Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dear John Hobbins: Have You Censored Me?

Dear John,
When I try now to make a response to your post, "A Response to Kurk Gayle," I only get this: "The page at ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com says: We're sorry, we cannot accept this data." I really was trying to continue the dialog you began. And I do appreciate Jay's comment on your post too. Here's how I was starting to respond:

Jay - In reading Exodus (all of it even in English and not just "LXX Exodus 21:22-25"), you really get us wondering about what John says about how it is there are so many (of us) for whom "the Bible functions as light, mirror, and compass." How is it that this thing so functions? As if it is a Natural or supernatural thing in itself, so imposing on its readers. This makes us think too of what Katherine recently claims in a comment on a post at my blog: her her.meneutics. And there's that Spirit of God you mention.

John - Where do I begin with your charges against me? Augustine as if the Aristotelian binary buster?

In Book IV of De Doctrina Christiana, Augustine says,

"if anyone, unlearnedly learned, so to speak, contend that the Apostle [Paul] has followed the rules of [pagan, Greek] rhetoric, will he not be laughed at by Christians, cultured and uncultured alike? And still we recognize here the figure called in Greek χλιμαξ, in Latin by some, gradatio . . . . But this, and things of this kind are set forth in the art of oratory. So, though we do not say that the Apostle followed the rules of eloquence, still, we do not deny that eloquence followed close upon his wisdom."

Augustine goes on to say,

"But some perhaps may think that I have chosen the Apostle Paul as the example of our eloquence. . . . And so I see that I must say something also of the eloquence of the Prophets, greatly cloaked as it is in a metaphorical style. The more, however, that they seem obscure by the use of figurative expressions, the more pleasing they are when their meaning has been made clear. . . .

[The Prophet Amos, for example,] was by divine appointment taken and sent to prophesy to the people of God: but not according to the Septuagint translators, who even themselves, working under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, seem for this very reason to have expressed some things in a different way, in order that the attention of the reader might be rather directed to a study of the spiritual sense--and thus some of their passages are even more obscure because more figurative."

Augustine goes even further to suggest that oratory (i.e., the pagan stuff of Greek rhetorics) is from God himself. He (Augustine) has lots of thoughts about how and whether such rhetoric must be taught, as if by law, by rules, my mandate, by proposition. (They shouldn't, he says.)

What Augustine writes is very close, in method, to what many feminisms do. Notice that Augustine allows the Septuagint translators to be fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, to follow pagan rhetoric - as it were -, and to say something different or at least differently from their Prophet who speaks in firmly-written Hebrew.

(My only personal defense to any of your charges at this point is this: have I called myself either a biblioblogger or a feminist blogger?)


John Hobbins said...

Hi Kurk,

No, I haven't censored you. Typepad sometimes rejects comments from Texas. It's a San Francisco outfit, and they don't take kindly to Texans. Seriously, if you have problems posting again, just email me and I will post your comment ASAP under your name.

John Hobbins said...

I don't think Augustine would have agreed that feminists follow the rules of interpretation he outlines in De Doctrina Christiana.

Of course there is some overlap, but the differences matter more than the similarities. You are the first person to claim otherwise, so far as I know.

As far as whether you are a feminist or a biblioblogger, I have always considered you both, and thought you did as well. That is one reason I thought your binary opposition that you set up between the two was inaccurate.

If instead you think of yourself as one and not the other, or as neither, please explain yourself.

I look forward to hearing more from you on the substance of my comments.

J. K. Gayle said...

What's at stake for you, John?

I'm deeply interested in how my daughters and son read the Bible and Augustine and other texts. They call me a feminist. Sigh. And the bibliobloggers have seemed to claim me as one of their own (your own?) as well. Alas, more labels. I'm going to try to explain myself with the unintended obscurity of another pedantic post, I'm afraid. But I think Augustine opens things up (by preferring, he says, to follow Jerome and instead actually using the kind of rhetorics of the Jewish translators of the LXX.) Maybe the next post will give some more coherent thoughts on that, or beginnings of them. What else do you want to talk about?

John Hobbins said...

Very much is at stake when scripture is read as scripture.

Three doxological metaphors begin to explain what scripture is, or isn't, depending on the work of the Spirit: light, mirror, and compass.

Reading scripture, furthermore, for Augustine, involves a regula fidei.

But I don't think you read the biblical text as scripture. You approach it with loyalties of another kind than those just outlined.

But if you don't want to talk about those loyalties, I understand.

