Lessons in how to disagree with popular opinion

When children speak in favour of atheism or secularism or GLBTI issues, they are praised and receive vocal public support.

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Last week, several anonymous female school students received wide public backing when they expressed to the ABC, “shock and frustration” by the “outdated” ideas Archbishop Davies promoted.  Archbishop Glenn Davies had spoken at the annual service for Anglican School Leaders, and as part of his address he made comments about gender equality; nothing radical, he affirmed the historic Christian understanding.

But when a teenage girl spoke out on Friday in favour of the Bible and the Bible’s teaching about marriage, the story was sadly very different. Paige Katay wrote a piece for The Drum, and was also interviewed by Julia Baird for The Drum’s evening television program.

To be fair, and probably in view that a 17 year old school girl was speaking, many people dampened their rhetoric from some of the usual delights. It should also be noted that  a significant number of people encouraged Paige for her courage, clarity and conviction. However, underlying many the comments was a streak of condescension, with frequent references to ‘brain-washing’  and ‘indoctrination’.

Here are some examples from the comments section on ABC’s The Drum:

“Good that this poor child is having her washed brain questioned by @cassandragoldie who knows what happens when men rule”

“Spirited defence, but I suppose a girls Anglican school has to rationalise like this in order to stop the girls smelling a rat when the law of the land says they are equal to their brother….”

“Your “belief” that males and females have different gender based roles in society and relationships is incredibly sexist. This type of “belief” ALWAYS results in *MEN* occupying the primary positions of societal authority and power, whereas you interpret it as “a beautiful kind of harmony”. Yep, you’ve been very effectively and thoroughly brainwashed by your religion.

Yes, the Archbishop has you thoroughly controlled and brainwashed. After all, nearly 2,000 years of brutal Christianity has shown it’s all about domination and control of others. Luckily, old style violent Christianity has been slowly defeated over the past several hundred years by secularism ….. by secular morals, secular freedom, secular democracy and secular decency. Hopefully Christianity will never return to it’s bad old days.”

And among the responses on twitter (some tweets are sadly unrepeatable):

“Poor brainwashed indoctrinated Child.”

“Paige Katay believes in invisible men in the sky & has been indoctrinated from age zero. Her opinions are worthless.”

“I had been mightily impressed with how today’s young people seem so progressive and socially aware. Then along came Paige Katay.”

As I observe Australians debating important issues, I can see three main approaches:

The first approach (and most common) is where there is no engagement with an opposing view with reasoned argument or questions, just ridicule and bullish tactics.

This has become all to common when discussions use the word ‘gender’ or ‘marriage’. 

I had believed that bullying was a reprehensible act, and the public outraged at any whiff of children being intimidated, but apparently it is okay if the person in question is a Christian teenage girl affirming her beliefs. 

The second approach is somewhat better, although far from ideal. Here, there is no engagement with the views actually presented, but loaded with assumptions about what we ‘think’ the person has said or should be saying, a critique is offered. But arguing against a caricatured position is hardly fair and it does little to progress debate.

This was evident on Friday’s episode of The Drum, when Tom Allard was asked a question about Paige Katay’s views. He began by rebutting an idea that Paige never articulated, and when Julia Baird corrected him, he then spoke against a view of the Bible that no Christian that I know of, believes or teaches.

The third approach is where each party listens carefully to the others, and can repeat accurately the views you disagree with, and then offer a respectful critique, and finally outline your own position. It requires humility, honesty, and kindness, even when you feel strongly about the issue.

As Australians talk to polemical social and moral issues, I am not surprised that many are choosing to interact in the first two ways,  although I am nonetheless disappointed and saddened, especially when politicians and ‘leaders’ resort to these machiavellian tactics. Here, I want to encourage people, especially Christians to work hard at exemplifying the third way. Paige Katay has given us a wonderful example, as have many other Christians in the public space. Indeed, non-Christians such as the now former Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson, also give us an example.

