Framing the Discussion

Everybody knows that I’m a one-note crazy woman, always harping on how Pagans need to learn framing.

Maybe it’s my training as a lawyer. Maybe it’s my stubborn Moon in Taurus. Maybe it’s my Ascendent Gemini understanding that how you express yourself is as (if not more than) important as what you say. Or maybe it’s because so many well-meaning Pagans start off on a defensive foot, immediately undercutting their message. We’re heading into the season of Pagan Pride events, and (fair warning) I’m going to ramp up my rants about framing.

Gus diZerega writes one of the best blogs in Pagondom and if you don’t read him regularly, you should. He’s got a brilliant post about arguing (having a nice discussion) with a Christian Evangelical at Starbucks (because Gus has about 1,000 to the 1,000th power more patience and kindness than I will EVER have). And you need to read the post (it’s not long) to watch how skillfully Gus handles framing. Please. If you are EVER even maybe, possibly, likely, kindamaybesorta going to talk to the press (or Evangelicals at Starbucks) go read Gus’ post.
Here’s just a taste:

So we began. I stayed friendly but I never allowed him to set the terms of the discussion because, frankly, I find those terms and assumptions ludicrous. For example, John wanted me to acknowledge [that] if there was a deity, that deity owned the earth. Therefore everything we had[,] we owed to Him, and even our acts of generosity towards others were false because we acted with goods we did not own unless we were at peace with God. This is the perversion of spirituality that comes from injecting eonomics into religion.

I told him I did not think ‘God’ owned anything, which implied distance between God and the world. Rather the Sacred was in everything. I wanted him on my turf because then we could have an interesting conversation and he might learn something to deepen his understanding (emphasis added).

John’s most common tactic was to try and emphasize what we had in common once he knew I was not an atheist, trying to build a bridge between us. Normally I am into bridge building, but only when the other side is willing to respect mine. I knew this was not the case with any evangelicals I had ever met. The tactic was to open us up for the sales pitch that would inevitably come.

Consequently whenever he remarked on how much we had in common I would return to what we did not have in common, particularly their claims they were the only true [religion] and that there was something particularly special about Christian morality or practice.

I said of course we have some things in common, but there is even more that divides us. I have never seen in theory or behavior anything to set Christians aside as uniquely special ethically. Where’s the evidence? Also, while you have not said it, you believe you have the one true path. I say there is no such path. While you have not said it, you also believe all alternative religions are deluded, demonic, or deeply in error. I do not. He did not contest my statements. He could not and still be an evangelical.

Go, thou, and do likewise.

Picture found here.

2 responses to “Framing the Discussion

  1. For example, John wanted me to acknowledge [that] if there was a deity, that deity owned the earth.

    John is the type of Evangelical who identifies the substance of his own version of the Christian religion with the substance of true, universal religion as such. On the (hidden) assmuption that their own religion’s beliefs, values, and Weltanschauung are normative, they believe that these must perforce be shared by followers of all other religions, or of no religion–perhaps unbeknownst to themselves. Accordingly, they presume that calling this supposed fact to their attention can serve as a starting point for a line of argument that will lead to the capitulation of the other. Gus obviously didn’t allow himself to be baited that way.

    This Christian-centric worldview, by the way, is analogous to the heterosexist worldview on a number of levels, including the fact that the heterosexist is not aware that he/she is being heterosexist. In their view, they’re just setting out the facts as they are, with no assumptions, hidden or otherwise. This is of a piece with the matter of “invisible Christian privilege,” about which Jason blogged today. The privileged status of Christianity in the U.S. is regarded (by the Christian plurality) as normative, and therefore simply the way things should be.

  2. Makarios,

    Exactly. I once had a discussion (argument) with a Christian who said, “Well, the Bible’s against homosexuality, so I don’t see how anyone can be for it.” It literally hadn’t ever occurred to him that everyone, even if not a Christian, didn’t consider the Bible an unimpeachable source of morality. It’s like a fish being unaware of water.

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