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A Thought on the “Anti-Bullying” movement

A friend of mine told me he was on Facebook and got involved in an argument about “bullying.”  Bullying is the latest focus of society’s meandering sense of injustice.  Is bullying bad?  Of course.  But there have been bullies as long as there have been people.  From the momentum the anti-bullying movement has gained in pop culture, news, and the like you’d think it was a recent development.

But I think there’s something else going on here, which brings me back to my friend.  A young girl had given a little boy a valentine saying she liked him and asked if he’d like to come to church with her sometime  (the boy was the son of my friend’s friend.)  The mother got on Facebook and apparently ranted that she was offended.  Her friends chimed in in agreement claiming this was “religious bullying.”

Oh, hi Irony!  You’re nothing if not punctual.

As my friend pointed out (and later the mother relented and admitted it was a harmless gesture) bullying comes from mean intent.  This was obviously not ill will.  The girl, who obviously liked the boy, wanted him to be a part of another area of her life.  The commenters on the thread however failed to ease up on their accusation that this was some sort of persecution, aimed at bullying the little boy around because he didn’t share her beliefs.

Bullying is a buzz word, and it’s become the catch-all term for any action that makes us feel less than comfortable.  It’s as if the first one to make the accusation wins.  The other party is automatically charged with defending themselves, no matter how innocent the action.

Should we act to stop actual bullying? Yes.  Should we stand up to face bullies when we ourselves are pushed around? Yes.

Especially when they are the ones throwing the word around.

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Overheard in the Hallway

There’s a gentleman at the end of our hallway at work who just moved in a few months ago.  Most people on our floor have been here for years and have come to understand the etiquette of the building.  First rule:  Don’t annoy people by being loud in the halls.

This particular guy is very loud.  Everytime he walks to or from his office he must pass by every other office on the floor.  Each time he’s (loudly) on his phone or (loudly) talking to a co-worker.  He smokes, so he passes by often.

It bugged me at first, but eventually I started to find it amusing.  Mostly because, perhaps wrongly, he was always in a crisis.  Always complaining about something or someone.  There’s no way he doesn’t have an ulcer.

Anyway,  I just heard him walk by and I caught this part of his complaint de jour:

“…It’s because of their stupid Jesus and their stupid Bible…”**

And that’s what it all boils down to isn’t it?  If people understand the gospel and what Jesus said and did, then they either follow him or hate him.  Sometimes this hate is honest- like my neighbor.  Other times the hate is shown by redefining or explaining away the offensive parts so that we can digest Jesus Lite.

Which is no Jesus at all.

 

**Isn’t this hate speech?  Oh, right.   It’s the PC sanctioned form of hate speech.

 

Abortion and Incoherent Worldviews

I mentioned that I had a discussion on Twitter about abortion. I had posted a link to an article about Oregon’s suspension of the death penalty (that had nothing to do with abortion) and an acquaintance of mine posted a reply stating he didn’t get pro-lifers (though he used the term “anti-choice”) who supported the death penalty. Was only some life sacred?

Now, first of all, it struck me as an odd way to phrase an objection. Especially since by any scientific definition of life, an embryo meets the criteria for being alive. Some may argue that it’s not a person, but stating out right that it’s not alive is simply false. So unless he holds that the unborn isn’t alive at all, then he’s just cut his own legs out from under him. Because he supports the killing of the unborn life but not the guilty criminal. Is only some life sacred?

Given the choice between arguing in favor of the death penalty and against abortion, I’ll take the abortion debate every time. Simply because I think it’s a greater evil to kill the innocent than let the guilty go free. And that’s really the key issue for the “I-don’t-get-the-pro life/pro-death penalty” position. The issue is innocence and guilt. If those terms have any meaning, there is no contradiction. You might not agree with it, but it’s not hard to understand. When someone makes this type of statement, it tells me that they really haven’t listened to the other side. You should be able to articulate, accurately, the position you disagree with.

We went back and forth for a while, and since Twitter is a bit of a disjointed medium to begin with (making longer points requires more posts, but the other person can post in between your points, making it one hot chronological mess) I’m piecing together his main points from the conversation. I should note first of all that it was a very civil conversation.