I remember watching a short video conversation on the Gospel Coalition website between Tim Keller, Matt Chandler and Michael Horton, where they agree that we want to be in the place where we can express the views of our opponents better than they, such that they can see that we understand them.

Meekness may not be easy, but Jesus certainly thinks it is the way to go. Let’s resist hateful speech, false representations, and parodies, and insist upon words and a way of communicating that reflect the Lord Jesus. 

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8 thoughts on “Lessons in how to disagree with popular opinion

  1. Great article! If only we all possessed the ability to behave in the third way. I find the first one by far the most common in Social Media world and the second in face to face environments.
    Slight correction – the comments the Archbishop made were from a Q&A session and not from his address. I don’t believe he choose to speak on the topic, probably because of a predictable backlash, but students raised the matter and he was obliged to respond.

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  2. I am sorry but this article by a 17 year old young woman was reposted by Anglican clergy and John Dickson on CPX with affirming comments and no critique.

    If a person from a different denomination – say Catholic – were to use the same principle of logic, exegesis and theology to argue for “works justification” those same people would have been quick to point out the logic, exegesis and theology was weak or wrong from their perspective.

    This affirmation of her position on the basis of her weak logic, exegesis and theology, has for the first time caused me to wonder, seriously wonder about Anglican brothers I have defended as not being misogynistic.

    I am so concerned that people can affirm with no attempt – that I have seen – to question her logic, exegesis and theology.

    To be honest I am having to go back and remind myself of why I trust some Anglican brothers in Christ when in my opinion they have “used” her.

    I also think some of her critics have been outrageous but I genuinely do not understand how there can be such strong affirmation of poor logic, exegesis and theology.

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    • Well you’d expect affirmation by those who would agree with the article, which you’d probably expect they do, especially for an article that clarifies what the Archbishop actually said and meant.

      “This affirmation of her position on the basis of her weak logic, exegesis and theology, has for the first time caused me to wonder, seriously wonder about Anglican brothers I have defended as not being misogynistic.”

      I think it sufficient addresses the key points that the Archbishop raised, so I don’t see weak logic or weak theology. Especially when understanding the forms and functions within the Trinity and how they relate to this issue I guess, the links made were clear and easily understandable for any audience. Maybe, the exegesis could be more explicit and there are possibly slightly more references that could have been used. But I think the article aims for simplicity and is yes, an opinion piece, not a theological essay as such.

      “To be honest I am having to go back and remind myself of why I trust some Anglican brothers in Christ when in my opinion they have “used” her. ”
      Clearly that speaks a lot about your opinion on the matte/theological issue than hers. I don’t think they have “used” her, she used her freedom of speech as much did the other students to express how they interpreted the Archbishop’s statements.

      Summary: The last thing that is needed, is false reporting/testimony. Her article, shows that there was such and provides a different opinion. Yes it may not be a theological essay, and may not be exactly the best way of expressing or explaining (from the Scriptures) the case, which there is one, for complementarianism (within a equality framework).

      That Drum article will probably generate (already has) generated discussions about this topic. I think it was good of the ABC to offer an alternate opinion on the matter, than the one that is predominantly presented.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Your response simply echoes the incredulity of her critics, insofar that they cannot believe someone can hold a position they disagree with, without having been brainwashed or used. Must a 17 year old girl be “used” if she simply disagrees with your position. A ludicrous and belittling position to take.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Murray for a perceptive article.. It’s interesting isn’t it that we are expected to get on board with the Safe Schools program so that LGBTI students are not bullied (and they shouldn’t be), but Christian students can expect all manner of bullying when they dare to proclaim a Christian world view.
    And, Mary Elizabeth Fisher, maybe those who reposted Paige’s article without critique of her ‘logic, exegesis and theology’ did so because they thought she expressed herself so well – do they deserve the accusation that they have ‘used’ her?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Happy Birthday! | MurrayCampbell.net

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