I’d pretty much forgotten about Hugo Schwyzer, but I still (just) recognized the name, so I was motivated to read Comrade Physioprof’s post on him the other day, and startled by what it told me.
Now I find out for the first time (also see the comments) (although this is not newly public information, just new to me) that over a decade ago the motherfucker sexually preyed on his students and attempted to murder his ex-girlfriend, as described graphically on his blogge:
I walked into the little kitchen only steps from where my ex lay. I blew out the pilot lights on our gas oven and on the burners, and turned the dials on everything up to maximum. I pulled the oven away from the wall, leaving the gas line intact, positioning it so that the gas was blowing directly at the passed-out young woman on the floor.
Schwyzer claims to be a “male feminist” and to have focused his life on feminism out of remorse and to make amends for his past grotesque history of woman-hating and violence, including both having sex with his female students and attempting to murder his ex-girlfriend. This opportunistic motherfucker is full of shitte.
PZ’s post on him today prompted me to dig up the posts that relate to my long ago clash with Schwyzer. It was April 2004. I had been invited to join the group blog about history Cliopatria at History News Network a few months earlier, and had been enjoying myself there…and then Hugo Schwyzer joined. I posted about the problem that arose almost as soon as he joined.
It’s fundamental disagreement time. I disagree radically with a line of argument at Cliopatria, and what’s worse, the kind of argument it is makes it very difficult to dispute as directly and bluntly as I would like to – or as I would like to in one sense but would not like to in another. That’s exactly the problem. I may decide to leave Cliopatria as a result – because as it is, I seem to be semi-acquiescing in views that are anathema to me.
My politics are derived from my faith, not the other way around. When I was younger, and a secular liberal, my politics were the only faith I had! Since coming to Christ (and yes, I do call myself “born again” without embarrassment), I have had to rebuild my politics from the ground up. When I consider political questions, I am forced to ask myself what position I believe Christ calls me to. This isn’t easy, for any number of obvious reasons, starting with the fact that the New Testament is not a modern political manual. This is why I can’t merely allow myself to hunt and peck through Scripture, finding passages that support my already-in-place suppositions about justice. (Many liberal and conservative Christians alike do this; it’s an understandable habit, but a bad one). Rather, I have to be open to what the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and my church community are telling me about right, wrong, peace and war and so forth…The Christian left must be faithful to Christ first, not secular dogma. Where our agendas and our understandings coincide, so much the better. But at times, we will stand with our Christian brethren on the right of the political spectrum, not out of sectarian loyalty but out of a sense that, as Carter said, “discerning God’s will and doing it is prior to everything else.” It is no easy thing to claim to have discerned God’s will. No wise Christian tries to do it alone. We do it in the light of (thanks Wesley) Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Experience; above all we do it prayerfully, humbly, and together.
You can see how it was. I had simply assumed, without (that I recall) even wondering about it, that Cliopatria was a secular blog. What else would it be?! History is a secular subject that relies on secular methods. Historians don’t argue from revelation or “scripture” or divine afflatus. I found Hugo’s post wrong-headed and sinister, and also toe-curlingly embarrassing. I didn’t want to be on a blog that hosted that kind of thing. I also didn’t feel comfortable about saying so on the blog itself – which itself would be an obstacle. All of a sudden there was a big Taboo in the middle of the thing, and that wasn’t what I had signed up for.
And that wasn’t all. As you’ll see if you read the post, there was a lot of pushback from Ralph Luker of Cliopatria, who had invited me to join in the first place – a lot of very goddy pushback. This was 2004, before the monster Gnu Atheism was born, so I was foolishly surprised at the rising ferocity. Eventually Ralph called me Madame Defarge, which probably helped to make me the gnu I am today.
In the next round, I tried to figure out how Luker and others know so much about god when they escape pressing questions by saying god is ineffable.
One of the problems with religion when one is trying to have a rational discussion is that kind of having it both ways. God is ineffable etc. but that won’t stop us from knowing all about it. That kind of move doesn’t work in secular discussion, and doesn’t get resorted to as much. But with religion – well, you know, everyone means something different, and it’s ineffable, and you can’t pin it down or define it, and if you try to you’re just being literal and scientistic…
And that’s where I decided to stop, and transfer over here, instead. But that is a serious question. I am constantly being told that when I disagree with religion on substantive issues I misunderstand because that’s not what it’s about, it’s about awe and wonder, or love, or inner experience. But that’s not what Hugo’s post is about at all. It’s about taking the Bible as a guide to morals, and without picking and choosing, because that’s a bad habit. It’s about replacing one’s existing suppositions about justice with God’s will. It’s about taking direction from the Holy Spirit – not metaphorically but literally. That is the kind of thing that worries me, not awe or wonder, and not ineffable things (provided people don’t then decide that they’re effable after all when a different argument is going on).
Debate here and elsewhere on the intersection of faith and historical method led me to this fine article from 2001 in Christianity Today. It featured this terrific quotation from Mark Noll, who says what I have been trying to say in all of these debates for some time (but without much success):
Asked about the anti-supernaturalism of history, Noll made a distinction between what he called”ordinary” and”providential” history. Ordinary history, he said, limits itself to”evidence and causes and effects that almost everyone can be convinced might have taken place.” While ordinary history might look quite secular, Noll sees it as fundamentally Christian in its presuppositions and worldview. He compared it to science. Christian scientists do their work with confidence because they believe that the world will make sense, and that God has made it possible for the human mind to understand the world. So with the historian.”If I want to study the history of the American Revolution, I’m presupposing that something real took place, that the evidence left corresponds in some way to what really took place, that I’m intelligent enough to understand that evidence, that I’m able to put together a plausible explanation of cause and effect that might get us close to the truth,” Noll said.”All those enterprises I see as implicitly dependent on a Christian view of God.”
It was rather obnoxious of Schwyzer, I thought. He could have simply kept the goddy stuff to himself, but he made a point of not doing that; he forced it on the rest of us, as bossy goddy types always do.
It’s fascinating to learn about this other side of him now.