Relationships in a World of Individualism

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    The rWorld is about more than Dale Kuehne's book Sex and the iWorld.
    The rWorld is a New England based, non-profit (in formation), that is composed of a growing number of people and organizations from many faith and ideological backgrounds worldwide. We believe that much of the fulfillment for which women and men are looking can be found by enhancing the quality of our relationships. While the individual freedom we enjoy in the West is a gift, the love and intimacy for which humans yearn will not be found in self-serving materialism or hedonism, but in a variety of healthy relationships.

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  • Dale Kuehne

    Sex & the iWorld

    Professor of Politics and The Richard L. Bready Chair for Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College, Manchester, NH.

    In this blog I'm highlighting signposts of the world in which we presently reside as a means of helping promote a civil, and meaningful dialogue about what kind of world in which we wish to live. I am particularly interested in exploring how might we reconcile the individual good and the common good, and where reconciliation isn’t possible, which should take precedence and why.

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Posted by Dale Kuehne on March 3, 2010

A Perception of Evangelical Christianity

Another Perception of Evangelical Christianity

8 Responses to “Perceptions”

  1. Lauren Fithian said

    For those like myself who tend to notice the first “perception” far more than the second, I recommend looking at the World Vision website page called “Core Values.” It is a beautiful and moving statement of commitment to the world’s poor. (“[T]he poor, the powerless, the afflicted, the marginalized….” With a “special concern for children.” ) World Vision makes it very clear that a human is a human, and a human in need is not less worthy of care because of gender, race etc….

    Contrast this to the response of the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington (DC) to the legalization of gay marriage there. That organization decided to cut off health benefits for spouses of new employees out of a concern that those benefits could be used by “gay spouses.” (This is in addition to their ending of foster care assistance program to avoid the risk that gay couples might adopt a child.) Perfect example of the acts that give rise to the first “perception.”

    Okay–going back to re-read the World Vision Core Values, a copy of which someone should send to the Washington, DC, Archdiocese.

  2. It must be a great comfort to people reading the NYT that the people who disagree with them are so evil. It removes the necessity of looking at themselves.

    Honestly, I am so tired of this stereotype. It is so easy to cherry-pick one’s data to reinforce one’s world view. Christians often fall into the guilt-trap of believing that if we just we better examples of Christ, people would flock to join us. That is risible. Of the people I know personally who are most critical and condemning of the church, every single one of them has a person in their family or close circle who is a marvelous example of Christian kindness and generosity. That is not coincidence. It is those who feel condemned by their own conscience who are most likely to condemn.

    If you break down Arthur Brooks data in Who Really Cares it shows that Christians give more than non-believers, even when church giving is removed. (The usual conclusion that conservatives give more than liberals is only partly correct. Most of that advantage vanishes when one corrects for the percentage of practicing Christians in the two groups.)

    Do I wish Christians would give more? Should they give more? Absolutely. But that is an embarrassment we should feel among each other, not in comparison to those outside. If we gave all of our goods they would find another reason not to believe.

    As to the Catholic position on those subjects, Lauren, I ultimately agree with you. Mostly. But I think there are a lot of decent arguments they make to get to their point. No company owes health care to spouses, or even the employees themselves. Groups can compensate employees in a manner consistent with their beliefs. The Sierra Club doesn’t have to pay mileage reimbursement if it is trying to discourage employee driving.

  3. Lauren Fithian said

    There is a world of difference between not paying mileage reimbursement to employees, for example, and specifically ending such payments in order to avoid having to make them to gay people. The Catholic Charities of the Washington Archdiocese abandoned it’s good services for children and it’s own employees (in the one area of health care benefits) to avoid serving gays.

