Assumptions, Part 2

If I’m awake at 2 a.m. and still awake at 4:15, and I’m rolling this current controversy over in my mind the whole time, I’m going to guess the Spirit is tugging at me . . . and I’ll happily respond. Even at the risk of disappointing my friends, even at the risk of handing my adversaries more grist for the mill.

My concern here is twofold: One, I want to take responsibility for what I did write (say, do, think), and, two, I want to not have this young woman — the Nuart questioner — to be humiliated by too much discussion of who she is and where she attends school. I don’t know who she is; others do, and I hope they keep it quiet. Her identity isn’t at all germane to this discussion, and now that we all know she’s not, in fact, an NSA student, it’s enough to leave her out of the picture. I don’t want to hold her up by name to any ridicule for a question that, while dumb, and which shouldn’t have been allowed, was apparently asked in sincerity. (One thing: I listened to a recording of her question; I would not have commented as I did based on hearsay or even a printed transcript).

When I posited that the question was asked by an NSA student, my thinking was NOT, “My, what a stupid question. She must be NSA . . . ” That would have been wrong — not just factually wrong, but morally wrong. And yes, it turns out I was factually wrong, and I acknowledge that. (I’m leaving out references to the reasons I made the assumption; you can find that on my blog, and my interest here is not in defending why I concluded what I did). My thinking WAS, “Wow, that question (asked at an NSA forum, etc.) reflects the same kind of anti-Muslim sentiment and bigotry against Obama that I’ve seen from Kirk and NSA leaders . . . She must be
NSA . . . ” I do not believe that to be a sinful assumption. Factually wrong, yes, and the journalist in me is chastened; but neither the thinking that led to my conclusion or my analysis of what an NSA education would bring about in terms of a political, religious worldview was morally wrong. Nor was it carelessly wrought, and I still believe that the education and worldview offered at NSA and through Christ Church is seriously lacking.

Did it embarrass me? Yes. I don’t like pointing out when Dale Courtney screws up. This will sound meaner than I intend it to, but I’d like to never engage with Dale again, period. I will, though, when something offensive comes up. But obviously his very public, very pointed delight in my error wasn’t a lot of fun. (Well, not for me. He and Gary had a ball, and they get to). I don’t do this — study, write, and speak about theology and often, by necessity, through the lens of Christ Church error — because it’s easy, or because I’m preternaturally incisive, or because I love publicity. I do it because it needs to be done, I believe, by someone in the Church. I’m much more concerned with any errors of my heart than with looking foolish for having made a wrong assumption — but I will always try to do better, and, frankly, I handed a freebie to those predisposed to disliking me or making fun of me. Didn’t intend to, but I did. And so what I regret is that I caused other people to stumble. I made it easy for them to — perhaps — engage in less-than-moral mocking and contempt for me. The regret I hold over that — I caused others to stumble, people who I knew would rejoice at my error — is far greater than the embarrassment of having been found to be wrong in my assumption.

Again, my analysis of NSA and its worldview as a failed, flawed system still stands — no matter who asked the question. And obviously Dale has an intense dislike for me, and I gave him a “gotcha!” moment that didn’t bring out the best in him. I take responsibility for that, and for that, I’ve asked the Lord’s forgiveness. I regret, much more than you can likely understand, that it looks to outsiders that Dale and I are fighting like two alley cats, and every day I struggle with what to comment on, what to leave alone, and what to just pray about, just as I do with Doug Wilson’s writings (yesterday’s “homo, queer, poofter, buggary, faggotry” column, for example). I don’t believe that much of what Dale posts is honoring to the Gospel. I do believe that in most cases, silence is, if not assent, then an apathy that borders on the sinful. So I wrestle — not with Dale, not with my public reputation, not with anything other than how to best use the gifts I have to differentiate truth from error, beauty from filth, Christ from the unfortunate proclivities of His followers. I am a much harder critic of myself than Dale, Gary, or anyone else ever will be, and I’m going to ask those of you who are my friends to not try to find ways to slam either of them about this. I always covet your prayers, and I’ll always try to get it right — for the sake of righteousness.

Now, a public acknowledgement of sin: Last week, I posted a sarcastic, throwaway comment on Wilson’s Blog and Mablog regarding an upcoming conference on Father Hunger (it’s been removed, and should have been). I’ve occasionally interacted with Wilson on his blog, but only when I had a point to make. This was just snarkiness on my part, and I emailed an apology to him that I assume he’s accepted. I don’t mind a sharp, pointed observation, but on someone else’s blog, I am a guest, and I didn’t behave like one then. That was a failing, and one I regret.

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