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May 25, 2004

Unclear on the concept. Mark Kleiman “couldn’t care less” what anybody’s religious leaders think about Iraq policy, as Mark is at pains to explain in no uncertain terms.

Perhaps he’s got a point, but he kind of loses me here:

I suppose preachers have the same sort of general license to opine at random as bloggers do, but at least the bloggers don’t put out press releases about it.
Now, check me on this, but what exactly is it that bloggers do all the time? [03:57 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Unclear on the concept.:

Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 04:05 PM:

Obviously, putting out a press release or making a statement that someone else might or might not decide to publish or report on is much more egotistical and attention-grabbing than actually publishing it yourself.

Isn't that obvious to everyone? Well, perhaps not.

The Editors ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 04:24 PM:
Now, check me on this, but what exactly is it that bloggers do all the time?

Yeah, but only if Satan OK's it first.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 04:57 PM:

I like Mark's blog, and I am having trouble resisting posting a "how many ways is this bogus" comment.

The main problem is that religious organizations often have a lot to contribute to discussions of issues such as UN Iraq policy. Among all the groups that try to bring a moral agenda to the table, some of the religious groups, in particular some of the Catholic ones, can be quite effective. Not only do they represent groups that are influential in member states, religious groups remain major players in international aid efforts. And some religous groups have particular legitmacy to raise these kinds of issues at the UN as officially recognized non-member states or NGO observers (such as the Vatican and Franciscans International) These groups also tend to have a lower staff turnover than many politically driven delegations (like the US's delegation, for example) and therefore often are better "plugged in".

Allen Brill ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 06:12 PM:

Thanks for posting about this, Patrick, but I'd have to say you could have been a little more forthright about Mark being off-base here. He's presumed out of some stereotype of mainline Christianity that those present had no access to expertise on issues relevant to peace or the dilemma posed by our involvement in Iraq. My own Presiding Bishop (yes, i'm one of the dreaded "preacher" class) is head of the Lutheran World Fellowship which works in 20+ countries on 4 continents. This is not a "hand 'em a Bible" approach but instead providing healthcare, building schools, and being advocates for justice. I don't think Mark bothered to check out why Annan would bother to meet with these "preachers" before he reacted.

And while it surprises me deeply and sadly to hear this from Mark, it is not the first time some in the progressive blogosphere have assumed that Rev. = idiot.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 06:47 PM:

Well, it's an interesting point, but about fourteen months too late, don't you think? It would have also been nice to say a few words about the endless stream of high-profile pro-war preaching that the current group of preachers are responding to.

It doesn't seem inappropriate for a group of preachers to respond to over a year of everyone and their aunt Minnie claiming the authority of God and the right for this spectacular ballsup.

Allen Brill ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 06:59 PM:

Well, Julia, one of the participants in the meeting of Mark's "preachers" happens to be my bishop. He spoke out against the war before and even including the day it was launched while a lot of our favorite Dem politicians were playing the loyal patriot. If you don't hear religious progressives speaking against war and injustice, it's because you're not listening. This is espcially ironic considering that Kleiman thinks that Christians who oppose war (like MLK, Jr., I suppose) should just shut up.

Chuck Currie ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 07:06 PM:

The National Council of Churches, and just about every mainline church, spoke out against this war before it began. Their work on this issue is nothing new.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 08:28 PM:

Claude Muncey makes the really pertinent point: serious church people are often much more knowledgable than the average layperson about, for instance, conditions of life in the Third World. Many of them have spent significant portions of their lives there, as aid workers, missionaries, or what-have-you. When you read in the papers about various church leaders talking with officers of the UN, it's probably wise to assume that at least some of the church people have at least as much worldly sophistication and hands-on experience dealing with the political and economic miseries of faraway people as the UN officials do.

Which brings us to the Reverend Allen Brill, who chides me:

"I'd have to say you could have been a little more forthright about Mark being off-base here."
Quite a remark to level at someone who posted on this subject in the first place because you asked for comment on it. I guess I should have realized what kind of person I was dealing with when the Reverend Brill stuck the knife into Atrios after Atrios moderated his tone in their recent argument.

You want forthright, Reverent Brill? Okay, try this: I don't like your sanctimonious, prissy, more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger little exercises in finger-wagging reproof. I don't like the way you wait for people to soften up in their attitude to you, and then go in for the kill. Indeed, I find you remind me why so many people distrust clergymen. There's your forthright. And don't bother sending further email.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 08:33 PM:

Allen, my point (which I believe I may have put badly) was that since before the war started, there have been plenty of preachers getting large coverage for supporting it. It seems a bit unequal to single out preachers who speak up against it.

As I recall, the Pope got a lot less play for declaring this an unjust war than some guy who works for him got for attempting to bigfoot the american electoral process.

Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 08:51 PM:

"Heh. Indeed."

Phill ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 09:20 PM:

I think there is a big difference here. Bloggers usually have conversations with their audience. Preachers just broadcast their own predjudices without any serious effort to defend them.

Oh yes, and bloggers don't usually get confused into thinking they are talking on behalf of God.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 09:32 PM:

Quite the contrary; I suspect that at least as many bloggers as clergy suffer from the delusion that the sun shines out of their fundament.