    Also–I’m not sure what it means “to criticize the church.” What is the “church?” Again–I find there to be a world of difference between some sort of general ongoing criticism or condemnation of all things “church” and specific criticism of acts, writings, teachings, etc… which one finds wrong or even repugnant on some level about various sects and denominations. My mom is a retired Methodist minister. She became a minister shortly after the Methodist Church finally started permitting women to be full participants in all facets of religious life. Up until that point she was quite critical of her denomination (and all the others that still put up a barrier to women’s inclusion in pastoral life). Her criticism did not in any way arise out of a feeling of being condemned by her own conscience. She truly loved her church life and could not be silent about injustice in her own denomination.

    The fact that any church or Church does many wonderful things does not insulate it from critical evaluation. The Catholic Church has a huge and positive presence in my own life. I am forever grateful for the amazing Catholic high schools three of my five children have attended. I’m forever grateful to the priest in San Benito, Texas, who lovingly performed my adopted daughter’s quinceanera ceremony without requiring her to go through the usual year of classes. This allowed our whole family and her extended family of birth, and most importantly her birth mother, to be part of this important rite of passage. The priest had never met us or our daughter before that day. Love and good works abound. But it does not erase the institutional injustice perpetrated on gays and it does not require us to shut up about that injustice.

    And, yes, to judge all Church members or all religious people based on a stereotype is small minded.

  4. Ann said

    Lauren, I’m surprised that you find Christian social justice ministries opposition to gay marriage or adoption by gay couples to be wrong-headed.

    In fact, Christians – of all religions – should be dedicated to the reconciliation between male and female, because in that faithful reconciliation the image of God is most evidenced (in families, in churches, in communities). You’re asking Christians not to be Christian in their portrayal of Who God is in creation to the world. Secular governments are making it increasingly difficult for these Christian ministries to employ or advocate according to their foundational beliefs.

    Certainly, the male domination in history and worldly affairs has infiltrated the church and too frequently negated the ministry of women, as your mother(and I) experienced.

    However, I find it odd that so many advocates for inclusion & equal treatment/respect of women in academic, business and ministry roles, also advocate for the exclusivity of genders in the sexual arena. It’s as if the message has shifted 180 degrees to a contention, now, that heterosexual leaders are good for the business, the ministry, etc., but homosexual leaders are good for the home. Why would any Christian, concerned about the unity in the Body of Christ and reconciliation, think increasing gender polarization wouldn’t be the long-term result of gender polarized families?

  5. Lauren Fithian said

    Ann, I don’t know how on earth you found anything in my words that indicates that I “advocate for exclusivity of genders in the sexual arena.” I advocate for the recognition that all humans seek to live out their full humanity. I advocate for the recognition that gays and lesbians are born gays and lesbians and the fact of their gayness does not make them desire to live out their full humanity any less than those of us who were born straight. I find it random and dehumanizing to cut off the recognition of everyone’s equality before God at the line of sexuality and marriage. I just cannot see why when two people who are deeply in love with each other and want to commit their lives to each other and a family through marriage it is a good thing if they are straight and a wrong and disallowed thing when they are gay (lesbian). That is every bit as random and contrary to the Christian principles I grew up with as disallowing marriage because one spouse is black and the other white. It’s as random and wrong as claiming that women should be subservient to men or should be regarded as nothing more than the husband’s chattel. We are just not there yet for some reason.

    My Mom has been very active in her support of gay rights and has performed many “marriage” ceremonies for both gay and lesbian couples. I don’t believe that unity in the Body of Christ is served at all by excluding 10 percent of the population from that unity. I’m advocating for unity–not exclusivity. What we have right now is exclusivity. Further, there is no 180 degree shift. Are you implying that advocates of gay marriage rights think only gays should have families, or that gays make better parents? To support the (civil) right of gays to marry is to say merely that it is a civil right. I would assume that gay and lesbian parents are good and not-so-good and bad parents in the same proportions as straight parents. (The same proportions of good to mediocre to bad as in all other facets of life.) Increasing polarization? No–as it stands now we have a sad continuation of marginalization of individuals and families.

