Sunday, February 10, 2008

So, what the hell is a "Chancel Dialogue" anyway?

Is it supposed to be getting in a person of another faith and asking them to speak at length on the more intolerant aspects of their faith, not once challenging or questioning anything they say?

Isn't there supposed to be, well, dialogue? I can get why responding to a lengthy bit about hellfire with "Actually, in our faith, our members typically don't believe a loving God could do that. How would someone of your faith respond to that concern?" might not be optimal, though I wished somebody had done so.

But couldn't we talk about what our faiths have in common just a bit? I don't think we need to deny that there are differences between other faiths and our own. But I don't think putting nastiness on display and leaving it unanswered is real dialogue.

A frustrated,

who started to think about leaving when the gentlemen of another faith talked about refusing to shake hands with women being a sign of respect for women, and did stand up and walk out when an answer to a question about 9-11 began with an observation that to the British, Thomas Jefferson was a terrorist*.

*Jefferson did say some very nasty things about the British and I'm sure the British didn't like Jefferson, but to phrase it the way I heard it this morning is 31 flavors of crazy. It's setting up a ridiculous comparison to even try to equate writing the Declaration of Independence with murdering thousands of people.

Why do people play the "that thing you're doing is just like what that dictator did" and "this thing I'm doing is just like what that admired person did" game? At least in my case, when people violate Godwin's law and/or compare the people they agree with to the Founding Fathers, Jesus etc, it does NOT make me see their point. If anything, the comparision a. makes them look like they aren't smart enough to have a sense of proportion and b. highlights the difference between the two.

Any fool can compare themselves to a civil rights hero and their opponents to Pol Pot. What impresses me is when people can argue rationally without having to pull crap like that.


ABT said...

Sounds very frustrating, CC. Was a purpose ever given for the event? If it was just a learning opportunity for the UUs, it may have served it's purpose...sadly. Calling it a "dialogue" was a mistake, though. I think you ask some really good questions. When is appropriate just to listen to someone's dearly held beliefs? When is it appropriate to respond? Can we do that in a way that is respectful of the person even if their beliefs are sexist, etc...???

Good fodder for discussion, I think.

Comrade Kevin said...

That's what a call an exercise in hairsplitting, to me.

Thomas Jefferson was like every human being, riddled with contradictions, flawed, fallible, and totally imperfect.

Lilylou said...

Wow, that sounds pretty bad, all right! Which worship/event leader needs to hear your concerns? I hope you'll go directly to that person.

Chalicechick said...

((Thomas Jefferson was like every human being, riddled with contradictions, flawed, fallible, and totally imperfect.))

But not so imperfect as ones who kill thousands of people.

Robin Edgar said...

It might interest you to know that to some Montreal U*Us I am a "terrorist". I can't think of any other reason why some Montreal U*Us would openly suggest that I should be prosecuted under what they called the "Terrorist Act". . . Kind of ironic that generic name for a law intended to deal with terrorists don't you think?

Chalicechick said...

Shrug. Don't know if you've been following the discussion about showing identification at GA, but lots of people are impacted by laws that are intended to go after terrorists. I googled up a news story on the law you mentioned and it said the law would be:

"amending the Criminal Code to eliminate online hate propaganda and create a new offence of mischief against places of religious worship or religious property"

I have no idea how Canada defines "hate propaganda" or "mischief," but I can imagine definitions that would include your activities. (I can also imagine definitions that wouldn't include your activities. As Canada is a common-law place, figuring out how the courts will define those terms would involve legal research that I don't have time to do. But suffice to say, it isn't as simple as arguing that your preferred definition is the better one.)

That doesn't make you a terrorist, just someone possibly impacted by anti-terrorism laws.


PG said...

I thought Montreal and the rest of Quebec was under a more French civil code system (like Louisiana for the U.S.)? Or was this a national law?

I don't know of Jefferson's engaging in any terrorist activity (where I would define terrorism as any intentional violence against civilians or violence against military while not in open and declared combat). Jefferson wasn't a fighter except in the battle of ideas. However, I'm fairly sure that there was such activity at the time of the American Revolution. And of course all revolutionaries were traitors, just like all southern confederates were traitors.

As for dialogue, because I'm not religious myself, I pretty much just listen to religious people when they're telling me about what they believe. There were two crackpots that used to come to the UVa campus (probably still do) in the spring to rail against all of our fornication and general sinfulness. They were absolutely worthless when they were giving their megaphone speeches, but when one would take a break and you could talk to him more individually, he at least had interesting ideas. (This was the first time I heard the theory that because in physics the world is becoming more chaotic, it's impossible that in biology, evolution could be creating more complex organisms over time. I still think it's a dumb theory of no scientific value, but it's good to know why your opponents sincerely believe themselves to be rational, logical people.)

Speaking of which, does anyone here think that reason or rationality is supposed to have a large part in religion? (Especially religion of the "This book says X or I got X revelation, therefore it is true" type.) I don't think it is, which is why I don't think it's insulting to say that a particular religious belief (e.g. the sinfulness of homosexuality based on the Old Testament prohibitions) is irrational. It's like saying that the movie American Pie doesn't address foreign policy -- it's not what the thing was meant to do.

Anonymous said...

CC-- what event was this? You kind of sprung it on us with no prep. Sounds badly managed.

RevSean -- Yes, I think you can disagree with someone's ideas and still treat them with dignity and respect. Isn't that what we do here? (or try to do). And ideas are not people -- they are some of the most changeable things we have.

Anonymous said...

I have never even heard of a Chancel Dialogue, so I couldn't make out what was going on in your description.

Will said...

I was there at the early service on Sunday, CC, and have since traded emails with the minister. Re. the chancel dialogue, I don't think it was meant to be a debate. I think it was meant to be more of a forum, a lecture, an educational experience. A way for attendees to learn more about Islam.

That said, I hope the folks in the pews were as uncomfortable as I was. Islam and UUism are without a doubt antithetical. It's a free and responsible search vs. submission to the Truth. Mohammed's truth.

What rubbed me the most was when asked about terrorism, the Imam concluded his answer by comparing 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. He needs to check his scales.