J. K. Gayle said...

John, Are you using your light for a kind of witch hunt? To ferret out in me some lack or perversion of regula fidei? To call me out as a heretical reader of scripture as scripture?

Why do some men read the biblical text - claiming regula fidei and light and mirror and compass - and so lord it over their fellows and their enemies, their wives and their slaves? Can the scripture be breathed of God and still be sexist?

We can talk, if you like, of loyalties - even mine - but if the brightest light, the clearest mirror, and the truest compass only serves you to reinforce your strong position of power over, then what are we talking about really?

John Hobbins said...


My hope goes precisely in the other direction. My hope is that you will find a way to read scripture that is less judgmental, less black-and-white, more charitable and respectful.

Furthermore, I am hoping you will engage with the concept of ethical reading Frances Young lays out:

Frances Young writes in favor of "ethical reading." She remarks, "Such a reading requires that readers do not simply exploit texts for their own interests, refusing to examine their own presuppositions, but attempt to be open to the 'other' and to listen, acknowledging difference, recognizing that the author has something to say and endeavouring to hear that, while reserving the right of challenge and differentiation, of the refusal to be taken over" (2008: 107-108).

Furthermore, she points out, if we have a commitment to the Christian tradition, when reading scriptural texts, we will "respect and accommodate them . . . and seek a hermeneutic of appropriation" (110).

In the process, as I said before, it will be important to respect the alterity of the texts, their non-feminist alterity included.

J. K. Gayle said...

Do you know what begging the question is, John? I'm asking rhetorically (and using the philosophic, not rhetorical, meaning of "begging the question"). How is it that you know (and care) so much about me as an unethical reader so disrepectful of non-feminist alterity in a text, in The text? How is it that you so clearly see how black and white in judgment and how also uncharitable I am? Why to you is this such a concern? How such a Truth?

John Hobbins said...

I gave examples of your reading of texts, Kurk. You have already said that I understood you at some level, but not on other levels. You might take the time to disambiguate those levels.

I care very much about both the text and its readers. As you point out, my approach is to look for common ground.

I was hoping that you would come back and say, "I agree with Frances Young. We need to respect the text, even a text like Numbers 5, and practice a hermeneutics of appropriation based on a rule of faith."

I've "got high hopes" (Frank Sinatra, 1939, Goofy's theme song with Max on their road trip).

J. K. Gayle said...

I don't entirely disagree with Young, John. But in suggesting "the need to be true both to the text and to oneself [i.e., oneself as reader positioned by the text]," she also suggests that Phyllis Trimble is somehow untrue, and unethical, by reading, within the scriptures "texts of terror." I think Young is close in method to Krista Ratcliffe, who advocates rhetorical listening. However, Young wants, longs for the ideal of, letting the author of the text speak his intention with the reader listening mostly to that. The other issue for Young is that she's never willing, it seems to me, to concede that the Pastorals, for example, might actually be sexist when the authors themselves read them for themselves. In other words, the original author (unless in denial) may actually be misogynistic or gynophobic. The authors were sinners, right? They did have issues that come through the text, no? This does some relate to Numbers 5 - but what of LXX translators? And then English translators of their Greek now? Aren't we layering on the intentions of writers? And now trying to negotiate (as if ethically) the reader being true to herself or himself.

How do you respect Mein Kampf? I'm not saying it's scripture or Hitler's God or that the hateful tyrant's book deserves respect. But do we also read it "ethically"?

John Hobbins said...


I doubt that Frances Young is as negative toward the work of Phyllis Trible as your statement suggests. Nor do I think that you come close to giving Young a respectful hearing when it comes to the Pastorals.

Young is a maverick who knows her field inside and out. She not only engages with feminism, but does so critically. I heartily recommend her work. I often do not agree with her, but that's beside the point.

That you bring up Hitler's Mein Kampf in this context is ominous. It is a text whose implied author sets himself as judge, jury, and executioner of others. Your comments on Numbers 5 and on the Pastorals suggest to me that you feel that the authors of those texts set themselves up as judge, jury, and executioners of women.

I respect your honesty. It seems that you are arguing that you do not feel a moral responsibility to respect the intentions of the authors of those texts because you have determined that they are malicious. You have determined that the authors are water-boarders of women. It follows that if the authors are "little Hitlers," the best thing to do is take a page from Bonhoeffer and conspire to assassinate them.

To make a long story short, I prefer the road Augustine laid out.

