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Michael Nugent on choosing not to make a jerk of yourself.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character.  In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned.   My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character. In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned. My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Nugent suggests 8 choices that he thinks may help move the secular community beyond the rifts that have developed. I blame Rebecca Watson! You know she will inevitably be blamed anyways, so now that that is out of the way. (joking, of course)  I do attempt to do everything he has listed when I discuss controversial topics anyways.  It is important to me to try to not come off like a jerk.  I realize there are personalities especially online that that is their shtick   It is also important to realize that sometimes outrage and anger are appropriate responses to communication that is based on hate like racism, sexism, homophobia, class-ism, bigotry, etc. Outrage and anger at hate shouldn’t be confused with being a jerk.

Right now, for example I am outraged at the Vatican’s choice of yet another homophobic, sexist bigot, who got where he is by collaborating with the then brutal, fascist government in Argentina. How can it be any different when the Pope made a misogynist comment than when some in our community make hateful comments towards women?

He was named after Pope Francis for his purported championing of the poor agonist the rich, but St. Francis could never imagine the wealth of the Vatican. Evil!

He was named after St. Francis for his purported championing of the poor against the rich, but St. Francis could never imagine the wealth of the Vatican. Evil!

 

I can say with blunt honesty that this man is evil, and it isn’t the same as “insulting or mocking someone who disagrees with us.” The outrage in the case of the Pope is deserved.  Nor would I phrase it charitably as our President has in light of the amount of injustice the Vatican metes out worldwide.

“On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy,” Obama said in a statement from the White House. “As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years—that in each other we see the face of God.”

 

There is no charitable way to interpret Obama’s endorsement of Pope Francis I. He is either gullible in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary that the Vatican has become rich off the poor and most vulnerable among us, and lacks the compassion to stop demonizing condom use in AIDS wracked countries; or he is dishonestly pandering to the religious.  The official Catholic stance forbidding contraception contributes to the cycle of poverty especially in third world countries.

In some ways, suggesting a charitable in lieu of an accurate interpretation of a comment like Obama’s has the effect of shushing well earned criticism. It is the difference between being a jerk and being justifiably angry.

Nugent’s suggestions are already being used in the comments to point out the mote in someone else’s eye rather than removing the log in their own eye first.  I remember as a Christian the weird glee, that some would take in judging fellow Christians’ “fruits”, while being blind to their own glaring character flaws.  Someone rightfully pointed out that his suggestion can only be self-adopted; the only person anyone can realistically control is themselves.

Here are Nugent’s suggestions, which again I think for the most part commendable, and I have no problem adopting as I have already chosen to use them before.

The first five choices are general

1. We can choose to robustly debate our disagreements about ideas, while not personally insulting or mocking people who disagree with us.

2. We can choose to want to de-escalate, rather than escalate, the hostility and hurt that has been one outcome of how we have addressed some disagreements.

3. We can choose to accept that, just as we know that others are mistaken about our motivations, we may also be mistaken about their motivations.

4. We can choose to charitably interpret ambiguous statements, or ask the person to clarify them, rather than unilaterally attacking the worst interpretation.

5. We can choose to give people the space to reconsider previously stated beliefs, and to either clarify or easily disown off-the-cuff statements.

The next three choices relate to specific issues

6. We can choose to actively tackle the problems of sexism and harassment in our communities, regardless of the scale of those problems.

7. We can choose to robustly debate disagreements about aspects of feminism, without labeling people based on our interpretation of their motivation.

8. We can choose to unilaterally retract any statements that we personally have made that, in retrospect, we now believe were wrong or unhelpful.