Thursday, July 31, 2008

Casualties of a Culture War?

As you are undoubtedly aware, a Tennessee gunman took the lives of two attendees of a Unitarian Universalist church last weekend. After a tragedy such as this, it is important in America to affix blame. Who is to blame for these dastadly acts? If you said "the gunman", congratulations. Count yourself among those who default to common sense and reason in the face of tragedy.

Know, however, that your prospects for blogging on behalf a left-wing religious group are diminished substantially by this answer. Didn't you know that conservative talk radio is to blame? That's okay. Craig Detweiler, who teaches film (snicker) at Fuller Theological Seminary will fill in the blanks for you. Selected excerpts, with not-nice commentary, below:

Tragically, the culture war crossed over fighting words to shooting bullets.

Wow, this opening sentence is a mess. No wonder this guy teaches film for a living. Moving on.

While 25 children sang songs from "Annie," a gunman fired three shotgun blasts inside the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.

Well, the killer certainly had a sense of irony. Perhaps we should blame Paul Thomas Anderson for this one. Whaddayathink, Mr. Film Buff?

(And as a nation we continue to support the right to shoot others over sane gun control policies--but that deserves its own separate conversation).

It deserves a separate conversation, and so naturally Mr. Detweiler contends with it by way of a false dichotomy couched in a paranthetical. Welcome to the world of arguing disingenuously.

While many evangelicals celebrated Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott as martyrs who died for their Christian convictions at Columbine High School, I wonder if we will extend the same heroism to the victims in Tennessee?

Ah, the "I wonder" dodge. What the author is really saying is that he doesn't believe that Christians will assign martyrdom to those who were murdered in this instance, probably because Christians don't care about liberals as much as conservatives. He is half right. They weren't martyrs in the traditional sense. Worthy of praise, yes, but Unitarians aren't Christians, and don't claim to be.

Of course, question begs a corollary. Were Mr. Detweiler et al... worked into a fit of finger-pointing by the killings at New Life church? I wonder...

When the system failed to work (evidently, his food stamps had just run out), Adkisson took up arms, aiming at those who he had been trained to hate--gays and liberals.

See, if only he had never gotten foodstamps, this never would have happened. What? That's not a logical analysis? Hmmm...

Why did he single out Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalists?

Well... If you're looking for gays and liberals (and show tunes), the Unitarian church is about as logical a destination as any.

While ultimate responsibility resides with the shooters, we can also connect these deaths to too much toxic talk radio.

And we can "connect" the shootings at New Life on the left-wing blogosphere. I'm sure Mr. Detweiler devotes a paragraph or two to that.

This is the kind of tragedy that occurs when we adopt war rhetoric, turning our fellow Americans into enemies.

The term "culture war" was coined by academics and assimilated by mainstream journalists. How does their use of rhetoric factor into the killer's decision here?

Both sides have effectively demonized the opposition, laying blame for our problems at others' feet. Would it "kill" talk radio announcers to tone down their tenor for the sake of the common good?

So, in one sentence, Mr. Detweiler denounces demonization of the opposition, and in the next sentence demonizes the opposition...

Can we discipline ourselves to change the channel when the scapegoating begins?

...And then proceeds to make a scapegoat of scapegoaters.

I write this with a fair amount of trepidation. To promote peace to a war mongering people can get you in trouble. I don't want to be placed on anybody's hit list. I do not want to put my children in the line of fine (sic) because I extend an olive branch towards atheists, homosexuals, or anyone else deemed 'other' by the conservative Christian community.

If anything, he should be worried about assault by some masked grammar gendarme. The real purpose of this self-imposed martyrdom is to veil the contention that conservative Christians would sooner kill than extend an olive branch to atheists and homosexuals. How, um, purple of him.

That said, Detweiler's thesis here engenders a far more dangerous idea. By neblously "connecting" these slayings to the day-to-day rantings of overheated partisans, he is laying the groundwork of association.

One could dismiss Detweiler's buffonery were not posted on a forum designed to advance the partisan interests of those with a vested interest in limiting free speech. Democrats have proposed bills to curtail by force the influence of talk radio, to enforce speech codes on college campuses, and to ban "hate" speech.

That would be a casualty indeed.


Anonymous Thom said...

Well...why not? I mean, people on the right blame rap music and movies for stuff...and both the left and right like to blame video games. It's the American past-time... "Janet Jackson's exposed breast is destroying America!"

Okay...that one might be true.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

I don't blame rap music for stuff. That said, blaming a rap song glorifying rape and or murder for a rape and or murder is quite different from blaming polemic for rape and or murder.

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Thom said...

Personally, I blame Mark Trail. I hate that guy.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Roger said...

And then, does anyone really care what Detweiler has to say? I would never have heard about his opinion had I not read it here.

I think I'm kind of trying to say that it's OK to be a buffoon if no one is going to pay attention.

6:18 PM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

He's not that obscure, but I will cop to not having a lot of great blog ideas at the moment.

9:20 PM  

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