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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Doctor Is In The House

The following is a slightly edited version of a post on HOB/D by Dr. Gordon Gritter, a board certified and distinguished psychiatrist and long-time deputy to General Convention (the names have been omitted to protect the guilty). Dr. Gritter and I have worked together on Committee #10, Urban and Social Concerns.

I found it a very helpful explanation of the hostile jeering that I sometimes read on HOB/D and, most frequently, in the posts and comment section of some of my ‘favorite’ neo-orthodox, evangelical, neo-Puritan Blogs.

I’ve often referred to them as “The Bullies.” Gordon’s post describes their behavior as “hostile jeering.”

Dr. Gritter also reminds me that the classic definition of depression has to do with suppressed or repressed anger. People who struggle with depression often display (you should excuse the expression) an undercurrent of hostility, sometimes manifested as bickering, sarcastic humor, hopelessness, rigid system of belief, suspicion of those in authority, high expectations and sharp, often unwarranted criticism of self and others.

This isn’t about ‘armchair psychology’. This is about trying to understand those who have such an intense need to demonize me and other LGBT people and our liberal and progressive allies.

There may yet be a way for me to comprehend the dynamic of evangelical zeal and the often intense hostility that characteristically accompanies any resistance to conformity to their beliefs. If I can understand it, perhaps there is a way that I can be more obedient to Jesus’ command to love my enemies.

For I have been persuaded that loving ones enemies is the only pathway to peace.

Here’s Dr. Gritter’s post, which he has generously given me permission to reproduce "anywhere you think it might help". Tell me what you think.

There are some on the HOB/D Listserv who seem to delight in hostile jeering. Their behavior on this list repeatedly earns them indignation and angry responses, which is then turned into more jeering.

Perhaps it is time to comment on the characteristics of hostile jeering.

1) It is a universal experience. All of us can readily recall such experience during childhood and sometimes later. The obvious intent of such behavior is to produce embarrassment, humiliation, and intimidation for the victim, and thus conformity, power, and status for those who jeer. It is often very effective, as we all know. We also know that it is often very abusive. Furthermore, although it often does produce behavioral conformity, it also produces anger and retaliation.

2) Hostile jeering is disapproved by parents and teachers because of its abusive and inflammatory characteristics. Thus, most of us, as adults, learn to avoid such behavior.

3) As can be readily recognized in current political campaigns, hostile jeering elicits observations such as: “Now it’s getting ugly !” There is widespread recognition that such ugliness produces no good results, and it distorts the necessary and appropriate processes.

4) Historically, it has long been known that hostile jeering can escalate into irrational individual and mob behavior, riots, and lynching. The Gospels and The Acts of the Apostles contain vivid examples. E.g.: Pilate, as a Roman administrator, was quite correct in recognizing that the crowd which was jeering at “The King of the Jews” could very easily get out of control, with disastrous results. Paul’s experience was similar, and so is ours up to today.

In our present situation in TEC and WWAC there is, of course, plenty of room for honest criticism and disagreement, but the jeering behavior toward Archbishop Williams, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, Bishop Robinson, and many of the rest of us, seems often inappropriate, offensive, and unacceptable on this list.

What kind of example are these Christian leaders setting for their own people? Is what we see here on HOB/D contributing to the appalling behavior of some people on the blogs, which is infinitely worse than that which appears on HOB/D?

Perhaps it is time for us to insist that hostile jeering is juvenile, insulting, unproductive, and unChristian. Always. Every time.

Someone give the Doctor an "AMEN!"


Kirkepiscatoid said...

You know, the first thing that comes to mind when I see taunting, jeering behavior is that I wonder "what is it you really fear? What is so scary inside of you that you have a need to take someone else down to lift yourself up?"

In the case of these religious bigots I often think, "What is it that is so messed up in you that you need the authority of a 'authoritative mumzer God' to rule everyone's life, including your own? What is it that is so broken in your own self that behaving like God's toady deludes you into feeling righteous?"

There's just really really something wrong there. I have never seen how someone else's same sex attraction can possibly affect my straightness. I fail to see how Leviticus can be used like a sledgehammer on this issue when no one gives a hoot the world runs around in cotton-poly blend, two fibers woven together.

Jesus was incredibly mute on this topic, which tells me he didn't give a rip. Paul was the guy who railed on it in the NT, and well...Paul had a lot of issues.

I understand the feelings of the jeerers to a small degree. When I am afraid, I "bluster". I growl and snarl and try to just be so incredibly disagreeable that people will just go away and leave me alone in my own pain. But that is because of my own feelings of not being loved enough at the moment, when you get right down to it. These folks need to address the motes in their own eyes in a big way.

Suzer said...


Though it is unlikely to reduce the behavior, and will probably produce only more hostile jeering from the offenders, this piece may, as you say, help me understand these folks a little better. It is often difficult to feel any love or compassion for those who would rather attack me than greet me in Christian love. I will try to keep Dr. Gritter's words in mind as I encounter the undercurrent of hostility emanating from certain corners of the blogosphere. And I also must remember to pray for these folks, rather than return anger with anger.

This is a timely reminder -- thank you for sharing it.

June Butler said...

Amen! At the same time, I must say mea culpa, for I have done that very thing. It's a timely reminder to me to address the substance of what a person says, rather than descend to the level of "hostile jeering". Thanks to Dr. Gritter and to you, too, Elizabeth.

Hiram said...

I can recall a number of occasions at diocesan conventions when I stood to oppose a measure that sought to grant some degree of acceptance to same-sex relationships as being considered within the bounds of Christian thought. I did so as calmly and rationally as I could manage.

The reaction from those who supported these measures was not only to oppose me and others who held the same opinion, but to do so in an angry and hostile manner. It was not unusual for some parliamentary device to be used to stifle debate, when such devices were not often used regarding other measures. Calm reason was not met with equally calm reason, but with hostility, sometimes even rage.

Sometimes at other progressive blogs (seldom this one), comments that I post are met with a long-distance diagnosis of mental instability and threats of retribution.

Perhaps the sense of "they are all messed up" comes to those on both sides. After all, my position is reasonable, and anyone who differs must be ignorant or warped...

We are all starting from differing perspectives -- indeed, from different worldviews. It is no wonder we are clashing. We have a common vocabulary in the words of the Christian creeds and prayers, but a differing starting point as to what we believe is true about how we know the things of God.

Muthah+ said...

John Vanderstar is one of the really sound minds of the Episcopal Church. Having heard him speak at Diocesan Convention on many occasions while I was in El Camino Real, I am grateful for his wisdom. May we all take a grain of his wisdom as our own. Thanks for the post.

Jim said...

Preach it doctor! AMEN!

Jim's Thoughts

Crimson Rambler said...

oh thank you Elizabeth!!!
Our Primate (=Presiding Bishop, we can take the banana jokes as read, 'kay?)is coming here to Most Holy & Undivided on Sunday, both services. The early service folk are cooking a nice b'fast for him, and them, between the services. I have sworn them to a BLOOD OATH that they will make pleasant and friendly conversation and ask No Hard Questions. No fairs saying, "What price the Southern Cone eh" just as the man gets a mouthful of egg.
But...even St. Paul descended to it -- "Person without any brain" he said, right there in 1 Corinthians 15.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Okay, CR, just what the heck have you been smoking?