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No pie needed

No pie needed June 3, 2009

This is just to say thank you for the conversation in the previous thread.

PecanPie I forgot to do what I usually do following a post that mentions abortion, which is to provide a second open-thread post about pie or baseball or Buffy or some other relatively safe topic as a kind of shelter for those fleeing the stridency and venom that tends to arise in conversations on the topic of abortion. But while there's no shortage of opinions expressed in the comments to the post below, you folks have managed to express those opinions passionately and with an uncompromising frankness, but without nastiness and without precluding the expression by others of a diversity of qualms, questions, concerns and disagreements.

So this here is a celebratory pie rather than a sorry-I-mentioned-that-topic and can't-we-all-just-get-along pie.

One of the many difficulties in any conversation about abortion is that it tends to push a lot of would-be participants off to the side.

The polarized framework for such conversations is pretty well established, but not everyone feels immediately comfortable with the options that framework allows and those folks may be unsure of what it is they want to say or how to say it or — even if they could figure all of that out — if saying it would be allowed.

What I'm getting at isn't that there is a broad spectrum of views, but rather that many people respond to this topic — as to many others — with views that don't fit neatly into place as points on a straight line between Position A and Position B. Because of that, they often have a hard time articulating their own thoughts on the matter. The established vocabulary may not quite get at what it is they want to say and thus the means of expressing it — even to themselves — isn't readily at hand and searching for it may entail a bit more work than they're able to supply while the rest of us are saying to them, "Come on, hurry up and pick a side."

Many of these people therefore, understandably, just avoid the conversation altogether.

That's a problem for at least two reasons. First, some of what it is they don't know how or whether to say might be true, in which case the rest of us need to hear it. And second, some of what it is they don't know how or whether to say might be false, but unless such misconceptions can be expressed and identified, they can never be addressed. So with their voices shunted off to the side of the conversation, persuasion ceases to be an option. There's no way for us to be persuaded of whatever it might be that they may need to persuade us of, and there's no way for us to persuade them either. And I happen to think that conversation and mutual persuasion are really rather important. (What else is there?)

In American evangelical circles, conversations about abortion are nonexistent. The topic comes up all the time, of course, but conversation isn't really allowed. There's no room, no allowance, for discussion — only for agreement with maximum enthusiasm. Even agreement with insufficient enthusiasm can get people into trouble — even though that insufficient enthusiasm is often just an expression of confusion over the fact that the full shape and extent of precisely what it is we're all enthusiastically agreeing to is never clearly stated.

So while I'm not exactly looking forward to such an endeavor, I think this is something that needs to be addressed. I think abortion — the politics of it and, even more so, the posturing over it — is at the heart of what has gone terribly wrong with my people. There is a corrosive cancer in the soul of American evangelical Christianity and I don't think it's possible to address that without addressing the role, place and function that opposition to abortion has come to play within that community. This topic may be of interest to those outside of that community as well because — as the rest of the U.S. and the rest of the world has noticed over the past 10 years — the evangelical influence on American politics tends to have rather large repercussions.

(This may constitute the least tantalizing teaser for future posts ever. Ooooh, more discussion of abortion and evangelical Christianity … I can't wait!)

And but so the point here being that I don't ever want to create simply the mirror opposite of that subcultural echo chamber of unfailing agreement. I want to make sure always to allow space and oxygen for conversation, to keep the possibility of mutual persuasion alive, and to provide a hospitable place for people and perspectives that might not be sure where they fit in the ongoing discussion. The discussion in the previous thread is an example of all of that so, again, thank you.


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