I was recently added to an online discussion group designed to challenge people to think. I really like it. As I've demonstrated here, I'm a big fan of rhetorical debate (particularly agonistic rhetorical debate: see this post or this one). I spend a lot of my time reading about theoretical frameworks in which to resolve conflict, so I relish any opportunity to put those frameworks into practice in the real-world, and this discussion group seems to be a good place to do just that.
The group discussion rather quickly turned to gay marriage rights and Biblical texts, with two Christian men taking the lead on arguing against gay rights. For quite a while, a woman who is gay was passionately and very calmly arguing back. She left the group a day later, citing her own well-being and happiness as her primary concern.
I'm about to join her.
Last night, one of the men ended up leaving the group but then private messaging me to try to "save my soul from Hell." (For the record, I'm not an atheist. In fact, I consider myself a Christian. I just don't believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible because it is a text constructed by human hands and interpreted many times over thousands of years and thus cannot be understood without some pretty complex interpretation. I've written about my own religious/spiritual battles here and here.)
On one of the myriad tangential discussions on both the group and my private chat with this other man, the problem with sexism in the Bible came up. One of the passages used as evidence of the Bible's sexism is Judges 19, which tells a story where all the men in the city wanted to rape a holy man, who was a guest of one of the occupants. In order to prevent this, the man offered his own virgin daughter and the guest's sex slave to the men, who rejected the daughter but took the slave and raped her until she was unconscious or dead (the passage doesn't make it clear which). Then the man took the slave's body (alive or dead, who knows?) and hacked it into little pieces to send to different cities.
It is a disgusting story.
Another passage demonstrating sexism was 1 Corinthians 11:9
Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the manIn the private chat, that man ended up "explaining" to me that women are different than men and need protection. It's not about inequality, he says, but each of us fitting our roles that God has set for us. Apparently he doesn't see "God" (i.e. whoever penned that part of the Bible) setting my role as beneath his role as sexism. I disagree.
In the larger conversation, the other man ended up defending the Judges passage as just a product of the time they lived in. He said:
"It was brutal to do that but if you have a pack of gays trying to get your guest what would you do?"When I explained that what I would not do, ever, is send a woman to be raped, murdered, and dismembered, he explained to me that it was a different time. He was very stuck on the point that this woman was his whore, so it was his right to do with her as he pleased. When I countered that 1) "whores" are human beings who do not deserve to be raped and murdered (and that "whore" really means "sex slave") and that 2) he also sent his own daughter, he told me that:
Again that was fine at that time because it was the norm. Some how his daughters did end up out there. If they raped his daughters they would have had to marry them.He insisted that I answer his question of what I would do in that situation, and I said that it looks like I would probably be sent to be raped and murdered by someone like him, to which he replied:
I would have sent you to be if you where my whore then go to war because I felt that what the men did was wrongAnd you know what? I can't.
So, what does that mean for rhetorical debate? What does that mean for all of the theories of argument and discourse that I so fully ascribe to? How do I go from theory to practice when this is the landscape in which I have to act?