active participants and even leaders. Were you at some point a member? Did you have a negative experience yourself? I’m really trying hard to figure out where you are coming from on this, and why your perception seems so different not only from my own, but from that of many friends and fellow-scholars who find SBL to be not only friendly but nurturing to their scholarship as Evangelicals.-Roger, I’m sure you won’t approve this comment, but what I tried to do (repeatedly, I admit) was to point out that the viewpoint you were accusing me of in my post was not what I actually said or meant. And apparently, in spite of the repetition, I failed. For this I am truly filled with regret. But I don’t understand why, when what I wrote was the starting point for this fiasco, I should be expected to debate what you wished to construe me as meaning, rather than what I actually wrote.

  • Levi

    james, stop brinking! you brinker! btw, i gave your argument some props over at my blog and even offered up an advertisement for ETS 09. It’s really not that funny, but i thought you might enjoy.

  • Ben Byerly

    I say “Let it go; drop it.” If you had some kind of personal relationship that would make it worth working on, that would be one thing. Otherwise, what’s the point?

  • scott gray

    james–do you know about ‘reframing?’ it’s about agreeing on facts between two perspectives, but applying different underlying frameworks of assumptions to the facts to figure out meaning. this seems to be what you guys are at here. when you are being accused of not answering the points brought up in the post, i think pearse is insisting that you address his facts through his frame of reference. he doesn’t seem willing to accept the same facts through a different framework which you are offering. he’s not really interested in seeing any value in your framework. he’s not interested in seeing that commonly held facts, or judgements between the two of you, mean something different to each of you because you hold different assumptions. this ego-centrist view of ‘my assumptions are the only right assumptions’ (as opposed to ‘my assumptions are the best assumptions, though other frameworks exist,’ or ‘my assumptive framework is just one of many frameworks, many with value’) seems to me to be the halmark of a fundamentalist. any attempt to convince pearse of the value of a different framework, to reframe his assumptions, as it were, are taken as an attack by a centrist on his worldview.that’s my opinion about what i see you two doing.peace–scott