    At any rate, I am far more concerned with CIVIL rights and the CIVIL right of gays and lesbians to marry. I am concerned with social justice under the US civil laws.

  6. Lauren, apart from the cliches we are all familiar with (I am not accusing you of cliches, just asking you to examine them before answering), how is gay marriage unquestionably a matter of social justice?

    For the record, I don’t see much difference in principle between mileage reimbursement and health insurance. I chose it specifically because it sounds minimal but is the same thing. Some Gaians might well choose to refuse mileage reimbursement as a holy cause. The Catholic insistence that they not recognise homosexual unions as equivalent to marriage in any way might indeed lead them to refuse to extend (I choose the term carefully) health insurance to all partners to make sure none of their money went to causes they don’t approve of.

    Participation of women in all official church functions and participation of homosexuals does not strike me as equivalent. You seem to be a nice person and probably don’t intend it, but your comments are very close to being condemning of those who do not regard them as “the same sort of thing.”

    Be careful of the idea that certain benefits are a right, and not giving them is some sort of robbery. It is ultimately a cruel kindness. As I said above, I would personally extend benefits to the partners of any employee. But that is on balance, not automatic, and certainly not a moral imperative.

    I have deleted several predictions from this comment. Please prove me wrong.

  7. Lauren Fithian said

    AVI: I am a nice person. Since I don’t know what you deleted in terms of predictions I have know way of knowing whether I think you are right or wrong, so no proof of being wrong will be forthcoming. Just FYI: You don’t need to tell me to be careful of the idea that certain benefits are a right. I am nice–and I am also fairly bright. I try not to “condemn” those with views different from my own. Sometimes, however, I get quite emotional and worked up over an issue. I try not to let my words get away from me but I’m not always successful! Consigning homosexuals to less than full participation in church and social life seems like quite a condemning act. It is not any less condemning for the magnitude of the attempt to rationalize it in religious /biblical teaching. We have different opinions in this one area and I find it quite interesting that in most other areas of life we probably have very similar opinions.

    I hope others on this site do not think I am one-dimensional. I am interested in quite a few social justice causes. My main causes at the moment are immigrant rights and working for greater due process rights for minors.

  8. I don’t think you are one-dimensional at all. That is why I challenge. There is a set of ideas that “nice” people have in our current discourse that I think are plain wrong. And part of the reason they are wrong is because they remain unexamined, because they are defined as the ideas that nice people have.

    Like a Tavistock advisor, I tend to bring the clear but unspoken implications out into the light for examination. “I find it random and dehumanizing to cut off the recognition of everyone’s equality before God…” Gee, that’s pretty darn insulting when you look at it. Of course, you didn’t think of it as insulting when you wrote it, and you didn’t – at least consciously – mean it to be insulting. What the heck am I supposed to make of a discussion where the people who disagree with you are random and dehumanising?

    This is what often happens in the social justice arguments of nice people. Feeling strongly, they say things that really aren’t very nice when you look at them. But as the other nice people, who agree with them, don’t notice, it is the ones who challenge them who seem rude.

    I agree with you that you are a nice person. At least, you play one on the internet. People who know me outside of social/political/religious discussions find me a very nice person. Those who make unwary comments around me are less sure. (Examples upon request.) Most especially, those who have all their other discussions about sensitive issues with people who basically agree with them, collecting their ideas of the other side of the argument from the worst examples, find me irritating. Challenging their ideas seems to be a challenge to niceness itself.

    Social justice people tend to be word people, and are able to express themselves with vigor. The problem is that everyone wants to get maximum emotional force for the words they use, but accept minimum responsibility. You can find the phenomenon described in Lewis’s Screwtape, in the discussion of “Well all I said was…”

    We have come to a pass where nice people get away with saying alarmingly not-nice things simply because they say them according to the rules of their own tribe, which defines itself as nice. As I consider this the PRIMARY driver of conflict in our national discussion, I tend to be a predator toward tribal rules.

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