Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Anne Rice's "Christianity"

This is my third post in a row about Anne Rice and the conversation about her relationship with Christ and Christianity.  This is a short discussion on linguist fallacies, with quotes from Anne Rice's website and links to a few other things.

I find this topic intriguing because as a part time logician the use of words is critical to good communication. Misusing words, or misunderstanding the words used, results in a slew of linguistic fallacies. The fallacies that most often confuse the debate between Catholicism and Protestantism are equivocation, distinction without a difference (what I call difvocation); and strawman. But Anne Rice has succeeded in using the same with Christian milieu in general and not particularly one institution toward another. She's lumped them all together. Which is easy to do considering the fallacious nature of so much of the communication in Christianity, even out of the Catholic hierarchy.

Equivocation occurs when the same word is used by two parties but the two parties have underlying definitions that are different. When an Evangelical Protestant claims to be "saved" it means something much different to a Catholic, who would reserve the term to mean their arrival for eternity in heaven. The term comes from the concepts of "Equal Vocalization".

Difvocation is the opposite of Equivocation. I coin it from the concepts of "Difference in Vocalization." When two different words are used but they have essentially the same meaning, but two or more parties claim there is a difference, there tends to be an argument over nothing.

Strawman is when an opponent raises an objection to someone or something by citing a false claim about it, and then striking it down. The argument is not real; it is made of straw.

All three of these fallacies are evident in the statements below that Anne makes. And when Christians and non-Christians try to interpret what she says, more of the same miscommunication occurs. Or worse, just because someone else is confused doesn't mean we need to politely respect their ignorant and misinformed opinion. Why should anyone be tolerant of evil or ignorance? Doing so is like asking people to put on blinders to be led around by the blind. (You don't want to act superior, do you? This person is blind, don't make them feel bad just you can see. Be humble. Pretend you're blind, too.  It's okay to fall down and hurt yourself; think how the blind person feels.)

Now, don't get me wrong. I like this woman, her romantic instincts, her boldness, her writing, and her marketing savvy -- a lot...to say nothing of the fact that she married a man named "Stan." She can't be all that bad.  I think, however, she's instinctively brought to the forefront a fabulous marketing scheme that has involved both her old fans, her confused fans, and her Christian fans. She's better at marketing her own books than her publisher, I think. And at the forefront of that expertise is controversy.

But the mistake she makes, in the long run as a writer, is that she has scarified honest communication about truth for hype. She is ultimately, as all authors are, most interested in what is true. If she doesn't seek truth in her writing, readers will stop reading her. Thus, she has herein stumbled. What I discovered in my own research and is revealed in The Moral Premise, applies to all story telling, not just movies. Perhaps she doesn't realize this at first, but eventually she must. I hope.

Anne's Statements Regarding Christianity as Posted:

For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to "belong" to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten ...years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I'm out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of ...Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.

I quit Christianity in the name of Christ on this page so that I could tell my readers I was not complicit in the things that organized religion does. I never dreamed others would be so interested, or that they would feel the need to talk about their own religious struggles. But they do. And the public conversation on... this is huge, and I think important.
A Bit of Analysis:

First, her beef is with organized religion, which is different than her persistent claim to still be a follower of Christ. She says "I quit being a Christian" and then says "I am a follower of Christ". This is difvocation. There is no historically difference; nor is there today in the usage of those two words/phrases. She can be justified (to some degree) in saying, "I quit being a named member of any organized Christian body, such as the Catholic Church." Even most of us in the Catholic Church can understand that sentiment, although not for the reasons she later states. I've had my run in with bishops and find some egomaniacs and not worthy of the office. But that doesn't seperate me from being a Christian, or a member of the Church. Because Judas was an Apostle did the other 11 leave Christ? (Well, shortly there after ten of them did leave Christ, for a time, but that had nothing to do with Judas. Indeed, In John 6:66 we read that many left Christ... but that had to do with protesting the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine of communion. )

Second, let's take the terms "anti-gay," "anti-feminist," "anti-life," and "anti-Democrat." [I'll leave "anti-artificial birth control" and "anti-secular humanist" for another time. There is less misunderstanding of these latter terms, although what I say next may apply to them as well.] These are examples of equivocation, or can be. Being gay or homosexual can refer to a person's moral disposition (in theological terms concupiscence) or it can refer to an active life style lived without remorse. The Catholic Church is pro gay in the first definition, but anti-gay in the latter definition, just as it is loving and embracing of all sinners who recognize and seek redemption from any moral weakness.