Thanks for the conversation, Kurk.

J. K. Gayle said...

John, thank you for the conversation! And let me add that I laughed out loud when you sang the Frank Sinatra song - hoping things for otherwise hopeless me.

John, REading my blog - let me hasten to say - has some of the same inherent problems as reading Mein Kampf. I'm not at all saying it's analogous otherwise to reading the Bible, that Hitler and God have anything in common other than authorship of books. I'm not wanting you (as if you're Freud) to psycho-analyse meanings into what I say and write here. That wouldn't be very ethical of you, would it?

Let me also confess that I've read very little of Frances Young - and admit that you're making me want to read lots more of her work. I hate when others' characterize and essentialize my favorite authors. Certainly, I didn't mean to mischaracterize, to misread, Young with respect to Trible. (Also didn't mean to mistype her name Trimble - as if something believing demons do :) Don't analyse that either).

Thank you for saying you respect my honesty. I'll take that as a cue to self to say I respect yours. I'm not making a judgment about the authors of Numbers 5. But the text, John, positions men and women very unequally, you must admit.

A wife cannot suspect her husband - cannot have the spirit of jealous he does - and expect the same treatment of him. He doesn't have to go to the priestess in private to be examined. He doesn't have to drink the potion that will curse his people if he's guilty. He doesn't have to worry about his thighs sagging (or his biceps for that matter). He doesn't need to be concerned that his child-producing organs will swell visibly for all to see.

Shall we rename such gendered lopsidedness (to put it mildly) so as to refer to it, out of respect to the biblical author, by a name other than sexism? What do you suggest?

John Hobbins said...

The first thing worth doing with any ritual legal text is to interpret *historically,* against the background of its own context.

The second thing worth doing with any ritual legal text is to approach it *anthropologically,* in terms of ethnographic parallels up to and including the present.

The third thing worth doing with any ritual legal text is to approach it in terms of its *history of reception,* e.g. in Jewish and Christian tradition, and in legal culture influenced by it.

I would begin with those three things in the case of a text like Numbers 5.

Once these things are done, important discoveries are made. For example, in Babylonian law (Codex Hammurabi paragraphs 131-132, the model codex of the most culturally advanced nation of the time), anyone could press charges on suspicion of adultery. It would have been considered a communal obligation to do so, because adultery was a "great sin" against God or the gods first of all. A violation of covenant, it put the whole community at risk. If you saw a married woman entering and exiting the house of a man not married to her, you would point an accusing finger, and she was to fling herself into river "for the sake of her husband." The possible outcomes were two: survival, or death at the hands of the river god.

The law of Moses is full of grace by comparison. Only the husband could press charges, and the possible outcomes were two: exoneration, or sterility rather than death.

To which the Babylonian legal experts would have replied: "That's inconsistent. Everyone knows that adultery is a capital offense." To which Moses would have replied: "This is the word of the Lord." Consistency is less important than mercy.

These are just examples. It would be particularly interesting to interview men and women in cultures that currently make use of ordeals in judicial determinations. More discoveries, I'm sure, would be made. We might begin to understand these rituals emically.

John Hobbins said...

You know how important the etic / emic distinction is. Your commitment to the readers of the texts, a commitment I share, should not require that your forfeit your commitment to emic realities.

As for the history of reception, the heirs of the Pharisees saw fit to abolish the practice precisely in their zeal to stay true to Torah. The reasoning is fascinating. I'm not sure that analogues to the ordeal of Numb 5 were universally abolished among Christians. It's a question worth exploring.

I am with you all the way if you note that the point of departure of Numbers 5 is a patriarchal culture. Most culture, to this day, in a preponderance of spheres, is patriarchal to one degree or another, in other spheres, matriarchal. Routinized lopsidedness is absolutely typical of human culture.

The question is how the Gospel works within this lopsidedness. Does it redeem the structures, fill them with new content while leaving them intact, or does it transform the structures?

As a matter of fact, mostly the former, whether the structures in question are those we take for granted - "egalitarian," or at least, that is the myth we enjoy repeating to ourselves - or a "patriarchal / matriarchal" mix: still the best description of every culture I've laid eyes on.

In that sense, all culture is sexist in both directions. If it's true that Kinder, Kuche, und Kirche don't really matter - the spheres of matriarchy in most culture to this day - I suppose one might say that matriarchy is so unimportant that it is not worth mentioning.

But only very dimwitted males and females would ever ascribe unimportance, even relative unimportance, to the three K's.

