I tried to take Sunday off (except now it's back-to-school Monday!)

On Sunday I was gonna write about the Marcionites, but I didn't have time.

Just as well, as the word looks too much like "Mariconites." (A word that didn't need inventing; just misspelling.)

But it's Monday now, and the Marionites seem to have faded from the scene and the screen. I enjoyed Dave Kopel's post (via InstaPundit) about the Book of Judas, but I had earlier read Donald Sensing's, and that had started me on another long winded, sure-to-get-out-of-hand, historical essay about the Marionites (articles about the Book of Judas here and here), but history took a yawn and the post will become one of my hundreds of unfinished, unpublished posts. . .

Ancient texts are interesting, but because they don't control my life I can't get too worked up about them. (BTW, the inherent and growing incompatibility between blogging and essay writing drives me to distraction, and I see no solution to the problem. I don't mean to whine here -- even though I am -- but there's something about the finishing and posting of a long essay which ought to be enjoyable, in the way accomplishments are said to be enjoyable. But any sense of accomplishment is quickly ruined by the certainty of knowing that it's "just another blog post," and if I don't get something up in another couple of hours, the blog will be as dead as a doornail. Because of the medium, a long post attempting to analyze mistaken assumptions I might feel were made during Christianity's infancy in the Roman empire is -- like it or not -- the "moral equivalent" of a one-liner throwaway sarcastic aside involving Mick Jagger or Paris Hilton. It's tough, but that's the medium. Sometimes, it disturbs me to stop and consider that no normal person would blog daily essays for a period of years. But then, is there any rule that I have to be my own shrink?)

In any case, I am still intrigued by Donald Sensing's who-knew-Jesus-best analysis:

there were so many writings claiming Christian authenticity that documents of genuine apostolic origin were being squeezed out. Through a complex series of episcopal meetings, by the fourth century the Church decided that only Gospels of actual apostolic origin should be considered canonical. That meant that writings well known to the Church, such as the Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles), Gospel of Peter, First Letter of Clement, Letter of Barnabas, Apocalypse of Peter and Shepherd of Hermas, and now the so-called Judas gospel were excluded. They simply dated far too late to have apostolic authority. In the case of the Judas document (but not only it), they were works of imaginative fiction, novels basically, which could not form the basis of preserving the teachings of the apostles who had known Christ personally.
He has another excellent post here, which looks at the question of whether Judas was a traitor, with both sides carefully considered. Whether the authors who made it into the Big Book that the Emperor Constantine ordered published knew Jesus personally has long fascinated me (frankly, a major stumbling block has been Paul the "apostle" who never met Jesus), but consensus over what went into the book was acheived long ago, and whether the Marionite and Gnostics should have been reviled as heretics, whether Jesus would have embraced them, whether there should have been a Pagan/Christian war -- these questions are all very interesting to me. But I don't think I am going to settle them in a blog post.

What is it that makes something "interesting"? Is it the subject material itself, or is it the way it's presented?

Because Monday will always have a back-to-school feel to it, I find it difficult to get myself interested in anything on Mondays. Like the Marionites. Yawn.

I mean really! Just YAWN!

But a debate between Ward Churchill and David Horowitz?? Now that's real Monday morning back-to-school stuff! Looking around for something to jumpstart my curiosity this morning, via Jeff Soyer I found Cam Edwards' fascinating account of precisely such a debate. While I wasn't there, it appears that Churchill is a more accomplished practitioner of a phenomenon called "working the room":

Churchill has been doing this for years, talking to students in a classroom setting. He’s working the room very well. Horowitz, on the other hand, seems less engaged (or engaging). He’s got his facts down, he’s quietly passionate, but I’m having a hard time understanding the nuance of his position. Just a minute ago he said “I have no problem with professors expressing their opinion about a subject, as long as they’re not indoctrinating the students”. Part of the problem is as simple as turning up the volume on his microphone. He’s difficult to hear, whereas Churchill’s just booming out his responses.

Jeff Harrell pointed out something that I didn’t catch from Ward Churchill: the statement, “There is no truth”. I think he meant to say “There is no truth that I am a Native American.”

All in all, I was hoping for more fireworks. It was interesting in a C-SPAN sort of way, but I’m not much of a C-SPAN guy. While Horowitz won on points (for me anyway), Churchill held his own. He didn’t come off as moonbat crazy, he made a couple of interesting points, and probably partied like a rock star with the G-Dub students after the show was over.

The reason he didn't come off as moonbat crazy because he was in a room populated mostly by conservatives. The event was sponsored by Young Americans Foundation, and as Cam says, there were approximately nine Churchill supporters in the room. Hardly the time or place to hurl "little Eichmanns" accusations.