The same can be said of the other phrases, but perhaps with some clarifications. There are as many different kinds of "feminism" as there are pant-suit designers. (Fewer every year.) A feminist in the classic sense is anyone that considers women equal to men in intelligence, ability, and dignity. Jesus Christ fits that mold. Jesus was a feminist. He talked with women and protected them when no other man would.  There are "radical feminist," on the other hand, who think women are the same in their primary physical characteristics and should have masculine physical identities, including he "right" to use urinals. I don't think the "Christians" Anne is upset with have a corner on the market for being for the former or against the latter. Women are different from men in primary and secondary gender characteristics and both should be celebrated for their values to each other and society.

With regard to the "anti-life" and "anti-Democrat" designations, I cannot guess what she means, but it seems the same sort of identifications and linguistic fallacies apply.

In short, there are very specific group of people, perhaps true bigots, whom she is upset with, or whom she seems to be upset with, and to make such general statements seem out of her character.

All of her statements, however, do easily embrace the strawman fallacy, and that this is so obvious is probably the reason Christianity Today published a short interview with her without comment. The confusion of terms and identity is gross, not subtle. She criticizes perhaps the Catholic Church, but she over generalizes (another fallacy) all of Christianity, with it tens of thousands of belief systems. Certainly there are Christian organizations who believe as she would want them to believe, who call themselves Christians and a part of Christianity. Yet, she rejects them as well. Very strange behavior for an author. Who knows maybe this will start yet another Protesting denomination, the Church of Anne Rice.

It is a false understanding, and therefore a "strawman argument," to say of Catholicism that it is anti-any human being, and particularity "anti-life." It's easy to say that the Catholic Church does not endorse a number of planks in recent Democratic platforms, especially in regard to abortion and artificial birth control. But there's no general logic (as she claims it) that applies to the concept of being Democrat.

Oh, one more -- "anti-science." Dang this is strange. Catholicism (and thus Christianity) established science. What many of us Catholic scientist types object to is how many in the science community have become political and irrational, throwing out the scientific method and ignoring clear scientific evidence that refutes their political agenda. Last I checked the Vatican was the only established religion that has a working cosmological observatory. And the hosts of world-renowned Nobel prize winners who were Catholic is astonishing. Indeed, Christian's who are scientists have an discover advantage over atheists. The atheist believes in random disorder, and the Christian believes that the universe follows an understandable order and structure imbued by benevolent intellignece. When a scientists makes a hypothesis to test, he or she assumes an order that can be known. By definition every scientists that makes a hypothesis based on past patterns and knowledge is proclaiming there is an intelligent design(er) to the universe. To discard the benevolent intelligence behind nature is to make one incapable of forming a hypothesis.  Q.E.D.

Moral Relativism

That Anne is embracing moral relativism is almost too obvious to even mention. If she is a follower of Christ then she either must follow what Christ taught which included a number of charters to individuals to lead a Church infallibly. That she certainly does not understand. It may well be that she's hanging around with, was hanging around with, a lot of protesters in both the Protestant and Catholic resistance. Such friends can be very confusing.   Pray that she sees, and begins to understand the difference between what people do, in the name of Christ (as she is even doing), and what Christ has commanded in the infallible charter He gave his Apostles that those that followed.

Anne, there's a huge difference between what people of "faith" do and what the Church infallible "teaches." The biggest mistake you can make is saying, "I love Christ and guess what, He taught exactly what I believe."

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