Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Can We Talk: Part 2 - Connie and Id

Yesterday I began a reflective series on the difficulties of dialogue. Today’s post builds on yesterday’s, so if you haven’t read that one, you might want to pause and read it first.

In an attempt at concision, I am going to name our contextualizer “Connie” and our ideologue “Id.” Okay? Yesterday I posited that Connie and Id have trouble talking with one another, because they end up trying to have two separate conversations at once. Connie wants to start with context; Id wants to start with immutable truth. Their conversations never lead anywhere productive, because they are not starting from common ground. It is as if the Kansas City Chiefs were trying to play the Kansas City Royals in a game, but each in their own respective sports. Doesn’t work.

In order to talk together, Connie and Id each need to give up something. It will not be easy for them to do this, but for the sake of living together in peace without bashing each other’s brains in, it needs to be done. It will call each of them to self-examination and penance, relying on the grace of God all the way along.

Put simply, Connie needs to confess that contextualization is his own ideology; Id needs to confess that she came to her ideology via her context.

Connie is a consensus-builder, and tries really hard to respect everybody’s point of view, because he believes each person is entitled to believe his or her own thing based on individual life context. But Connie goes overboard every so often and thus can’t really disagree with anyone, because he has to say that the other perspective is just as valid as his own. This is the built in weakness to his position. He practices an ideology of acceptance that inflates the importance of not only contrary ideas, but also trivial, even silly ideas to equal footing with more helpful ideas. If Connie sticks unthinkingly to this ideology, conversation falters and eventually gets altogether stuck.

Id is an apologetic*,
and tries really hard to defend her perspective, because not only her perspective is at stake, but the immutable truth itself. But Id is a bit naïve if she really thinks that her access to immutable truth has not been mediated via her own life. She came to embrace her ideology thanks to the influence of family, friends, and teachers; music, books, and movies; race, class, and gender; etcetera, etcetera, and etcetera. When Id comes into contact with another, different ideology, she is quick to write it off as false, using the circular reasoning that, since it is not the same as hers and hers is based on the truth, the other ideology therefore must not be. If Id refuses to acknowledge that her ideology is contextually formed, conversation falters and eventually gets altogether stuck.

(Believe me, I can see all of the flaws in the previous two paragraphs. Please feel free to point them out in the comments if you want to. But I have written these two paragraphs this way intentionally to make my larger point.)

And so, in order for their conversation to proceed, Connie must come out of the closet as a self-avowed practicing ideologue and Id must admit that she has a life in the midst of which her ideology was formed.

“That will never happen,” says cynic me. It goes against everything they are to make such confessions. It is not in their DNA. (Or, if you’d rather): It is not how God made them. (Theological excursus: maybe it is how God made them, but after the Fall, they are no longer able to be that way. But we will save that for another time.)

Ah! But here is our common playing field, isn’t it? It ought to be hard to confess our sin! It ought to be the hardest thing we do as children of grace. Still, it seems to me that one of the few things Connie and Id can agree to say in unison is, “God, I am not perfect. Forgive me.” It seems to me that one of the few things Connie and Id can do together is bow in prayer before God to ask for grace. I think therefore, that their dialogue must be preceded by liturgy.

I even have a suggestion. How about a Psalm?

Psalm 51:14-19
Save me from bloodguilt, O God,

the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,

and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.
In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;

build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then there will be righteous sacrifices,

whole burnt offerings to delight you;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

In part 3 (which should be up tomorrow or Friday), I hope to get a little bit specific with regard to the ongoing impasse in the conversation about homosexuality. Stay tuned…

*Serving as or containing a formal justification or defense. (


Adam Caldwell said...

Agreed, agreed, and agree. Once again I appreciate the balanced perspective. I am convinced that we must find a way past the conservative/liberal argument.(funny how the side one most associates or 'thinks' one associates with gets listed first.) Thanks for the thoughts.

(Suggestion: When you get this whole piece done you should submit it to I think people would give a lot of feedback.)

Anonymous said...

One might say that to create life-giving conversation between Connie and Id, both need to converse without using the word "but." Maybe they could go see Jackie for "no but" training!