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Article Specs

VxAcct: 1

Article ID: 6176

Section: wrenwalker

Age Group: Adult

Posted: March 3rd. 2003

Views: 11318

Compelling without the Yelling

by Wren

My morning routine doesn't vary much. I usually scuffle out to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of coffee, flop down into my easy chair and do nothing else until the caffeine kicks in. I know from past experiences that if I try to do more than sip-blink-sip that I will only end up spending at least thirty minutes wiping up something gooey or apologizing profusely to a very huffy cat. Sometimes both. (Don't ask.) Only when my sip-to-blink ratio has stabilized do I reach for the remote and thumb on C-Span's Washington Journal. Of course, I may still end up apologizing to the cats anyway since they really don't like loud noises very much. It all depends on who is on WJ and what the topic is.

Today at least, the cats and I are still on speaking terms. Which is rather remarkable really when you consider that Dixie is definitely a conservative and Ruby pretty much swings liberal. Dixie knows that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. Ruby is more of the "let's talk over a pile of catnip, shall we" kind of gal.

Needless to say, when we do things Ruby's way, we have to serve up separate (but equal) piles of catnip. Dixie probably secretly condemns such a socialistic solution, but what else can I do? She throws a literal hissy fit if Ruby so much as brushes up against her. And I don't discount the possibility that Ruby -- for all her wide-eyed looks of oblivious innocence -- may be flicking her tail under Dixie's nose just to get her going. So in this household hotbed of simmering political tension, Washington Journal often sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Two of the guests today were Richard Land, the Chief Executive Officer for the Southern Baptist Convention, and Jim Winkler, General Secretary, for the United Methodist Church. The topic: Has a moral case been made for a potential war for Iraq? Okay, we're good so far.

Both are Christians and represent Protestant denominations. So they won't have to haggle over differences related to the divinity of Christ or whether the Sabbath Day falls on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. We can move right to the topic then. As one might suppose, the Rev. Land (the Southern Baptist) represented the conservative point of view and the Rev. Winkler held a more liberal stance.

I sipped and blinked. Dixie glared at Ruby from the top of the chair. Ruby groomed her tail and pretended not to notice. The Reverends Land and Winkler began by defining what exactly constitutes a 'just war'.

Believe it or not, Christendom has actually worked this out over the centuries. Beginning with Augustine, who drew from the Pagan philosophers of Greece, the Christian Church (when there was only that one capital 'C' Church) began to formalize a doctrine on war. Over the years and via countless discussions and treatises (and maybe lots of piles of catnip, Ruby chimes in) by notables such as Martin Luther (when more capitol 'C' Churches were founded), Thomas Aquinas and Bonnhoeffer (for whom this was more than an intellectual exercise as he pondered the morality of a plot to assassinate Hitler), a Christian theorem on what constitutes a 'just war' evolved. The premises upon which most Christian theologians agree are:
  • The war must be prompted by a just cause. It must be defensive only as a response to an act of aggression..
  • The war must have a just intention. It must intend to secure a fair peace for all parties.
  • The war must be engaged in as a last resort. All diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict must have been exhausted.
  • The war must be initiated with a formal declaration by properly constituted authorities.
  • The war must be characterized by limited objectives. Wars intent on total annihilation are immoral.
  • The war must be conducted with proportionate means.
  • The war must respect noncombatant immunity.
And the two men on C-span, with little variation, did agree on these. And that is an important point to ponder. We, as Pagans and Heathens, haven't even gotten to this level of agreement in relation to a mutual terminology, much less formulated any sort of coherent treatise on a subject as important as war. Maybe we never will and we'll just leave it for the individual to decide. Or perhaps each Pagan or Heathen sect or religion will map out its own 'formal' doctrine in these matters.

But my point here is not to make a case for any particular plan on how (or if) Pagans and Heathens might come up with such points of agreement, but to note that even in religious communities where such theories exist and are generally agreed upon, interpretation can still vary. If Pagans and/or Heathens ever do commit to a general code of some sort then, this may turn out for us much as it has for Christians. Even where there emerge points of general agreement, there may still arise differing interpretations on these very same points. (Dixie fans her whiskers at that thought and Ruby just asks again where the catnip is.)

Rev. Land and Rev. Winkler then elaborated on how each had come to the interpretation that he did. I was blinking more and sipping less as I watched these two Christians on opposite sides of a religious moral and ethical issue calmly discuss their differing opinions. Oh there were a few instances of eye rolling and a pursed lip or two, but these facial giveaways were more in response to a person calling into the program then to what the other guest was saying.

I was pretty darned impressed. Oh, neither one gave way to the other's argument and neither one changed my personal opinion either. But taken as an overview of the Christian perspective -- either for or against a possible 'just war' with Iraq -- it was a compelling program. One other thing struck me only after the program ended and I was chasing Ruby down the hallway as she was chasing Dixie down the hallway: There was no yelling.

On the program, that is. There was plenty of yelling -- and no small amount of hissing -- going on in our hallway. Yep, definitely time for a catnip break.

The usual pundit versus pundit format produces plenty of yelling. I suspect -- and you may as well -- that many of the guests on talk shows and 'news' segments are really chosen more for their incredible and potent lung capacity than for their well-constructed opinions. This type of show though is incredibly popular. The more the guests shout over each other, the more the viewers seem to tune in. Perhaps it is the ability to do a little bit of morbid rubbernecking from our armchairs that is so appealing?

Whatever the reason for the popularity of the professional talk circuit pundit, it was quite refreshing to hear an earnest discussion concerning a very serious (in fact, a deadly serious) topic without having to turn down the volume or spew my coffee. It seems that it can really be done. One can discuss real points of dissention with another human being without screaming, name-calling or hissing. (Girls, knock it off! I'm trying to work here!)

We have in our communities some very smart and learned folks that we don't hear much from. Maybe they just aren't good yellers. But maybe they do have something compelling -- something very important -- to offer. We may never have our own 'P-span' but we already do have many message boards, chat rooms and email lists where such discussions can take place. And I hope that they are taking place. Pagans and Heathens have a lot to offer each other and the world. We too have a voice in what happens in this world. And we really can be just as compelling without all of the yelling.

What the...? Excuse me.

"Dixie, were you even listening to me?"

"Ruby! Leave your sister alone!"

Sorry for that little interruption.

But it's definitely time for another one of those catnip breaks!

Wren Walker
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, March 3rd., 2003




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