The New Christians

The New Christians


Come Let Us Argue Together

posted by Tony Jones

Come Let Us Reason Together” is the governing document of a group attempting to bridge the chasm between evangelicals and political progressives.  I signed on, not because the document is a comprehensive statement of all ways that these two groups can work together, but because it is a step in the right direction.  Well, a bunch of lefties got all ornery about the document, and now Robby Jones has taken to Religion Dispatches to defend himself and the statement.  It’s worth the read, I think. Money Quote:

One unintended consequence of the project has been to highlight the
existence of two streams in the left-of-center faith world. While these
groups are not mutually exclusive, they flow from different
sensibilities about public engagement and embody a significantly
different spirit. On the one hand, some of the most vociferous critics
of “Come Let Us Reason Together” have been from a loose confederation
of contributors to the recent book Dispatches from the Religious Left,
who generally portray a more ideological and confrontational public
presence. On the other hand, the research for my own book, Progressive & Religious–based
on interviews with nearly 100 religious leaders–identified a broader
group of religious progressives who were largely uncomfortable with the
“religious left” label and who are intentionally working to move beyond
old ideological divides and build new coalitions.



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Colin

posted January 28, 2009 at 3:45 am


This statement is ideological! A working definition of ideology from Marx can be summed up neatly as follows: “They are doing it, but they don’t know they are doing it.”
Statements like Jones’ are ideology at their finest: “intentionally working to move beyond old ideological divides and build new coalitions.” This is ideology in the same sense that “bipartisanship” is a euphemism for a one-party state. The grease for the gears of “postmodern” capitalism is supplied by this sort of thinking in that it actively tries to suppress its own status as ideology, to move beyond the old trappings of ideology, and etc.. What people don’t see is that this allegedly wonderful death of ideology is simply a way for big systems to function in nasty ways while we are pacified by our good feelings and identity politics because we are doing our damnedest to just get along.
Slavoj Zizek is terribly helpful in his analysis of this phenomenon. He calls it Fukuyamaism, the idea that capitalism is the utopia and end of history that we have all been waiting for. I think the title of this post is the perfect remedy. We should do what we do best: argue.



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Colin

posted January 28, 2009 at 3:48 am


Tony, I was not referring to you when I said “Statements like Jones’…” but to the author of the article you posted.



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Colin

posted January 28, 2009 at 3:50 am


And BTW, Beliefnet’s comment system is total shit and your old blog setup was far superior.



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Andrew

posted January 28, 2009 at 7:45 am


Colin,
An unsophisticated question: Would you draw any distinction between ideology and rhetoric?



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Colin

posted January 28, 2009 at 3:04 pm


From my understanding, rhetoric is a way to use words to convince people to do things. Ideology is usually cloaked in rhetoric and can be unmasked if one tries to cut through the rhetoric.
For example, a quote: “On the other hand, the research for my own book, Progressive & Religious–based on interviews with nearly 100 religious leaders–identified a broader group of religious progressives who were largely uncomfortable with the “religious left” label and who are intentionally working to move beyond old ideological divides and build new coalitions.”
The rhetoric of “building new coalitions” as a way to “move beyond old ideological divides” is, ironically, another way to propose new ideological divides. The dominant ideology becomes anti-ideological, which doesn’t seem to make sense. But just say to yourself, “Ideology is bad, ideology is dead,” and so forth. At some point it will become useful to stop and ask yourself “Why is ideology bad? Is ideology dead?” and at this point the rhetoric is stripped away and the ideology of “anti-ideology” is apparent.
If you are interesting in reading a short and relatively easy treatise that deals with some of this material FAR better than I can, pick up Slavoj Zizek’s book Violence and enjoy! It isn’t too theoretical and he always uses concrete examples from pop-culture and Hollywood to make his points, and he usually throws in a couple of dirty jokes for the hell of it.
BTW, apologies for the saltiness in my third post, I was irritated by the comment system.



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Tony Jones

posted January 29, 2009 at 8:40 am


Colin, no need to apologize. We’re ALL frustrated with Bnet’s comment system.



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