Neutrality Plays Into the Hands of the Powerful

I have a temper. And a big mouth. I'm 5'11'' now (not TALL, but not short) but I was incredibly short growing up. And my voice didn't change till I was almost 17. I was a real "Napoleon." I used to think that it somehow made me "more of a man" to always push back, always fight, always yell and swear and make a scene. To not back down or give in.

I can't BELIEVE how many times I almost got the sh*t beat out of me, and how many times I got lucky, the fight got broken up, I came out with a few minor bruises, etc... I should have gotten beat down twenty times by the end of college. And I probably would have deserved most of it.

My wife has taught me a little bit about quiet power: calm under attack. Grace under fire. Self-control and a little discipline. But I'm still a passionate guy, and I still get pissed off about things that matter to me.

I care deeply for both justice and hospitality. I recognize that confrontation is not always the right path. Often, it's not. And I am open to correction and rebuke when I'm wrong (even if I don't like it).

Lately, I'm running into more and more general rudeness and hostility among some angry conservatives in a few of my seminary classes. I'm honestly not "anti-conservative." I don't want to lump conservatives and "fundamentalists" into the same group. I'm okay with respectful disagreement. To be honest, I'm not sure there's even a single FUNDAMENTALIST at George Fox. And that's pretty impressive. But there is still some increasingly shocking behavior - attitudes toward women, homosexuals, even just general hostility toward those of us who don't hold to inerrancy or infallibility.

Or maybe I'm just getting too damn sensitive.

The other night, after one dude communicated a particularly rude, disrespectful and adversarial attitude toward a visiting professor, I forcefully, loudly (and admittedly, angrily) said, "You are being disrespectful, and you need to stop!" Not one of my most articulate moments.

I don't want to blow it out of proportion, but the last time I called this same classmate out for being disrespectful, I actually apologized to him at the end of class for "calling him out." His first response was to make a joke about "kicking [my] ass." Really? Really? At the time, I ignored it as an uncomfortable, awkward response to feeling embarrassed. I even felt a little sorry for him. But since then, I've changed my mind.

I don't mean to air all my dirty seminary laundry here, but I don't think I can go back to sitting passively. But I know it makes classmates (whom I love) uncomfortable to have "showdowns" in front of them. And I regret that. But grace, love, respect and hospitality are too important to hand over to the tyrant of neutrality. Neutrality allows bullies to run unimpeded. I just don't want to become a different kind of bully in the process of pushing back. And I have that in me. I don't like it.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I know this subject all too well. I play both roles, and my partner plays the aggressive one pretty well too. I have nothing elequent to say, other than maybe taking up the art of being passive aggressive. For you to think on:)

I, time and again, am amazed at how sense, logic, general kindness, and consideration seem to fall short of certin people.
It is the same people. We all have them in our lives. They all do the same rude, inconsiderate things, snide and disrespectful comments, and out of this world stupid actions.
Time and again, these people piss you, me, and any one with their senses about them off. This is where we are supposed to excersise this quiet, dignified grace (lol). Unfortunatly this is lost on said jerk offs (sorry), as is the frontal attack. So I prepose a melding of the minds to get our passive aggressive on said jerk offs (sorry).
I leave my self exposed, and embarrased. I said it out loud. Short sheet his bed, t-p his house,and send an ungodly amount of pizzas too. You'll feel better anyway.
Forgive my juvinile, poorly spelled, and nonpoignant view. Call me if you ever wanna egg someones house. I'm down.

Peter said...

Haha! That's hilarious. And maybe brilliant. Who is this? E-mail me

James said...

While I am not usually an advocate for passive aggression that is the method that I employ the most at seminary. I am on the other side of the story though, not as an angry conservative, but just a conservative. When I first got to seminary I would speak up when someone is being assaulted for his or her conservatism but that got far to painful. I quickly realized that the coolness associated with bashing conservatism is just to tempting for to many to resist so I just sit there stewing. It does not really matter that I may have a good point, because the scholar that I cite has the audacity to be slightly more conservative, so I better just be quiet. Someday I might snap though. I might stand up and scream at my professor or the aggressive liberal that I think Paul did write that book. But, probably not. I will just sit there. Maybe sneak in a Gordon Fee citation into a paper. Passivity may not be the best choice but I would rather be passive than the conservative that angry liberals love to assault.

Existential Punk said...

Remember Peter, Jesus got angry in the temple court when peeps were showing disrespect. There's nothing wrong with calling peeps out on their shit! What matters is how you do it. Maybe pull him aside and express to him how you think he's being disrespectful. Doing out loud may have antagonized or embarrassed him. I learned to confront this more private/quiet wayin YWAM! But even Jesus got angry over wrong attitudes out loud!

Anonymous said...

Peter, yep we all have that shadow part of ourselves that is the bully. The bullies out there mirror that to us. How did the visiting professor react to the comment made?
Have you heard of the Mankind Project? It might be worth checking it out. I did the new warrior training back in '98 and found it very helpful.
Click on the New Warrior Training Adventure link. Great stuff for today's men.

Peter said...

James, I hear you. Actually there are LOTS of conservatives at Fox, and a LOT of them are very intelligent, and very very kind. So I don't want to characterize myself as overly-hostile toward conservatives. Even if I get irked here are the site from time to time. You tend to read me at my worst because it's "safer" to rant through text - which is a blessing and a curse.

Believe it or not, I really have learned a lot and grown a lot from my conservative classmates.

I just have an overdeveloped sense of justice, and can be quick to jump into the "fray" - sometimes, perhaps, unnecessarily.

Doug, thank you for the link! I will check that out - I hadn't heard of it. The visiting professor was a Jesuit Friar, and was quite patient and kind. But if I was a visiting speaker, I'd probably behave far more graciously - "in someone else's home" - too. In my own school, I feel more responsibity and ownership for the discourse. Which may or may not be my role... I'd like to think it's shared responsibility.

Adele, good point on quiet asides. I think you're right - public "rebuke" easily escalates things more quickly than necessary.

Thanks, all!

Peter said...

Doug, I checked out that website and was REALLY impressed. I have to admit, any language regarding "equipping men," "warrior" terminology, "masculinity," etc... make me very nervous, because aggressive, machismo, hipster-Christianity has REALLY co-opted any helpful or meaningful identifiers of a healthy male gender role.

This organization sounds like it's got a really healthy, sensitive and insightful approach to contemporary masculinity.

Brent said...

Maybe you could try being aggressively passive.

Peter said...

Brent, I think that's actually brilliant. I'm just not sure what that looks like. I didn't grow up Mennonite or Quaker... good turn of phrase.

Rhiannon Y Orizaga said...

Well imagine being like that, but female. That would be me. I took a lot of crap growing up with 3 older brothers- and it made me unwilling to take anyone else's crap. So yeah, I guess I am "that girl" who is just too aggressive, too assertive, whatever, but you know I've had healthier relationships than a lot of females for it. There is a time and a place to correct others, IN A SPIRIT OF LOVE, but a spirit of love doesn't have to be wimpy or half-hearted. Just make sure it's in love. I like Brent's phrase, aggressively passive. But I've never quite made it, I'm aggressive-aggressive.

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