Monday, July 12, 2010

Requiem for a Friendship, Part Three

I have been writing, mostly for purposes of catharsis but also for a very important reason that will be revealed at the end of this column, about how a friendship of mine has suffered death by a thousand cuts from political and religious discussion between another party, herein referred to as "Friend", and myself.  Part One covered the beginnings of these discussions, while Part Two showed how the intensity level was ramped up to 11 when Christianity came into it.  Given that both Friend and I are Christian, and given the level of sniping in our discussions, I'm sure the two of us presented a wonderful picture of what Christianity should be.

(Note:  in the interests of clarity, I am presenting my quotes in red, while Friend's will be in blue.)

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

 --I Corinthians 1:10

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

 --John 17:20-21

My interpretation of these particular verses is not that every Christian is going to agree on everything.  Good grief, even Paul had a bitter argument with Barnabas (Acts 15:38), such that they went in totally different directions.  But they both held onto their Christianity, of course.  As time went on, I feared that my discussions with Friend were getting less and less Christian.

In the wake of our quite recent (at the time) discussions of whether Jim Wallis's viewpoint that a government-controlled healthcare system was the best way to provide the best care for this country (unnecessary reminder:  I disagreed with Mr. Wallis), I posted multiple links on my Facebook page addressing the Wallis/Glenn Beck situation, as well as addressing the "Obamacare" bill, which was passed that same week in the Senate.

In the first of those links, Shane Vander Hart took on Mr. Wallis's viewpoint, which Mr. Vander Hart called "akin to wealth distribution".  Friend, of course, could not take this affront to his ideological brother lying down, and so, very quickly, Friend's comment appeared stating, "The problem here is that Shane doesn't know what the gospel is."

(Side note:  it appeared, at least to me, that Mr. Wallis and Friend share the unfortunate tactic of talking down to the opposing side of their respective arguments.  And by the way, I decided to let Friend's comment go unchallenged because I felt it would be a rehash of the same discussion we had just had.  And yes, there was more to Friend's comment, including a book recommendation.  'Cos a guy who hardly has the time to blog is going to rush out and read a long book that, I'm sure, would just mirror Friend's viewpoint anyway.)

The next one, by another friend of mine, Dr. Melissa Clouthier, really got Friend's dander up.  To wit:

More of this horsecrap that calls objecting to the tyranny of the rich "childish". Cut it ouit. [sic]

Gee whiz, I didn't even know I was supporting the tyranny of the rich.  But, as we've seen, this isn't the first time that phrase has slipped into our conversations.  Friend wasn't done, either; within three minutes another comment had appeared:

She says that working for the common good is immoral. ALL CIVILIZATION involves people giving up freedom for the common good. Claiming otherwise is a libertarian fantasy.

Please stop posting this intelligence-insulting, immoral drivel.

And that was where things really started to unravel, because I had had it.  (It may come as a surprise that a blogger does not enjoy having his viewpoints called either intelligence-insulting or immoral.  But it shouldn't.)  My comment was very direct:

Your continued assault on my viewpoint as "intelligence-insulting" is insulting to me. Discuss this civilly or stop commenting on my posts. I value your viewpoint, but it is NOT necessary to belittle my mindset as part of such a discussion.
And I fail to see how our paying for benefits that a lot of irresponsible people failed to plan to pay themselves is at all working for the common good. What we are doing is allowing some people to sit back and let others pick up the slack for them. It's the ant and the grasshopper all over again.

And if you don't like the ant/grasshopper idea, consider Paul's statements in II Thessalonians 3. We are not to be idle, not working for "the bread [we] eat". And far too many people are doing just that and living off the government's largesse.

Is letting people who could be taking care of themselves leech off the system what you think Jesus meant for us to be doing? Because that's exactly what this bill is going to facilitate for a lot of people.

I don't believe Friend's response held to my request for Friend to discuss things civilly:

"a lot of irresponsible people failed to plan to pay themselves"

"the ant and the grasshopper"

"people who could be taking care of themselves leech off the system"

If you think that these things describe the health-care situation in the USA or describe civilization generally, then you are either ignorant or callous.

You grossly misused the scriptures.

Again, your advocacy of those who treat the poor as children for their desire to be protected from the rich is insulting.

The rich of the USA have been playing you for a long time, painting libertarianism as "noble" and "adult". Buying into that means that you have abandoned your sworn duty to stand with the poor: you continue to paint 99% of the world as "mere children" because they don't trust the rich. That sickens me.

I responded:

You cannot throw out a statement such as "you grossly misused the scriptures" without justifying it.

And just because I don't trust government doesn't mean I've thrown myself into the arms of "the rich". This issue is not black-and-white, regardless of how you would like to frame it.

And then Friend, rather than justifying the earlier statement, referred me to a status update Friend had posted linking to an N.T. Wright essay which--big surprise--mirrored Friend's viewpoint.  Big deal.  I can find links that back me up, too.  And I guess that was what I had been doing when Friend butted in to tell me that my opinion was "horsecrap".  But at this point, I was not going to continue to play with Friend in this way.  I had read the Wright essay days before (and I did reread it), and while I didn't agree with it, I did notice that it in no way justified Friend's assertion that I misused scripture, which--and maybe this is just my opinion--should not be an assertion made lightly, particularly without justification.  But in any case, I was not going to continue this ridiculous "he said, Friend said" back-and-forth discussion.

