Rankin File

Ruminations, fulminations, and cogitations on the spiritual life

Bigotry and Power

So, from bigotry to power politics and back: I got worked up this morning watching Headline News.  Gloria Allred is alleging that the Tebows are not telling the whole story about Pam’s decision not to abort Tim.  Allred’s allegation is based, so far as I can tell, merely on the fact that abortion is illegal in the Philippines and, since there is a serious penalty for doing so, no doctor in the Philippines would give such advice.

My mind reeled with the sheer audacity of this claim.  Questions began to pop: What doctors gave the advice?  American doctors abroad?  Philippino doctors?  Someone else?  Was she actually in the Philippines when she got this advice?  (Missionaries often have medical care in places besides where they serve.)  One article I found – a Baptist homeschooling blog, of all places – said that it was an American-trained doctor in the Philippines.  That’s the only place I found any reference to the doctor in question.

More questions: Did that American-trained doctor tell Mrs. Tebow he/she would do the abortion?   What exactly did he/she say to her?

In other words, what does Allred actually know to ground such a headline-grabbing allegation?  All these questions need a certain kind of answer for her allegations to begin to have any merit.  I heard absolutely nothing in the news clip to ease my qualms.

No one outside of Focus on the Family and, I suppose, the Tebows, has seen the ad.  On what basis, therefore, can Allred allege both that the story is false and that the Tebows are actually distorting their own story in order (apparently) to play politics?  It’s a staggering suggestion she has made when you think of how careful, how determined Tim Tebow has been to present a transparent, consistent Christian witness.  Does Allred realize that she is actually accusing them of going against everything they say they stand for?  Are we really that cynical?

I want to make clear, my post is not about abortion.  I also don’t care if the ad does not run.  I care that people like Gloria Allred can spout off with complete impunity on television, essentially to engage in character assassination while giving the impression that her legal knowledge gives her the license so to do.  And don’t bring up Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly.  They don’t pretend to be lawyers and at least they fulminate on their own TV shows.  Allred got 30 seconds on Headline News.

If you remember that AskOxford.com definition of bigotry, it includes the word “prejudice.”  If Gloria Allred has not made sure that she stands on firm ground with the circumstances of the Tebow story, then she clearly has prejudged, in the most glaring, daring way.  Is she a bigot like Huffington?  Google for yourself and read.  If it walks like a duck…

February 1, 2010 Posted by | Pop Culture, Religion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Being a Bigot

I have sat on this post for several days, trying to scrutinize my own sentiments.  In my post about Ariana Huffington and Pat Robertson, I referred to Huffington as a bigot.  It’s a harsh word and I’ve been thinking about whether it appropriately fits.  I think it does, but I feel the need to explain myself.

In today’s climate, we don’t like extreme-sounding language on certain sensitive topics.  It seems extreme to use a word like “bigot” for someone like Huffington.  It seems reactionary.  I want to be a peaceable person, so I shy away from harsh language.  Furthermore, the word often is used with regard to white prejudice on questions of race, so maybe it doesn’t translate very well.

Dictionary.com defines “bigot” as “a person who is intolerant of any differing creed, belief or opinion.”  Hmm.  Too strong.  This makes us all bigots virtually all the time.  A word that covers everything covers nothing.  Even bigots tolerate some “other opinions” at least some of the time, I would think.  “Intolerant” is too vague anyway and has become kind of a buzzword.    “AskOxford.com” (I’m doing this blog at home and don’t have acccess to OED) says of “bigot:” “a person who is prejudiced in their views and intolerant of the opinions of others.”  “Prejudiced” helps.  “Intolerant” of the views of others sometimes has real merit.  “Prejudice,” on the other hand, is pre-judging before the case is permitted to be made.  Prejudice means jumping to conclusions on probably some sort of ad hominem basis.

I work in academia.  Anyone familiar with this environment knows that bigots can and sometimes do have Ph.Ds.  I wince to write those words.  It’s ironic, because a big part of our job is to expose bigotry.  And here’s the danger: if you think you (or someone else) cannot be a bigot because well-educated, think again.  We should not be fooled by our own sophistication.

I am not interested in propping up Pat Robertson’s sagging image.  Whether he is still regarded as a nationally powerful Christian leader is a debatable point.  I hang around a lot of young people who barely recognize his name, if at all.  We have much more serious problems in the Christian community than Pat Robertson.  Maybe that’s why I’m not as bothered by Robertson’s comments as some people are.

Huffington is no less a bigot simply because she is more articule and sophisticated.  We’d better start paying attention to and recognizing bigotry of all flavors, especially by people who help to shape public opinion.

I have deeply conflicted feelings about public opinion these days.  I like that blogging and other media allow for more people to share opinions in an accessible format.  I worry that we don’t distinguish very well thoughtful, careful opinions from fear-mongering and demagoguery, particularly when it comes in such articulate packages.

I’m sufficiently bothered that I have another post coming immediately on another topic.  Stay tuned.

February 1, 2010 Posted by | Religion | 1 Comment