aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,


In a spirited exchange on a friend's LJ, a commenter described herself as a "liberal bitter ex-Catholic." I replied that I'm a "conservative weary still-Methodist." That much is just laying one's cards on the table. But I'd like to ruminate on that for a while here.

I am a conservative/orthodox/traditionalist (pick your label) in a denomination where clergy tend to veer left. Oh, we're not the UCC or the ECUSA, but among fully ordained members of the UM clergy, we old-fashioneds are often discounted by the leadership. We're good for staffing churches, but we're not running the org. At professional meetings, one is always aware that one is surrounded by people with very different agendas. It means there are things we don't talk about very often, or shy away from.

Still, there are times when people throw down something that violates one's sense of theological or pastoral boundaries. Then, however weary one might be, a response is called for. Please note, merely barking at fools is not worth the effort. One generally only responds to people one has to take seriously.

One of those boundaries crossed is a slur upon us c/o/t/whatevers, that we're "anti-intellectual." And there are some Bible thumpers out there who only know how to spout slogans, so okay. But in order to survive in the environment I work in, we c/o/t/whatevers have to be better than our liberal/heterodox/radical (pick your label) colleagues. We have to know our stuff, and theirs too. Being challenged on an intellectual/academic point is crossing a boundary, and I'm afraid I too often just order the elephants to charge in response.

On that point, I would say that way too many liberals, both in the clergy and in academia, are "pseudo-intellectuals." They know all the cool slogans and instant critiques of stuff, they can debunk like nobody's business, but as the anvil salesman says in The Music Man, "But he doesn't know the territory!" I find a lot of these people ill equipped for a real intellectual exchange, despite their being loaded with degrees and promoted into leadership. I always have to code-switch to carry on the discussion on their turf, because they don't know how to understand anybody who hasn't been edjumucated like they were.

"Anti-intellectuals" believe that education is a fraud. "Pseudo-intellectuals" believe the certificates on your "I Love Me" Wall mean you have actually committed Thought. Real intellectuals just want to know stuff. Like I've said before, Where did Socrates go to college? What was his major? Real intellectuals will take truth where they find it, whether from the old ladies at the church rummage sale or the nuclear research scientist or even the kid you're playing ping pong with.

This is why I don't usually flaunt my degrees, except in response to those who I think are patronizing me.* My credentials should not be taken as proof of the worth of my ideas; nor should anybody's.

That said, nothing excuses discourtesy but the good manners of the other party. Brusque I may be at times, but I hope not pompous; and when I weigh in on somebody's point to argue with vehemence, it's not just because I've seen a red flag, but because I feel a boundary has been crossed. It may only have been a personal boundary, and its defense out of proportion to its true value, but my lonely spot out on the picket line is the only position I can defend. My apologies to those who feel they have been shot at without being challenged properly first.

*For the record, they are A.B., M.Div., Ph.D. -- some 325 academic credits.

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