Dale Courtney points out today on a blog post devoted to me and my bigotry, faulty reasoning, and general obnoxiousness that I mistakenly attributed a stupid question at Friday’s NSA candidates forum to an NSA student. The young woman was not, Courtney says, an NSA student, nor is she a Kirker in any other way. In order to give context to my acknowledgment of error and my defense of my assumption, it’ll be necessary for me to reprint my original comments from Vision 2020 yesterday, expressing my dismay at the content and inappropriate nature of the question, which was posed to local candidates for local and state office and was initially phrased as “the Christian-Muslim” thing:

From Vision 2020:

This is very sad.

I’m sure this very pleasant young woman has now had most of her political positions and preferences confirmed now that Ringo, Brown, Schroeder, et al, failed to weigh in on the “what to do with Muslims who threaten my Christian friends in Boise?” question. The fact that the question is offensive, absurd, and entirely not what local elections are about tells me that the education she’s receiving — would that be NSA? — is woefully lacking. Adding to it, with what appears to be genuine befuddled sincerity, is the query about Obama’s faith.

A man who publicly claims Christ as his Lord and Savior, as Obama has, surely isn’t a Muslim, because in doing so, he puts himself at risk if he were, indeed, a Muslim. Now, public claims of Christian fealty don’t make one a Christian — a point that hardly seems necessary to make, especially here in Moscow — but it absolutely means he’s not a Muslim. (I’m offended at the idea, by the way, that even if he were, it would mean that he’s somehow unfit to govern). Personally, I’m going to examine the fruit, and I’m able to conclude that he probably really does worship Christ — as if what I conclude about his faith should matter. The point here — at the Nuart yesterday — is that it says very little, while saying a lot, about what NSA students are learning when this poorly phrased, inane, and inflammatory question was put to local women and men running for local offices. I don’t intend to humiliate the young woman; I consider her part of a failing culture and a faulty curricula, and I imagine she knows no other.


Let me say right off that if Dale is correct — if the young woman is not an NSA
student — I was wrong in my assumption that she was. I was not wrong, as I’ll explain here, in coming to that assumption. The evidence pointed that way, and yet my guess turned out to be incorrect. I did not state unequivocally that she was; I did question if, perhaps, she was an NSA student, and I did criticize an NSA curriculum that allows for (feeds?) such an unfortunate grasp of politics, or fails at its own forum to correct it when evidenced. And, by the way, she evidently is a UI student. So I acknowledge my error and the assumptions behind it. What were those assumptions, for which I will not apologize?

First, I assumed that a forum sponsored by NSA, which was advertised as a place where NSA students would be asking questions of the candidates to learn about politics, would reflect NSA interests and values. That seems reasonable; I suspect that, if a similar forum were held by a GLBT or gun owners group, the questions would reflect the interests of those constituencies.

Second, I assumed that if NSA intended to have an open forum setting, it would screen or review the questions, which, in other forums, are generally written out beforehand. Further, in most forums I’ve attended, irrelevant or offensive questions are rejected by the emcee, moderator, or host. Clearly, that wasn’t the case here.

Third, it’s reasonable to think that the questioner’s references to “a bunch of us” who “were talking about this” would refer to the NSA students involved in the planning and execution of the forum.

Finally, a question of a religious nature asked by someone concerned about Christian-Muslim relations and persecution, posed at a forum sponsored by a religious organization, presumes easily that the questioner is, herself, a religious person. I’m unaware of any groups of young Christians, other than NSA students, who share the young woman’s fear of Islamic persecution and doubts about Obama’s faith. There is no other church organization in town whose leadership regularly comments — less than judiciously — about the dangers of Islam, the shadowy religious and political past of Barack Obama, or the persecution of Christians living among Muslim immigrants. That the questioner here is not an NSA student or otherwise connected to Christ Church and its organizations is much more surprising than my conclusion, from the evidence offered, that she likely was.

So, yes — I was factually wrong, if what Dale says is true. But rather than gloat about my error, perhaps Dale and the organizers of the event who are as aggrieved as he pretends to be could begin considering why it is that when bigotry, incivility, arrogance and an insular, us-vs.-them worldview is presented in Moscow, it’s presumed by many that the presenter is a Kirker. As I’ve said before, the Kirk and its leaders have not earned a presumption of innocence or virtue when it comes to racial issues, political activity, engagement with unbelievers, or any number of things. For example, when an anonymous or obviously pseudonymical — and usually belligerent — post appears on Vision 2020, people assume that the keyboards at the Kirk’s Anselm House offices are busy. After all, the nerve center of Kirk management gave us Shirley Pissdoff and Edna Wilmington; Christ Church devotee and CREC-church member Chris Witmer, all the way from Japan, gave us the juvenile nastiness of “Princess Sushitushi;” a little detective work confirmed that the Princess was a gift to us from the swamplands of Kirk-CREC dreck.

Back in 2002, when groups of young people mocked a Moscow School District levy proposal with asinine signs and (literally) babbling, grunting responses to questions asked of them, the assumption was that they were some of NSA’s finest — and they were, although “finest” here is ironic. When a fake news release about a topless lecture at the UI was circulated, people immediately assumed that the clever, cogent hand of a Kirker was behind it. They were right. The reality here is that rather than engaging with the community in a manner completely above reproach, the merry men of the Kirk gleefully provoke offense and invite rebuke.

The fact is that when the Gospel is maligned locally by bad teaching or bad behavior — by the kinds of reckless rhetoric that most pastors eschew — the culprits are virtually always those race-baiting, mocking, immature, sexist men of chest who call the Kirk home. And when NSA sponsors a student forum for candidates and a question reflecting the insular, prejudiced, uninformed and arrogant views regularly churned out by Christ Church and NSA leadership is asked, it’s not bigotry on my part to assume the questioner, not rebuked or corrected by forum organizers, is a part of their community. I acknowledge the error of my conclusion; I do not apologize for the assumption behind it. I just grieve that when there’s an unpleasant aroma in Moscow’s political, civic, or cultural air, the origin is depressingly often found wafting from the Kirk.

“Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are like a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God . . . ” 2 Cor. 2:14, 15

One Response to “Assumptions”

  1. Tom Hansen says:

    The question posed to the NSA Condidates’ Forum is quoted verbatim below:

    “Mine is an unusual question. A bunch of us have been kind of among ourselves talking about . . . I don’t really know if you can answer this. I want to know what you guys would do with the dynamic situation of the Muslim and Christian issue that I know with the refugees coming in particularly from a relative of mine who is working with them down in Boise. Because some of the Christians have been persecuted by the Muslims and they’re scared. And that issue is coming up and that dynamic will be coming up. And, so, I . . . a bunch of us want to know how you guys would handle that situation. And it has to do with religion. And then my personal question . . . and a bunch of us . . . I don’t know if, Shirley, you can answer this. Is Barack Obama a Muslim? That’s my question.”

    Keely’s comments, much like the candidates’ astonishment, was in response to what was clearly either an extremely ill-founded question, lacking even the most miniscule degree of knowledge, or a quasi-political statement made in the form of a question.

    In either case, I find that Keely’s comments were appropriate and well deserved of the person posing such an ignorant question.

    You can be rest assured had I been the originator of thsse comments posted by Keely Mix, intent would have been the least of Courtney’s concerns.

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