Is it true that sexism in this sense vehiculates sin? It does, especially on the part of the archs, padri e madri, but, as I imagine you also know, if the lopsidedness is removed, misogyny and its twin, misandry, do not disappear. They simply take other forms.

Sin and sickness have always caused far more human suffering than cultural structures in and of themselves. The latter are the excuses which sin-sick people use. At the moment, it is "no-fault" divorce and "egalitarian" law in custody battles that is the excuse parents have for hurting each other and their children irreparably.

In my setting and yours, in which people tend to self-identify as egalitarians, there is no obvious decrease in the amount of harm people do to each other, or to themselves, with respect to traditional cultures.

If you think I am wrong about any of these things, by all means, continue the conversation.

J. K. Gayle said...

You've left many things for me to think about, John. And I've carefully considered each thing you've said. Continue the conversation around any of the many things I disagree with, which you pinpoint as things I think are "wrong"? Why do that?

I will respond to your penultimate paragraph:

"In my setting and yours, in which people tend to self-identify as egalitarians, there is no obvious decrease in the amount of harm people do to each other, or to themselves, with respect to traditional cultures."

Aren't you glad President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation even though there was no obvious decrease in the amount of cotton production in the US? And do those who self-identify as abolitionists always see a decrease in the amount of harm the majority culture whites do to blacks when the principles of egalitarianism after a "Civil" war are finally mandated?

John Hobbins said...


I'm glad for the Emancipation Proclamation even if it is true, or might be true, that African-Americans are worse off now, in fundamental ways, in Milwaukee WI today, than they were in the antebellum South.

It is possible that a young African-American woman is more likely to be raped and/or become a single mother and everything that goes with that in Milwaukee today, where the majority of children are borne out of wedlock, than was the case in the antebellum South, whence their ancestors came.

We are talking about what a theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, called the "irony of history."

It may assuage the guilt of self-identifying abolitionists (I am one, by heritage; in MA my ancestors made their home part of the underground railroad; it is a historical monument today) to know that white-on-black violence, including the "genteel" kind associated with the name of Thomas Jefferson, probably occurs less often now than it did in the antebellum South - though you are right to question that.

However that may be, it doesn't change the fact that black-on-black violence is probably way up. Oh freedom.

Egalitarianism does not decrease levels of violence; it may actually increase levels; it does redistribute violence.

The recent history of South Africa is emblematic of the same.

Even so, it is well and good that apartheid ended. That is true though its end is clearly a mixed blessing, and in the short and medium terms, and perhaps even long-term, leads to greater rottenness rather than less overall.

On a case-by-case basis, the abolition of inequalities can be any of the following things:

(1) a means of salvation from an oppressor;
(2) a means of oppression, whereby someone who could not before is now empowered to hurt others;
(3) a wash in terms of good / bad it entails.

I agree with Paul in 1 Cor 7:21-24 as translated in NRSV, according to the interpretation S. Scott Bartchy argued for persuasively (see, conveniently, his article on Slavery (Greco-Roman) in the ABD). Actually, if I understand Bartchy, 7:21 should be translated as follows:

Were you a slave when called? Don't be concerned about it. On the other hand, should you gain your freedom, make use of your changed condition more than ever.

The rest of the passage, 7:22-24, at typically dialectical passage of Paul's, is reasonably clear.

If Paul's argument is right, it is not patriarchy, matriarchy, or some imagined opposite that matters, but the freedom Christ gives us within all of those frameworks, a freedom that cannot be identified with any of the frameworks.

John Hobbins said...


One more thing. I imagine - without knowing, it's just an intuition, - that in your marriage, there is little patriarchy or matriarchy. Rather than domain-based hierarchy, your marriage may well embody a commitment to sharing responsibilities as evenly as possible across the board.

I also want to say that if that is true, I also imagine that you succeed, with the help of the rest of your family, in making that model work. My guess is that it works in the exact measure in which you all live according to 1 Cor 13.

As a pastor, I NEVER criticize a family for arranging things along strict egalitarian lines, unless the arrangement is not based on mutual consent. In the same way, I never criticize a family for arranging things along less than strict egalitarian lines, so long as the arrangement is based on mutual consent.

J. K. Gayle said...

Wow - great comment. There plenty there for another post. Lincoln, Niebuhr, Jefferson, the American South then and now (and Milwaukee too) and South Africa. Then Paul and Corinth and his letter in translation.