And if you think that clergy, as a class, "just broadcast their own predjudices without any serious effort to defend them" more than other people do, you're mostly just showing your ignorance. Yeah, that really describes St. John of the Cross, or Thomas Merton, or Barbara Brown Taylor.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 11:24 PM:

One of the problems in our age is that so many people have only enountered clergy (such as priests or ministers) or religious (such as nuns, sisters, or monks) through books, television and film. This largely means either fictional characters, the self promoting types, or the small number who turn up in the news for good or bad reasons. There are good and bad fictional portrayals of any group, and the news media does a mixed job, at best, in dealing with religious issues and people. And, unfortunately, the TV preacher has taken the place of the used car salesman in American culture.

I have been very lucky to have run into some of the good ones, ranging from local pastors and priests to prison chaplains to monks and nuns to, well just all sorts. Some have been real pieces of work, it is true. But there have been people like Bob Mize, once Anglican Bishop of Damararaland, now Namibia. He was so proud of both of the work he had done amoung the Ovambo in the north of that country as well as having been deported in 1968 by the South African government. And lots more.

The clergy that I respect the most, and this covers people from just about any faith, are those who really live as servants of others -- even if all they can do is just be there and hurt with those whose lives are fresh bags of broken glass. People like that are not likely to show up in the news. My best example (which I have shared here before, so pardon me for repeating it) is my own parish priest. Two years ago a local veterinarian returned home from a morning walk to find that her estranged husband had broken into her home and killed all four of their children, then himself. The real job of a priest (or any other clergy) at that point is not officiating at some ceremony or preaching a sermon. It is sitting on the curb with her outside the yellow tape in front of what used to be her home for four hours while the police work inside. (I found out later that it also included working with some of the officers involved. Nobody ever gets used to something like that.) It is listening to shaing the pain and bewilderment of high school classmates of those four trying to make some sense of it all.

And anyone who thinks it's a soft job knows nothing about the schedule of most priests or ministers. You don't have to agree with them, or believe in what they believe to know that there is more going on that you will see on TV.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 11:33 PM:

One of the problems in our age is that so many people have only enountered clergy (such as priests or ministers) or religious (such as nuns, sisters, or monks) through books, television and film.

How could this be? Im an atheist, and Ive encountered clergy in actual, face-to-face life with conversation and everything.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2004, 11:56 PM:

Many, but not all, Avram.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 01:32 AM:

I have a hard time buying anything more than a few, Claude.

Mris ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 08:37 AM:

Avram, I'm the granddaughter of a pastor, and I live with the son of a pastor. My mom is not ordained but is on the executive board for her denomination. And I constantly meet people who have never had an actual conversation with a member of any clergy. Who assume that all Christian clergy follow the same rules as they suppose Catholic clergy must follow (and heaven knows they make a muddle of the Catholic bits, too). Who think that if you're wearing a funny collar, they needn't bother because they already know what you think about anything at all. Who think they ought to be scared of my mom, my dad's father, or Timprov's dad, and that I will be, too.

Even among churchgoers, there are lots of people who avoid talking to the clergybeing or getting to know her/him as a human being, who tune out the sermon or conveniently forget the bits they didn't want to think about, who think that "Pastor" or "Father" is their clergyperson's first name. Some clergy find it to be a big problem with their jobs, and it bugs the heck out of the pastors' kids.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 12:43 PM:

an ultra-conservative sixtyish irish-american catholic monsignor of my acquaintance feels he can't vote for a Democrat because of abortion, but he's also marched for the farmworkers and boycotts Walmart and goods made in China on fair wage grounds.

Not good to assume, really.

Ab_Normal ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 01:50 PM:

I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum from Avram: I'm also an atheist, and the only time I've interacted with the clergy since my deconversion has been at family funerals. I don't think my 10 year old has even *met* a member of the clergy (except maybe when fundie grandma dragged her to church during visits). Only a few folks in my (admittedly limited) social milieu are "churched", and they're pretty dang quiet about it.

(Of course, I'm not counting Discordians or Sub-Geniuses, who are pretty thick on the ground in fandom, or my friend who got ordained over the Internet so he could officiate at another friend's wedding. Somehow I don't think we're talking about that class of clergy.)

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 02:16 PM:

Abnormal: Well, there are 'real' men of god in fandom as well. Randy Smith is an ordained Methodist minister and Father John Blaker is a Catholic priest. And those are just 2 I know personally.


HP ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2004, 03:33 PM:

Aha! I believe this must have something to do with Brill's context-free attack on Fred Clark yesterday.

I saw this earlier today (without knowing about the Kleinman business) and thought it was another one of those borderline-personality types you encounter online. Then I recognized the name....

Although in light of PNH's experience interacting with Brill, it might be one of those borderline-personality types after all.

Ab_Normal ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2004, 02:39 PM:

Mary Kay: That's good to hear. I'll be the first to admit that my breadth of experience in fandom is quite small. :)

Donald Johnson ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2004, 05:48 PM:

HP, that wasn't an attack on Fred, that was a sarcastic reference to the post by Mark. That was obvious, if you followed what happened here or even if you read the thread you linked. The "borderline personality" crack was a cheap shot for which there is no evidence, certainly not in this thread. But it's nice to see the old circular firing squad blazing away with its customary accuracy.