And so I left the discussion at that point.  I hoped that by not firing back, yet again, at Friend, some modicum of civility might be restored.  For a little while it seemed that my hopes were well-founded, as for a few days, there was no further sniping between us.  But then I posted two things that put the final nails into the possibility of future civil discussions.  The first was a link to this post, in which I pointed out that a lot of the MSM were falling over themselves trying to call Tea Party protesters racist.  Friend, of course, had to chime in, saying that I was being "disingenuous, at best":

The tea parties and related gatherings have been full of overt expressions of racism. Lots of people are testifying that similar expressions were made Sunday. Indisputable audio evidence doesn't exist (I assume). Why shouldn't we take the observers at their word?

It is hard for honest, informed people to disbelieve that the Republican southern strategy has used racism to develop opposition to federal social spending. It doesn't surprise us, then, that the tea partiers display overt racism: they are the base to which Republicans have been appealing for 45 years.

So when Olbermann points this out, you distort his words to be "you are all racists."

You also try to exempt Republican leaders from responsibility for this. When Beck, Palin, O'Reilly, and Bachmann sow the wind and reap the whirlwind, then we should recognize it as such. I don't think that any of them want to see violence, but its childish of them pretend [sic] that they haven't contributed to it.

Did you, gentle reader, notice the smooth way that Friend transitioned from "honest, informed people" in one sentence to "us" in the next?  Apparently Friend started this discussion with the preassumption that Tea Partiers and/or Republicans do not fall into the category of "honest, informed people".  Also take note of the way that apparently, to Friend, only conservatives might possibly have followers whose viewpoints are unacceptable.

But Friend's postscript went back to the usual tactic of telling me what I should and should not post.  Quoth Friend:  "If you want to convince honest people of your belief, then don't cite Breitbart. It makes you seem like a partisan hack."  (Note:  I am indeed partisan.  I am not a hack.)

I, having grown weary of the same shtick from Friend, fired back with both barrels:

It is obvious to me that you see in people, and groups of people, only what you want to see. While I will agree that early proponents of the "southern strategy" appealed to some people's racism, for you to say that racism is still what motivates the base of Republicans is totally baseless. Regardless of what the Dems' talking points might be, states' rights and racism are not the same argument.

So yeah, I'm inferring an accusation of racism from both you and Olby. On top of that, I'm inferring a great deal of condescension from you every time you call one of my viewpoints "childish" (and you do it a lot).

And no, I don't think Palin and Bachmann are fomenting ideas of violence. (I haven't seen much of O'Reilly or Beck in a while except for Beck's continued dust-up with Wallis.)

In short--and I hope I'm misreading this--your comment is saying that yeah, Republicans are racist thugs. And I will remain in total disagreement with that conclusion.

p.s. And if I'm a partisan hack for citing Breitbart, you are just as much of one for citing HuffPo.

Friend never responded to this statement.  I can only hope Friend decided that this discussion was just as unproductive as the previous ones, but future events led me to believe that this was not the case.
The second event which put the nails in the coffin was my posting of a Michelle Malkin column about the same events I mentioned in my post.  Ms. Malkin's column took the viewpoint that the left had manufactured a fake hate-crime to pin on the Tea Partiers.

And how did Friend respond?  Of course, by attacking the messenger.  "You need to stop referencing Malkin. She is a demonstrated liar and bigot..."  At this point, I was incredibly tired of being told what not to post.  I certainly didn't tell Friend not to post the Frank Rich NYTimes column from the following Sunday ( which, as one might expect at this point, called the Tea Partiers racists.

No, I decided that the Christian thing to do in this case was not to engage Friend in any discussion whatsoever.  I changed the privacy settings so that, presently, Friend is no longer able to see my posts, thereby leaving Friend unable to comment on them as well.

But, with that said, Friend's status updates still appeared on *my* Facebook news page.  And two of those updates crossed a line.

The first:

Nevermind that she and the right-wing media establishment are willfully misinterpreting the U.S. president, but Sarah Palin is a Constantinian, not a Christian. I quote: "I don't understand a world view where we have to question whether we like it or not that America is powerful."

Friend, who are you to question whether someone else is a Christian or not?  Last I heard, God was in charge of making that determination, and you certainly are not God.  Was Governor Palin's statement Constantinian?  Perhaps it was.  But neither you, nor anyone else in this world, gets to make the call on her characterYour statement was incredibly arrogant and infuriating.

The second:

Mark Davis is a damnable racist, and both the Dallas Morning News and WBAP happily give him platforms for his wickedness. I am furious at him for how much he loves to hurt black people and I'm likewise frustrated at the society that makes our local media essentially untouchable.

Other than that Mark Davis hosts a show at WBAP in Dallas/Fort Worth, I know absolutely nothing about him, but again, Friend, who do you think you are to refer to a person as "damnable"?  IT'S NOT YOUR CALL.  (Given your leanings and your previous postings, Friend, I'm inclined not to believe he's even a racist, but I'm not having that discussion.)

So, Friend (and I know you're reading this), why did I change my privacy settings to let you read this particular post (and, of course, the other two parts through the links posted above)?  Because you and I are still fellow Christians.  First of all, as a Christian, I feel that it is important to call you out for your statements above, which, in my opinion, were decidedly not Christian.

Secondly, and more importantly, I feel called to end this bitterness.  Several of my comments to you in our Facebook discussions were not exactly Christian in nature either, and I feel that we both owe it to God to apologize.

So I'm sorry.  I'm not sorry for my viewpoints, but I am sorry for the way I defended them at times.

And what of you, Friend?  Do we reconcile, acknowledge that we are going to disagree on certain issues, and move forward, or do we part ways now?  It's your call.