Richard Hall Online

A Methodist Minister Blogging like it’s 2006

Excuse me, is this the right room for an argument?

I enjoy an argument. The cut and thrust of ideas. Truthfully, I enjoy it more on the net than face-to-face: the medium has the advantage that you don’t have to make a response straight away if you don’t want to. That’s why I frequent several sites that have theological and political notions that are different to mine. The argument, to me, has a value in itself, without having to come out of it feeling like a winner or loser. Putting a case, and having someone else put theirs, is the stuff of life as far as I’m concerned. And I reckon it is possible for even the most robust disagreement to conducted with grace and kindness.

There are times, though, when the joy of argument wears a bit thin. There’s a style of arguing on the Net — I’ve rarely met it in ‘real life’ — that refuses to engage seriously with any points raised and responds by merely asserting the superior status, qualifications, experience, education or faith of the one making the case. You must have come across it: “When you have been a [pastor/counsellor etc.] as long as I have…” “I have considerably more experience than you and…” “My faith is based on the Bible while yours…” You know the sort of thing. Sometimes the thing is spiced with a few labels: “You’re a liberal/fundie/whatever…” What follows next amounts to a statement which means more or less “I’m right and you’re wrong”. At no point is the substance of any points previously raised actually addressed. Sometimes, just to put the icing on the cake, the whole thing is rounded off with something cheery like, “I don’t have time to deal with [insert label here]s like you.

To quote the blessed prophet Monty Python, “That isn’t an argument, it’s just contradiction.”

And there’s no fun in that.



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