I'm really thinking carefully through your final sentence:

"not patriarchy, matriarchy, or some imagined opposite that matters, but the freedom Christ gives us . . . that cannot be identified with any of the frameworks"

My questions (and these relates also to David E. S. Stein's “On Beyond Gender"):

Is patriarchy or matriarchy really an abstract (discardable) "framework" that has nothing to do with gender? Aren't the profound issues of classism, racism, sexism, tied up within the body - a body just like that one of Jesus? Ever read C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength? Remember that "head" disembodied and yet powerful? It would purport to eliminate "frameworks" (albeit not the inner transformative ways of Jesus, the meta-noia). When trying to suggest that patriarchy and matriarchy go beyond gender and embodiment, doesn't one do what Lewis says (in Abolition of Man) that the authors of the Green Book do: "We castrate and then bid the geldings to be fruitful"? If Jesus were but an angel. . . . or if there were just the Holy Ghost. . . .

J. K. Gayle said...

John, You can imagine I've thought a lot about my own family. First things, tragically, there's a reworking of the former patriarchy. And yet, now - always - forever, there's the process of of recovery from "complementarianism" (as in the extended patriarchy prior to my own little nucleus), a restoration toward new things. If you've done any AA or Al Anon or the like, then you yourself "know" maybe experientially: "progress, not perfection."

John Hobbins said...

Clearly, frameworks and one's place within them matter.

That's why Paul can say: You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters.

But just as clearly, frameworks and one's place within them are not ultimately determinative.

As Paul says as translated in the NRSV:

In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God (1 Cor 7:24).

If frameworks were determinative, then it really would make all the difference that person A works at MacDonald's (as someone I know does - she calls herself a "Cherry-chink," since she is part Cherokee and part Chinese; she also writes children's books), makes x amount of money, and serves person B (a local judge, she drives a Mercedes, and makes 10x her servant's money).

If frameworks were that important, it would make all the difference if one lived out life in a complementarian as opposed to an egalitarian framework.

It doesn't. There really are complementarian families that are healthier examples of a common life together than are some egalitarian families. The essential difference lies elsewhere.

For the rest, I'm not trying to suggest that patriarchy, matriarchy, and egalitarianism are beyond gender. On the contrary, the construction of gender occurs along these fault lines. Gender is also in the DNA to a wide extent, and shows up, on a Bell curve distribution, in terms of play activities boys vs. girls prefer from birth.

Nor do I think that redemption involves a return to nature. Redemption in the Bible is not a return to the garden of Eden, but participation in a new heavens and new earth, a palingenesis in which the end surpasses the beginning in multiple ways.

Nor do I think that a decoupling of authority and power from mutuality is healthy. Mutuality involves the exercise of authority and power *on behalf of.* It's just that one takes turns, and according to different, sometimes very "unequally" different roles.

To suggest otherwise is obfuscation of the first order.

That's why Paul could use a complex metaphor "head-body," and develop it in line with but also against the grain of the power differential within marriage as understood in the ambient culture.

But one thing he did not and could not do, and that was imagine a headless body or a bodyless head.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

In the same way, I never criticize a family for arranging things along less than strict egalitarian lines, so long as the arrangement is based on mutual consent.May I point out, John, that without any basis in truth or fact, you assumed that my mother was the authority over my father, and you criticized this less than egalitarian framework sarcastically and insultingly.

You invented the story of a non-egal framework with the mother in charge and then you criticized it.

Would you care to share with me the framework under which you enacted this violence on me and my family?

Was it complementarian, in that you sincerely believed that as a male leader and pastor you would do my soul good by lying about my parents, or was it in an egalitarian sense? Had you somehow perceived that I had lied about your parents and decided to respond in kind?

No, in fact, I have never said a cruel word about your family, nor would I care too.

You are unique in your lies and it makes no difference to me under what framework you operate. Lies are lies as violence is violence.

I am not impressed with your big words. Children should learn not to lie in kindergarten.

J. K. Gayle said...

Gender is also in the DNA to a wide extent, and shows up, on a Bell curve distribution, in terms of play activities boys vs. girls prefer from birth.As if, John, DNA were beyond interpretation, beyond even your own use of language to talk about DNA. Gender, like DNA itself, is your linguistic construct. It's intended to give absolute formal proof of indisputable ontology. It's like a penis - the indisputable fact of maleness. And so given, so concluded (whatever conclusion must be concluded to make sure that reality, status quo among men and women stays the same - says people, mostly males, who enjoy their status quo.)