The fact is, Churchill spends more time lecturing than does Horowitz, and it obviously shows. Horowitz, on the other hand, spends a lot more time in front of hostile audiences, and I'm willing to bet he's a lot more accustomed to being shouted down, if not drowned completely out. "Working the room" is something he wouldn't have as much opportunity to do.

In fact, I'd be willing to bet that if the tables were reversed, and this same debate had been sponsored by MoveOn.org (not to be confused with the more polite MoveOn.us), Horowitz would have been lucky if he still remained on the stage, much less in an audible fashion. That's because David Horowitz is one of the favorite demons of the left, and audiences of left-wing activists are simply not known for politeness to known right wing opponents. (I've previously posted about leftist audience responses to Horowitz, and to Malkin.)

What this debate proved is that:

  • Ward Churchill is capable of being civil in front of a right wing audience;
  • Right wing audiences tend not to shout down even those left wing ideologues they consider the most morally repugnant.
  • This is something I have known for years. I'm a shy person, and not much of a hand at working the room. I found that even the most ideological of conservatives would listen patiently to me, even when they disagreed, while left wing activists would start to ratchet up the intimidating tactics at the very first sign of heresy.

    (And I am a heretic, by any standard, whether left, right, or "center" -- or political, religious, or sexual.)

    Ann Althouse and Sissy Willis have commented on this, as of course did Glenn Reynolds.

    Bottom line, according to Ann Althouse:

    bloggers on the right link to you when they agree and ignore the disagreements, and the bloggers on the left link only for the things they disagree with, to denounce you with short posts saying you're evil/stupid/crazy, and don't even seem to notice all the times you've written posts that take their side.
    To which a reader emailed:
    ...the Right is looking for converts and the Left is looking for heretics...
    Of course, they're all talking about the blogosphere, but is there a general tendency of conservatives towards politeness, and liberals towards rudeness?

    I mean, no one in his right mind (or left mind as the case may be) would think of Ward Churchill as a potential "convert" would they? So I don't think it's as simple as that. Otherwise, you'd expect rudeness to set in once it became clear that "conversion" was impossible.

    No, I think there's just something downright old-fashioned about civility. It's like that hold-the-door-open-for-a-lady business. Being well groomed and all that bullshit. (Bullshit I make a point of engaging in, I hasten to add....) It's not even necessarily political. Maybe politeness is more of a lifestyle thing, and maybe the politeness people are just sort of pushed over to the conservative side by default, because they feel more comfortable with people who are polite.

    The Churchill Horowitz audience phenomenon thing simply confirms my suspicion, and others' observations. So does this email from a Christian conservative to GayPatriot:

    Proofing this letter, I’m not sure I have communicated clearly what is in my heart and mind today. Hope you can read between the lines and gain a sense of what I am trying to communicate. Perhaps a recent comparison will serve to illuminate. As Cynthia Mckinney’s recent actions have reinforced many negative racial stereotypes, so you two serve to combat stereotyping of the gay community. You two are much more convincing advocates for the gay community than Queer Nation or Dykes on Bikes. And Bruce loves Brad Paisley! A country music fan. Who’d a thunk it? Another stereotype down the tubes.

    Appreciate your work. Your thoughts, arguments, and reasoning. You are helping to forge a bridge of greater understanding between the larger gay community and straight conservatives.

    Concludes Bruce:
    This email would never have been written to us by any Democrat or Gay Leftist. Nor would any Gay Secular Liberal have ever written such a compassionate and sincere note to a Christian.

    That alone speaks volumes about how far our community has to go.

    (Via Pajamas Media.)

    You could say that about the country.

    Shit. (It's already after nine in the morning on Monday, and I've accomplished nothing!)

    MORE: Thank you Sissy Willis for the link! (I think I'm heretical enough to go on record as opposed to politically correct cat blogging, and one of these days I should write a post about vegan cats!)

    posted by Eric on 04.10.06 at 09:16 AM







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    Comments

    Your emailer has it just right re the Right's looking for converts and the Left's looking for heretics. It's the difference between seeking to persuade by argument vs. seeking to impose by violence, whether psychological or physical, a hallmark of "Fear societies, heavy and lite."

    Thanks for the nice link, by the way!

    Sissy Willis   ·  April 10, 2006 9:55 AM

    Thanks for coming! That's a really good post about fear societies, too. I think blogging helps enable former doublethinkers who but for the new medium might never have been heard from.

    Eric Scheie   ·  April 10, 2006 10:55 AM

    I don't know how one can appreciate anything that is written on Gay Patriot. Let's just ignore the wingnut respondents who make ad hominems, epithets, and vulgar accusations a class unto themselves. These people haven't a coherent idea, except a tendency towards internalized homophobia, hyper-Christianism, and irrational politics. Also apparent, a few ex-gays find this forum useful for their purposes.

