Two things happened today that have me asking the question: how do we foster up healthy conversation about issues on which we differ greatly?
The first thing was a fairly frivolous issue. I’m at the PANAAWTM conference right now (Pacific and Asian North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry) and a fun and spry woman from Arizona brought some political/religious tee shirts. One tee shirt delighted me so much I posted a picture of it on facebook: “Patriarchy means never having to say you’re sorry!” A person from a local church in my region whom I like very much was really offended by the shirt, feeling that I was attacking all men. Most of you reading this post know that I’m actually quite fond of men and consider them (most of them) allies in the struggle to end oppression. But because our society doesn’t foster up clear distinctions about how to define terms, my valued colleague didn’t see the quote criticizing a system that robs both men and women of the fullness of their humanity; he saw me criticizing men. That may be because of a negative experience he’s had where he’s been unfairly attacked for not respecting women, or it may be that he is a big fan of Rush Limbaugh and really believes that feminists are trying to rob men of power that is rightfully theirs. Either way, he clearly experienced me as antagonistic rather than playful, and I may not be able to have a meaningful conversation with him now on that complex issue. But that’s largely about the dangers of facebook and its inability to foster complex conversation. (more…)