Parry And Thrust With Ashwin

I really appreciate dialoguing with Ashwin, who comments regularly on the blog — you can read them at the end of the posts. But I’m dismayed that he thinks that my disagreements with, in this case, the Crazy Demon-Obsessed People and the “Satan curses the womb” Bible study leader took the form all those years ago of angry outbursts and blistering interaction. He thinks I’m a really angry woman, easily set off and entirely likely to erupt in verbal volcanics at the slightest provocation.

Kind of not, actually.

I doubt that Ashwin and I will ever have the opportunity to sit down over a cup of coffee, and that’s too bad. I think, though, that he sees me through a framework, whether informed by culture, theology, practice or experience, that pictures dissent as arguing, arguing as anger, anger as belligerence, and belligerence as damaging. That’s an interesting point of view, but it can lead, I think, to an unfortunate leap from “dissent” to “belligerence.”

Belligerence is, indeed, damaging. It’s always wrong, never productive; Ashwin and I agree on that. But dissent doesn’t have to lead to viciousness in dialogue or practice. That assumption is dangerous in itself — good arguments are disregarded, or feared, because “argument” is taken not as “valid point,” but “fight.” Ashwin and I clearly would argue this point; we might even have an argument over it. But I don’t think that leaping off the dock of dissent always results in swimming in the shark-infested waters of anger, disrespect, and loss of self-control. Far from it.

I wish the Church fought more — against the bad stuff, against sin. But to sprint from “dissent” to “belligerence” in framing debate, while appearing noble, can actually be cowardly. I wish that Ashwin were more able to simply read my words, which I don’t think are belligerent or vicious or damaging, without assuming that what’s behind them is an angry woman. There are things that make me angry, and ought to make him angry, too. Frankly, if you’re not angry about much of what happens in the world, you’re either not paying attention or you’re too damned comfortable.

But there’s a difference between feeling anger and being an angry person, and I suspect that “angry woman” is the real point here. My sense is that Ashwin’s filter results in a processing of my writing that dresses what I say with a little extra burden of ” . . . as a woman.” You know — as in, “she analyzes Wilson’s theology AS A WOMAN,” or “AS A WOMAN, she dares to confront Crazy, Demon-Obsessed People,” which I think can drift toward a cultural viewing, particularly in the Church, of women’s anger and women’s beliefs as vaguely irrational and emotion-fed even before that apparently inevitable point of bitchiness is reached. It becomes, then, not my point that’s considered, but the MAKING of that point, as a woman, that adorns it with the burden of presumed irrationality, emotion, and even inappropriateness.

I wonder if to Ashwin I’m “she who dares to speak apart from her husband’s covering.” It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard that. I think that Jeff doesn’t engage with people while carrying the burden of gender expectations and misconception, primarily because men haven’t had to wrestle with that one; he has that in common with Wilson, Ashwin, and every other man motivated to speak out. Their words stand on their own — no layers of emotion, hormones, or irrationality to peel away. Doug Wilson has literally written the book on the use of sarcasm and biting interaction and has garnered a well-earned reputation for his ability to verbally fillet opponents. He’s heir to the mantle of Chesterton in Ashwin’s eyes; I write passionately and strongly about very real problems of conduct and doctrine, and the presumption is that I’m just flying off the handle. That’s instructive.

While I’m acutely aware that I speak sharply, even cross the line on rare occasions, for which I’ve always apologized, I can’t help but wonder if Ashwin reads my words on their own, or if they arrive to him only seen through a filter of Woman Speaking. I am convinced that the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life requires that I be kind, which usually, but not always, involves being nice. Sometimes it doesn’t; “nice” can be an impediment to truth-telling and insight, but unkindness is never called for. Meanwhile, Ashwin’s hero Wilson is neither particularly nice nor even terribly kind in his writing — and that writing quite often leads to the sort of pastoral involvement that’s quite unkind in burdening the flock. It’s true that Wilson doesn’t seem to get angry very often, but he’s got snottiness down to a “T.” While it’s not real ladylike to say so, that doesn’t make it less true. Besides, I value being a strong woman over being a lady, and I value truth and righteousness, even righteousness in anger, more than anything else. “Snotty” fits here — “homos,” “aging hippies,” “druid lesbian softball coaches,” and harangues against the “litur-gay,” anyone?

There is no point worth making that can’t be made kindly. Likewise, even the strongest words in dissent of error or in defense of truth don’t have to slide inexorably into abusive anger. But fear of genuine debate, a preference for niceness over substance, and an assumption that the gender of the speaker is itself the filter through which words are studied is part of what’s led Evangelicalism to the irrelevant, ineffective, and inane cultural game of catch-up it’s been engaging in for the last 50 years or so. Prophetic voices come from women and from men; so do erroneous ones. But let’s take the words themselves and not assign perspective, or make conclusions about her or his character, to the speaker on the basis of gender.

One Response to “Parry And Thrust With Ashwin”

  1. Ashwin says:

    Kind of not actually?

    You have already erupted at the slightest provocation. You have read into my words what was never put in and have produced the very long post above in response to the suggestion that you might have been hasty in your judgement of certain people.

    And you have given me no reason to revise that stand. You ARE hasty in your judgement of certain people.

    I can even characterise the people you are eager to judge – they are invariably those who don’t agree with your POLITICAL views.

    And you have also led me revise my view that you were trying to build a bridge to leftists. You ARE a leftist. Notice that your have leveraged your gender in making certain points – a strategy popular with a certain type of radical.

    I maintain that your treasure is in your ideology. It should be in Heaven.

    Repent (i.e. change your paradgim).

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