Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Political discourse is practically impossible, considering how quickly people on either side of the discussion just lose it. So Saturday night's conversation with our daughter-in-law's dad was fascinating. After dinner at Kim's birthday party, Connie and I started talking politics with Jim. A former union man and staunch Democrat, he has switched allegiances. He's a born again, good ole boy from Texas who follows the right wing line to the last jot and tittle. What made the talk so interesting is that he's skilled at holding his own in a debate, and he doesn't lose his temper. The same could be said for us, though my husband is calmer and more articulate. So the talk was ... spirited. But civil.
Now Jim doesn't mince words. Islam is a religion born in the pits of hell, he told us. So is Catholicism. And Connie and I, as unbelievers, are demonic. But he makes these observations in such an agreeable, matter-of-fact tone that I don't much mind being demonic.
We tried to make the point that Christ emphasized loving thy neighbor and caring for the poor and that today's evangelicals vote for politicians who enrich the wealthy at the expense of the poor. Connie used the example of the rich young ruler who came to Christ asking what he had to do to be saved. Christ told him to sell all that he had and follow him. The rich young ruler went away saddened because he was unwillingly to give up his wealth. Jim pointed out that the rich young man had told Christ he had always followed all the commandments from his youth on, so when Christ ordered him to give up his wealth, He was pointing out the young man's hypocrisy in that he had NOT followed all the commandments because he coveted wealth. And besides, Jim said, Christ's main goal was to bring people to salvation. You can talk about the Sermon on the Mount if you want to, but in the end, it's not good works that count but salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Good argument. Well, Jim is a former seminarian; he ought to be able to defend his position. Still, the accusation that today's evangelicals ignore the poor rolled right off his back.
As for Bush's lies about WMD, those weapons are probably hidden in Syria. Wilson's report on Niger is immaterial because his own wife sent him there. Downing Street memos are "questionable" according to Fox. And gay marriage is an "abomination." Very few things, he said, are termed "abominations" in the Old Testament. We couldn't remember whether eating shellfish was also an "abomination". Moral: Don't argue pollutics with a former seminarian without first reviewing your own material. By the way, eating shellfish IS an abomination. And working on the Sabbath will get a person stoned.
Never mind. Even had we been perfectly prepared, we wouldn't have swayed Jim, and, of course, he couldn't have turned us into Republicans. So why did we bother? Because conversation is a starting place. Jim was once a Democrat, so there's hope, however faint. But even that isn't a reason. We came away wishing we had argued less and listened more. Of course, listening to an intelligent man spouting Fox News and Sean Hannity and pitying us for our misguided ideas gave the conversation a surreal feeling. (My word, he really believes that? That's what everybody tells me the right wingers believe, but, dadgumit, they actually do. He's saying these things with a straight face and a pure heart. Is he the kind of person who approved of burning demonic heretics like me at the stake in 1545?)
Nevertheless, if we had listened more, we stood a chance of having a "conversation" instead of a debate.
Or maybe we should have skipped the whole thing. All we definitely succeeded in doing was clearing the rest of the family out of the kitchen.

9 Comments:

At 9:11 PM, Blogger Da Rat Bastid said...

I'm glad we don't have any idiots like this in my family. I got a beef, though.
"Jim said, Christ's main goal was to bring people to salvation. You can talk about the Sermon on the Mount if you want to, but in the end, it's not good works that count but salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Good argument."
OK, stop. How is this a good argument? What he's saying is that Christians have a right to act like a piece of shit to the rest of the world because they believe in this guy who may of may not have existed, in a book that is historically inaccurate and says a lot of weird shit that break the laws of physics all the time.
Personally, I'm sad that Jim wasted all those years studying fairy tales in "seminary".
Or is it Semenary?

 
At 7:42 AM, Blogger Jo Etta said...

I wondered when I wrote it if someone would call me on the "good argument" statement. It was a good argument not in the sense that I agreed with it. As an unbeliever, I'm on the same page with you about how evangelicals use this belief to wiggle out from under personal responsibility.
What I should have said was that he deftly deflected our argument that helping the poor was a vital thrust in Christ's message. It wasn't an adequate answer for us, and we continued to press the point, but in his mind, he had answered the question. Once he decides that the New Testament doesn't focus on helping the poor, then our criticism about greedy Republicans just rolls right off him.
I should have been clearer in the way I wrote that part. You're right, and in the heat of the moment, I doubt if we called him on it as clearly as we could have. But wouldn't you like to restate your part in lots of arguments/debates after you've had time to think it over? And hey, he took on the two of us and acquitted himself well. I respect that, even if I still think his philosophy is a load of crap.

 
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