Saturday, 16 July 2005

godslots on Saturday

Tom Wright writes in the Guardian on a Reason to be cheerful. This is mainly about the General Synod debate on women bishops, and what was wrong with it.

…Much of our contemporary discourse - I sat through two days of general synod a week ago - has degenerated into a competition between the relative woundedness of people’s feelings. I am not saying that wounded feelings do not matter, only that saying “I’m more hurt than you are” cannot settle an argument on a point of principle. Unfortunately, since victimhood is the only high moral ground left after the collapse of reasoned discourse, speeches become harangues, name-calling replaces respectful engagement and party spirit trumps public wisdom.

Not for the first time, the Church of England has copied the surrounding culture, greatly to its disadvantage. True, “reason” is sometimes overemphasised. Like “clarity”, it needs something to work on; in Christian thinking, scripture and tradition. But you would have thought we could at least apply it to our own documents.

Last week’s debate about women bishops mostly consisted of people making passionate speeches on a question that was not on the order paper. The official question was about a way of proceeding, not about whether we approved of women bishops. If people had wanted to debate that, they should have amended the motion…

Roderick Strange writes in The Times, Pray within your own solitude - however noisy it is
Also in The Times Jonathan Romain writes about The silliness and brilliance of religion on the box.

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 16 July 2005 at 10:19pm BST
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Opinion

"Much of our contemporary discourse - I sat through two days of general synod a week ago - has degenerated into a competition between the relative woundedness of people’s feelings."

I would add:
1. unwillingness to admit anything that might weaken our position.
2. making assertions rather than substantiating our position
3. resenting being asked to debate our underlying assumptions.

Posted by: Dave on Sunday, 17 July 2005 at 2:15am BST

Ive also noticed this trend. It is also behind the current 'Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill'.

How would I characterise the trend? Im not sure whether it is (a) confusing feelings/emotions with facts, or (b) saying that only feelings matter and facts should just be forgotten or subsumed into feelings.

Whether it is (a) or (b), the logical fallacy will be readily apparent.

By all means speak about feelings. They are important. By all means speak about facts. They too are important. But don't confuse the two.

There may sometimes be some overlap - but the two are conceptually pretty distinct.

One can always have two separate conversations: one about facts and one about feelings. This will mean that clarity is preserved and the issues are not blurred.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Sunday, 17 July 2005 at 11:32am BST

On a related topic, if so many people were speaking about a question different from the question on the paper, how come they were allowed to continue?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Sunday, 17 July 2005 at 12:05pm BST

As one who was present throughout the debate, I can't say I noticed any of the additional points listed by Dave as being prominent in the speeches made.

As to the issue of not speaking to the motion, the Chair evidently didn't share the opinion of Tom Wright concerning the relevance of the speeches being made to the motion before the synod. But then it's also the case that Tom Wright thought the motion being debated was the wrong one.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 17 July 2005 at 2:21pm BST

Simon I meant in "contemproary discourse", I wasn't at GS..

Posted by: Dave on Sunday, 17 July 2005 at 3:50pm BST

I'm intrigued, Christopher; I wouldn't have put you down as a strict upholder of the fact/value distinction (which is, arguably, pretty destructive of a lot of Christian theology). But on reflection I can see how it would fit in with your general way of thinking -- though it seems to me (if you will forgive my saying so) that your manner of upholding the fact-value distinction is to put everything you personally like on the 'fact' side of the equation, and everything you personally dislike on the 'value' side!

Posted by: Andrew Conway on Monday, 25 July 2005 at 2:08pm BST
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