Sunday, June 10, 2012

What makes arguments about women and the priesthood flawed.

Many of the arguments people put out in favor of women and the priesthood resolve to sounding like "I just want the change to exercise unrighteous dominion too." (I am not saying that they are making that argument, I'm saying that they sound like that argument).

For example when people write about wanting to exercise power or influence, they will trigger the following thoughts:
No apower or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the bpriesthood, only by cpersuasion, by dlong-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
So when someone writes that they feel powerless without the Priesthood, and want to be able to exert power and influence, they will have that scripture sounding in the echo chamber of the minds of those who hear them. If you state that you want the priesthood to exercise power and influence, you've just stated that you (in accord with D&C 121) are not entitled to it, e.g.:
to gratify our cpride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or ddominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men,
The problem is that not only do you need to make an argument that is not saying that, you need to make an argument that does not sound like that either.  If your argument sounds like that is what you want (regardless of what you mean), you immediately create that semantic contamination of your argument or reasons.

The same is true of "I serve enough, I just want to serve in a better scope."  That sounds like "I just want to be important."  Elder deJager of the 70 had as his first calling putting up the books after Sacrament.  At the time he was a relatively important executive with a large company.  His response was not "I want a more important job."  Instead, he served with diligence. 

Christ washed the apostles feet to drive hope the point that it is about service, being the servant of all, rather than about being important.  If you are going to make any argument about the place where you serve rather than serving more, you will face serious semantic contamination and echos of pride in the semantic contamination you create.

The same comes when blessing babies comes up.  Already leaders are being counseled not to push fathers aside when it comes to ordaining sons or blessing babies, about taking steps to make sure men are involved and can be allowed to participate (the reference to battlefield promotions in the recent conference was part of a call not to shunt fathers aside).

That sounds very much like "I want to push men aside and take over."  Now, even when the need or desire is "I just want to participate" or "I hate being excluded" it is very easy to get the message contaminated with the one "I am pushing others aside and alienating them."

The same is true of the "I deserve it" and "I should be part of the hierarchy" argument.  Something that Hopwood and other litigation has pointed out is that much of affirmative action consists of taking people from privileged backgrounds and giving them precedence over people from trailer parks.  That the lead plaintiff from Hopwood was a white woman from a trailer park who was being excluded ... or that every time class issues are introduced to go with other affirmative action steps (the idea being that those from poor and lower class backgrounds are obviously suffering more of the effects of discrimination than those who are wealthy ...).

Consider the first "woman of color" to teach at Harvard Law School.  Blond, blue eyed ....  Now running for the senate in a state near you.  There is a huge issue where it appears to be more of a class struggle and one that ignores and insults the female members of general boards who are in some sort of quasi general authority status.

Combining an insult with something that rings of class warfare will, again, create unpleasant echos.  Especially since the Church continually has to war with class issues.  I still remember in the LDS Serviceman's stake in Germany when a general authority said he had interviewed every worthy high priest in the stake.  Turned out that the list he had been given was only of officers who were high priests.  No matter how otherwise worthy a man was, if he was enlisted, he wasn't truly "worthy."

All of that said, am I coming to a conclusion on the arguments, the conclusions or the future?

No.  Just because someone makes a bad argument, or a good argument that sounds like a bad one and is easily confused for one, does not mean that the position they are taking is a bad position.

So, what am I saying?

I am saying that if you want to make arguments, provide analysis, or be persuasive, you need to do the following:

  1. Avoid arguments that are contaminated by sounding like other arguments.  There are some very specific claims, arguments and approaches that sound very, very much like arguments that are (to the listeners) self-refuting (see the above).  i.e. structure your arguments to clearly not be the contaminated ones, but instead to be saying the alternative (e.g. "I don't want to push men aside, but I want to be able to participate).
  2. Avoid arguments that are basically insults or expressions of pride (e.g. "I serve more than I feel like, but I would rather be in control and have the chance to really exercise my abilities than do something like pick up the song books.").
  3. Avoid arguments that show an ignorance of culture and structure.  (e.g. denying the existence of female board members vs. discussing that the status and existence of female board members does not have meaning for people outside of Utah).
  4. Start discussions in places where everyone is in accord.  E.g. President Hinkley used to stress that the Church needed more leadership and participation from the women in the Church and a common problem that has been with us is men who misunderstand the priesthood and insist that women should not ever exercise any leadership or participation on an equal basis, to the extent of banning women from giving prayers in Sacrament meetings.  A way to move forward on the goal and overcome the problem is ....
Anyway, until things are discussed in those terms, and in those ways, most of the discussions contain within them the seeds of their own failures.

One thing I want to see happen is people express their ideas and positions in ways that are not contaminated by sounding like reasons and arguments that resonate as reasons not to give someone a fair audience -- to avoid hearing them.  Too often the debate is carried out in terms that create automatic rejection (kind of like the political candidate who ran on the basis that it was his turn to share in the stream of graft he was certain he had been excluded from).

That at least would get us to a civil and rational place where what people meant to be saying was heard.

1 comment:

Michaela Stephens said...

Excellent points. I think you verbalized something that I've always felt subconsciously.