It's good to hear your voice! Many of us have missed your blogging in the past days, knowing your hiatus has been one caused by grief. Our condolences again at the loss of your father especially as you were en route to see him while he was still here!

Yes, when John wrote "so long as the arrangement is based on mutual consent," I had to choose whether to jump on that. I figured John was spurring me to conversation. These are divisive statements to make in blog comments, but I think John also is wanting to get to some "objective truth" of mediocrity (a truce of sorts called "middle ground.") It's not a bad goal, I think, but it does ignore the pains of racism and race based slavery. And as you show by your own experiences Suzanne, it does also ignore the pains of sexism and man-over-his-wife "complementarianism."

John Hobbins said...

Suzanne and Kurk,

Please continue the conversation among yourselves. It's too bad, there was much we might have talked about. There are many things we might discover we see eye to eye on.

Both of you have made it clear that you are victims of abuse. That you might find a measure of healing. That the balm of Gilead might be yours.

For the moment, however, your pain, as far as I can see, is so overwhelming that it blinds you to the possibility that that there is truth beyond that pain.

That same pain leads you to the interpretation of texts and people that is just as violent and violating as the pain you suffered at the hands of others.

I wish you both the very best. At this point, however, I can't think of any way that texts and people that are central to Jewish and Christian tradition, which I interpret as best I can along Augustinian lines will ever be anything more than a stumbling block for you.

Nor can I think of any way for us to have a constructive conversation. Since you reject the possibility of finding common ground, since you prefer to burn bridges rather than build them, I have no choice but to salute you from afar, though it's hard to see you through the smoke and flames of the fire you kindle.

Fire and tinder and self-immolation are about all I can make out.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


I will not speak in riddles. You cannot ever hope to find common ground with those you chose to lie about. If you cannot take responsibility for what you have yourself said in public, please do not extend yourself to psychoanalyse others in public. It cheapens your profession!

Until you make a public statement that you said that my father was under my mother's authority without any knowledge whatsoever of my parents, you have no basis of communication and you make all talk of truth a rather bad joke. I cannot ever think of you and truth as having any association whatsoever. You have stepped outside the boudnaries of civilized discourse.

Cut the crap about what you surmise to be my state. You were so far off as to label me pro abortion on demand. Let that be an example of how little you can read anyone's character. It is time to roll up your fake psychology and talk about something you are familiar with for a change.

There is an abundance of information on no fault divorce for example, but you are not open to this nor to a dicussion concering equality for women. I accord men equality - in spite of my overwhelmingly negative experience in the church in the last 30 yeras - whatever happened to you that you have no mutuality to offer?

John Hobbins said...

I'm not going to respond to Suzanne.

Should anyone want clarification of whatever kind, they are welcome to contact me personally at the email address available on my blog.

Suzanne McCarthy said...
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Suzanne McCarthy said...
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J. K. Gayle said...

I'm not going to respond to Suzanne.Even Paul would not take the place of a slave, of a non-citizen, let alone a woman, whether she be wife or slave.Sometimes silence is silencing. Sometimes self-censorship seems wise to oneself.

J. K. Gayle said...

Dear John,
Doesn't your sympathy and empathy for and with your friends lie in your own ability to feel your own pain?

John Hobbins said...

Dear Kurk,

A distinction has to be made between showing sympathy and enabling violent and destructive behavior.

A distinction has to be made between someone who is looking for a justification and a purpose for their misery, such that they may feel good about wallowing in it, and someone who is seeking healing.

I don't question the personal authenticity of a reader's appalled and vitriolic response to Numbers 5, 1 Cor 7, the Pastorals, or to something I say. I don't question yours.

Nonetheless, the violent and violating attribution of malicious intent is a grave act. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Woe onto the one for whom the attribution of malicious intent becomes the leitmotif of their interaction with others. Chronic behavior of this kind is destructive and self-destructive.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

"Woe onto the one ..."

Can I now place an icon on my blog saying that it has been officially cursed by John Hobbins?

John Hobbins said...

Be my guest, Suzanne.

It's not my style, but a number of bloggers quote their detractors in a sidebar as a way of increasing interest in their own work.

If I had a sidebar of responses to my blogging, it might include:

"Dear John Hobbins: have you censored me?" - J. Kurk Gayle

"Cut the crap. Children should learn not to lie in kindergarten." - Suzanne McCarthy