    Bruce and Dan, on the other hand, Gay Patriot's hosts, select their topics very carefully so that not one word against our Leader and the Republican majority is uttered. The sole exception was GWB's advocacy of a constitutional amendment to ward off gay marriages. When the entire country was beholding the scams, incompetence, and fascism of this Administration, Bruce and Dan geared their thoughts toward the Academy Awards, the hotest television emcee, Saint Patrick's Day, and other pressing issues of the day. Their agenda is a socially-conservative program that mirrors Lou Sheldon, Pat Robertson, Anita Bryant, and other "righteous" homophobes.

    Before the exodus by a great many of us, a handful of us would try to steer the discussion toward topical issues of more significance. Instead of intelligent responses, several respondents attacked others personally, not for their views, but for their damnation to hell, the need for a fascist president, and why the current policies are heavenly-prescribed.

    Once thought to be a "conservative" blog, Gay Patriot has become a reactionary ideolo-blogue that endorses everything counter to historical conservatism. None of the respondents (Bruce and Dan, included) knew anything of Burke, Oakeshott, Hayek, Mises, Scruton, etc., the preeminent exponents of conservatism. Their ideology wasn't shaped by conservative ratiocination, but by militarist, Christianist, and fascist doctrines. Rational claims were attacked for lacking unconditional support of the Commander in Thief. Every notion that escaped their "orthodoxy" was labeled "Leftist," even traditionally conservative ideas.

    Gay Patriot is an embarassment to gays and to conservatism. Their nationalist jingoism is in the tradition of George Wallace rather than George Will. Most of us who persisted in posting against this sea of illiterates did so only to moderate the blog's extremist views. Instead, it brought out more wingnuts to slander, abuse, and and attack any reasonable differences.

    There are blogs that serve the gay conservative, such as Andrew Sullivan, Jonathan Rowe, The Gay Species, Independent Gay Forum, etc. All of them are worth reading and responding.

    Whatever persists at Gay Patriot is representative of very few people, gay or straight, conservative or liberal, religionist or atheist. It's a blog that extols extremism at its worst.

    D, Stephen Heersink   ·  April 10, 2006 2:23 PM

    "When the entire country was beholding the scams, incompetence, and fascism of this Administration"?

    The entire country was thinking that?

    "Their agenda is a socially-conservative program that mirrors Lou Sheldon, Pat Robertson, Anita Bryant, and other "righteous" homophobes."

    Really? I could have sworn I've seen criticism of Pat Robertson there.

    "Their ideology wasn't shaped by conservative ratiocination, but by militarist, Christianist, and fascist doctrines."

    It's not my job to defend other bloggers, but I think you're engaged in hyperbole here.

    (A bit free with the "f" word too.)

    Eric Scheie   ·  April 10, 2006 9:28 PM

    D. Stephen Heersink, I think Eric's right and you're going overboard. I haven't read Gay Patriot for months. I couldn't hack the proprietors' smug self-regard and inflated sense of their own adorableness anymore, and you're right that most of the interesting thoughts posted there are second-hand and more profitably absorbed from other sources.

    Is that really all that matters, though? One doesn't want to be coming down conclusively on the side of style over substance, but there are a lot of people out there who still think the entire gay population is made up of loony-leftists who look down on Middle America and are constantly looking for reasons to feel put-upon. In that context, marketing isn't everything, but it's an important thing; and Gay Patriot and his fellow bloggers have done a great job of marketing themselves as avowed conservative gay guys who know how to be even-tempered and civil toward people with opposing ideas. And they're obviously sincere in their beliefs. If they're getting some conservatives with little exposure to gays to rethink their preconceptions, it's a good thing.

    Sean Kinsell   ·  April 11, 2006 1:03 AM

    You say:-- "but there's something about the finishing and posting of a long essay which ought to be enjoyable, in the way accomplishments are said to be enjoyable."
    Is it the lack of feedback sometimes?

    Your essays make me think. For instance, your first one after the Los Angeles immigration march was so well thought out and reasonable.
    I had been a supporter of employer sanctions forever. But you persuaded me, by your own reasoned beliefs, that I was wrong. And you didn't post right away. (While you thought through the issue at your own pace?)

    You have a dry wit, the ability to deflate a pompous jackass (Sullivan) without resorting to invective, and a magnanimous tone of civility in your best essays.

    Your writing is a breath of fresh air in a blog world of gaseous polemics.

    Thank you.


    Frank White   ·  April 11, 2006 1:17 AM

    Thank you Frank, and Sean!

    Eric Scheie   ·  April 11, 2006 12:46 PM

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