His main arguments in response to me were:

1) Society determines who has value.

2) The unborn is not human until it is born and breathes oxygen on its own.

3) It would be wrong for society to start saying killing toddlers is okay, because that would be moving backwards.

4) Killing just one innocent person through the death penalty makes us all murderers.

Some quick thoughts about these. If society determines who has value, then society can say who lives and who dies. They are beholden to nothing and no one but themselves. But to make points 2 & 3 contradict this. #2 states it’s wrong because of a property of the baby itself, not because it’s what society determines on its own. #3 implies a larger standard outside of society. Otherwise “forward” and “backwards” have no meaning, since there’s no external reference point to measure those “movements.”

Furthermore, 2 is extremely problematic since the baby is processing oxygen from the mother, and when born begins to take in oxygen to process through his/her lungs. The only difference is the source of oxygen. Nothing intrinsically about the baby has changed. Only location. By this definition the moment you need insulin or kidney dialysis, you cease to be human since you’re not able to survive without aid. If that sounds ridiculous, it is. But it follows logically from the position. Reductio ad Absurdum.

#4 strikes me as odd because if one mistake in the death penalty makes us all murderers, what does a wrong judgement about abortion make us? We’ve killed over 40 million unborn babies since Roe v. Wade alone. And yet this seems to be one of the least thought out issues, yet most dividing.

Throughout the conversation I was trying to demonstrate the weakness of these points, but was told that I kept “shifting parameters.” It took me a day or two afterwards to figure out how I was the one shifting parameters, but finally I think I understand. This particular person’s worldview is so compartmentalized into different areas that incoherence doesn’t matter to him. It’s very relativistic. So whereas I’m applying logic and taking his reasons seriously (and to their logical conclusions) he simply treats them as totally unrelated situations.

Not every pro-choice proponent holds to these particular arguments or holds to such a relativistic, compartmentalized worldview. But in this particular case, when you hold a philosophy that insulates you from having to face the logical implications of your positions, it is by definition, irrational.

Personal Ethics and Twitter

The last couple of weeks I’ve been spending most of my time either 1) working or 2) trying to console a colicky baby.  Talk about a tight schedule.

Speaking of babies…

I had an interesting debate this week on abortion over Twitter.  I know this person, or at least have met him a few times in person, so it’s not a situation where either of us are arguing with a stranger on the other side of a screen.  Even though we don’t know each other too well.

First, an observation about these type of discussions on Twitter.  I will go on with the person ad nauseam.  In every instance that I have debated the other person always ends first with something to the effect of “this isn’t something I wish to continue on Twitter.”   I never attack the person.  I stick to the topic and use, to the best of my ability, logic and reason.  The other person catches on that this isn’t a name calling contest and in every instance realizes that they are engaged in a civil debate.  However, civil debate on hot topics is something the medium of Twitter does not easily facilitate.

To paraphrase Neil Postman, You can’t use smoke signals to discuss quantum theory.

In other words, the medium is too small for the message.  One hundred and forty characters at a time to small, in this case.

At any rate, I’ve noticed people typically are quick to whip out witty sayings to one-up their opponent.  But when logic and reason are brought in they eventually bail.  (For the record, my conversation this week went on longer than most, but more on that tomorrow.)  I don’t think this is because they are necessarily ill-equipped to debate with logic, though that may be the case for some.  Instead, I think they begin to feel the weight of the subject and feebleness of the medium, albeit unconsciously.

This is a huge liability of Twitter and one that requires personal intellectual honesty to handle nobly.  I never make statements that I’m not willing to back up or engage in a lengthy discussion over, even if I have to take it to email.

And neither should you.

 

Gay Rights, Religious Rights, and the Political Landscape

In my last post (where I recounted my conversation the girl representing the ACLU) I had mentioned that under state law an employer could fire any one for any reason.  I got a little push-back in the comments (which I don’t mind) and thought about it a little more.

First, I think I overstated that a little.  The commenter is partially right. It is illegal for someone to be fired for race or sex.  Religion was also mentioned, but it’s not true that a person cannot be fired for religion.  Specifically, in the cases of churches and this was the context of my conversation with the girl.  Can a person be fired for being a Muslim?  Yes, if this person was hired into, or converted while working, a Christian or Jewish church or organization.  And a Christian could be fired for the same reason in other religious contexts.

