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Monday, 7 January 2008

Winning the argument is not the point - it is how we argue

According to James Allison the argument in the Catholic church about homosexuality is wrongly framed and seeks to develop his case as a gay by going back to the church's theological roots against those who claim to be traditionalists.

Leaving aside (for a moment) the merits of the particular issue that he is involved in, (that requires an extended consideration in another post, it seems to me that the point he then goes on to make is relevant to the way controversy and conflict are conducted with the church. The point he is making is about how we conduct conflict within the church. In most of the cases that spring to mind conservatives, liberals and those of us who struggle to articulate the peacemaking orientation of the gospels and the story of Jesus all need to revisit this issue.

My own hunch, he says, is that God is revealing to us that gay people, just as we are, are part of humanity and that it is as such that we re invited to share in the [God's] party. But I may be entirely wrong. Nevertheless of this I am sure, that being right or wrong is not so very important. Being so grateful that I am invited at all that I am quite determined to as warm, charitable and friendly as I can learn how to be towards those who completely disagree with me is terribly, terribly important; for its is by this that I will be judged.

If what I am saying is true then it is a fundamental point in this discussion that it is not how I defend ny own, but how I imagine, portray and engage with my adversary which is the only realy important issue at hand. ... Afterall our example is One who was happy to be counted among the transgressors so as to get across the power of God to those who couldn't understand it.

If this is the case, then the really hard work in Christian theological discourse lies in the theological sphere: creating Church with those we don't like. Or to put it another way; as a Catholic, the only way I could conceivably be right in what is recognisably a new theological and moral position, is if I show that how being right is nothing to do with me and how it includes an account of how we have all been wrong together, in which I too am on the side of those with whom I disagree as someone undergoing a change of heart along with them. (pp.169-170 in Undergoing God: Dispatches from the scene of a break-in DLT, 2006)

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