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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Assuming all points are equal...

I've had some issues arise lately that have put me at odds with my family and some close friends. The situation has led me to see, very clearly, how hard it is nowadays to hold a rational discussion with people whose core beliefs differ radically from one's own.
It seems that most arguments, since discussions rarely stay civil, are fueled by emotion, generalizations and cliched talking points. This is not only because people no longer know how to argue their points logically, but because, and here in lies the real problems, for most people there are no absolutes on which to base anything.
No longer can people discuss a topic and agree on certain parameters outlined either by faith or natural law. Today, because we must accept all things as equal it is impossible to wrap up an argument by saying, "Well, we may not agree on the best way to reach point A but at least we can agree that A exists." To suggest in modern society that there is a definite point 'A' and that someone else idea of point 'A' is incorrect is heresy. Now, we must start all polite conversations with the understood idea that all point 'A's are relevant and equal or things quickly get out of hand.
This is maddening to me. I've pretty much given up trying to hold discussions with people on matters of faith and politics, unless we're close acquaintances who can agree to 'play nice.' My solution is simply to live my life the best I can according to The Truth revealed by the Holy Spirit through the Catholic Church which was founded by the Son of God, Jesus Christ. That's the bedrock of my arguments. If you're going to pick a fight with me, and then refuse to listen to my responses because you believe that the Church is all wrong and all religions are equal, what can I say? You're pretty much saying, "Your positions are not worth considering because they do not accept all points as equal." Therefore, only people who can agree to all things being changeable and not steadfast can argue...but then, how can you discuss two sides to an issue if you both must admit each side is correct? Madness!!!
It comes down to the fact that modern society is trying to cut out of all discussions those who hold absolutes, which as Catholics, we must be. We must hold steadfast to The Truth and all teachings of the Church, especially as we watch all other ideals which have stood the test of time crumble around us.
I wish I had studied logic, rhetoric and debate in school. Perhaps I would feel better prepared to tackle tough conversations with strangers. But seeing as how most other people didn't study those subjects and hold firm to an even vaguer sense of values than myself, I may not have anything to fear. Especially since, personally, I've reached the point where I'm willing to have that discord between myself and my family or a long time friend, rather than compromise my beliefs. It hurts like hell at times to not be able to talk openly with people simply because they refuse to give your views a fair listen. I can only hope in time that prayer and the example of faithful Catholics can bring about the conversion of such skeptics. Anger and yelling certainly won't and I refuse, or hope I refuse, to take the bait when it's offered to me in the midst of a heated discussion.
As I post more items, I hope that they can create meaningful dialogue and intelligent discussion. If you disagree with me, fine, but try to frame your rebuttals as complete thoughts (with correct spelling and grammar) and not, "U don't know what youre talking about papist! You suck!.The church protects child molesters!" And other 'deep' commentary which seems to run rampant in the comments sections of most online media. That would be super. I look forward to hearing from you.


John R said...

Indeed, Kelly, this is such a frustrating reality. I don’t know what the right answer is, but in my experience, it seems that as one becomes more deeply entrenched in matters of Faith one feels less inclined to be around people who differ from those core beliefs, both in word and in manners of living. I am not recommending that this is what should happen, simply that this is what seems to happen despite our best intentions. Being in the “Traditionalist world” (more or less) for 20 years caused a definitive break from the familial bonds of my younger childhood; some of this is due, of course, to moving far away from them, but a lot of it was due to the way in which we grew distant from them even while we still lived nearby. It is a dilemma. Your experience is obviously different and may bear different results, but generally speaking, I have seen this kind of break of family bonds well beyond my own experience in the circles in which I have traveled. I would be interested to know what your thoughts are concerning to what extent, if any, do familial bonds need to suffer for the sake of staying true to principles. And, do friends from church begin to become family?

As to the question of arguing and discussing matters of faith, intellectual laziness coupled with moral relativism is the gospel of today. It would be far easier to argue (in the true meaning of that term) with a pagan of antiquity because both parties would recognize certain natural truths and the very need to discover what is the truth. I think the maxim “He who has ears to hear and eyes to see…” should be the basis for whether or not we engage people on these matters; to others, we probably should just shake the dust off our feet. Unfortunately, what happens in reality is that we end up having discussions of important matters only with those with whom we agree (i.e. our friends from church) and then become enclosed unto ourselves in our world. Sadly, even arguments with our fellow devout Catholics can, at times, devolve into the same polemics because of disagreements about how to live out our faith in daily life. Regrettably, I am as guilty as any for this at times.

This is obviously yet another long discussion with so many tangents.

By the way, you may have seen this already, but Athanasius Contra Mundum also posted something recently about how civil discourse is nearly impossible today.

Kelly M. said...

John, Your point,
"Sadly, even arguments with our fellow devout Catholics can, at times, devolve into the same polemics because of disagreements about how to live out our faith in daily life."
especially struck a chord with me because in modern society, so many people of all faiths and background take everything personally. People want to talk about a given subject but quickly become angry when they feel they're being attacked and then, regardless of where you each stand on the matter, you're the bad guy for 'making the other person feel bad.' I don't know why people are so sensitive today. I can't see a classical pagan philosopher storming away from a debate because someone disagreed with his point. Perhaps it is just another response to not being able to clearly articulate a point, therefore people become frustrated and angry at themselves but take it out on the other person. Another reason to stress the study of logic and rhetoric I suppose.
I think my situation, which I will probably post on, is the final 'nail in the coffin' with my family. I don't think we will ever be able to move past this and I think now they are beginning to question much more of how my husband and I are doing things. Where as before our lifestyle was tolerable to them, I think they will now see everything in a much more negative connotation. Perhaps, I am being a pessimist but when my sacrifices are looked at as faults and the teachings of the Church are viewed as diatribe, I'm really at a loss as to how to bridge the divide.