Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Disgrace Speech

Our denomination's resident sociologist of religion Carl Bowman has recently suggested that he desires to see an end to "disgrace speech" in our denomination Disgrace speech is speech that summarily dismisses those we disagree with as somehow being less that worthy. Two of three examples he gives are:
1. “Homophobe.” Some progressives can’t conceive that a tradition-derived ordering of things might be central to the sacred understandings of others, so they reduce conservative commitments to psychological pathology, calling them “homophobes.” The label, and all references to homophobia, should be stricken from Brethren discourse. Even if cases exist where homophobia might be clinically diagnosed, those who invoke the label are rarely clinicians; instead they are progressive partisans who use the term casually and dismissively. The outcome is typically to reduce conservative convictions to irrational pathology. It disgraces them in this fashion.
2. “Biblical morality.” On the issue of homosexuality, conservatives typically invoke this term as an oblique counterpoint to its opposite, which is either “un-Biblical morality,” or “Biblical immorality.” Either way, applauding oneself for one’s “Biblical morality” transparently classifies as “un-Christian” the opposing view. Even if one believes deeply that the progressive view on an issue is indeed un-Christian, furthering one’s position publicly by trumpeting one’s “Biblical morality” has the primary consequence of disgracing others whose convictions and reading of the Bible are different. “Bibical morality” should be the substance of small group study and discussion, not a weapon to be brandished against others.

I agree. While I think that some of the conservative opposition to homosexuality stems from fear some of it also stems from sharp disagreement about biblical interpretation. I think they are wrong, but I don't think it is fair or helpful to just dismiss opposition as homophobic. In fact I am tempted to suggest that many conservatives are more guilty of un-Biblical morality than homophobia. I think they read the Bible far too selectively as they define what is moral or immoral. But in either case I agree that dismissive labeling isn't helpful.

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