The question is, do religious organizations have a right to hire and retain only those people who hold to  those worldviews/ideologies?

I think the they should.  But this highlights one of the challenges with rights of this type.  The different groups represented fall along a continuum ranging from non-moral to moral/ideological.

And one end of the spectrum we have Race.  Race does not have a moral component.  Race is expressed through appearance and physical characteristics.   Sex is the similar, though one could argue that the differences between the sexes moves it slightly down the continuum.

As we move further, we come to two categories that differ from race and sex.  Religion and sexual practice.  Sexuality by nature is expressed through behaviors, and behaviors have a moral component.  Religions deal with the nature of reality, inform our worldviews, and influence our behaviors and ideologies.

But sexuality also brings its own ideologies.  Especially in a cultural climate where homosexuality is such a politicized area.  If you disagree in regard to legal rights they feel should accompany this aspect of their lives, then you are branded as hate-filled.  In essence, the accusation is that your views are immoral.

This moves sexual orientation and practice to the ideological end of the spectrum.  The problem is that there are competing ideologies at that end, all fighting for what they see as their rights.  To offer one group a right to say, never be fired for being a member of that group is to threaten other groups.  In a sense saying to the other group “your ideology takes a backseat, you must embrace theirs.”

My point here is not to say what the neat and tidy answer is.  The point is that this is the nature of the political and cultural landscape.  So when I talk to someone on the street, taking money in order to promote rights at the idological end of the spectrum, I expect them to know the challenges.  I expect them to have at least heard the other view.  Unfortunately, the young lady I spoke with seems to have not been familiar with it at all.

My (Condensed) Conversation with the ACLU Girl

Downtown there have been several blue-shirted ACLU people, usually college age, taking donations to help protect “gay rights.”

This afternoon I was heading to my office to grab something when I ran across one of them who told me that some politicians were “trying to use law to discriminate and deprive people of their rights.  Like women’s reproductive rights, gay rights…” and some others that I can’t remember.

She said that, “These lawmakers are using law to enforce their morality and that’s wrong.”

“So you would say that laws shouldn’t enforce a particular moral view?” I asked.

“Right.  It shouldn’t be a factor.” She said.

“But aren’t you trying to force your moral viewpoint?”

Apparently no one had ever asked her this before.  She had brought up abortion, so I asked her about her views on that.

“I personally feel it’s not a positive thing.  But I shouldn’t force my view on others.” She explained.

“But,” I answered, “if pro-life people are right, and the unborn is a valuable human being, then shouldn’t you enforce your view?”

At this point she was visibly uncomfortable, even though my tone was friendly and non-combative.  She changed the subject by explaining that she was out there for “gay rights” not abortion.  She then explained that they were attempting to create legislation that would prohibit employers for firing people due to sexual orientation.  (I didn’t say this, but in this state employers can fire anyone at any time.  So the ACLU would be, if I’m understanding the law correctly, trying to created a special class of protected citizens while the rest of us can be let go for any reason.)

I asked if she thought organizations had the right to hire and retain people that shared their values.  She said they did.  So I asked if she thought religious organizations should be forced to hire or retain people that did not hold their views.  She hesitated, growing more uncomfortable and then said that the hoped someone wouldn’t work at an organziation that didn’t hold their values.  That didn’t answer my question of course, and those types of situations are in the news often, but I let it go.

After a few more minutes she began to hestiate and become more nervous, often apologizing for her nervousness and then said that she knew what she believed but wasn’t good at debating.  My goal wasn’t to change her mind, but to put a stone in her shoe.  So, I brought the conversation to a close by saying that I hoped she would take a little time to think things through a little deeper, since these issues have wider ramifications than we often hear discussed in the public square.

I told her to have a nice day and headed on.

I have nothing against this girl.  She seemed very sweet, and I’m sorry she was uncomfortable.  But it was obvious that she’s been socialized into her beliefs, which led to her promoting specific policies.

But when asked for her reasons, her silence was telling.