Rendering “Openness” Meaningless

Posted: May 7, 2013 in america, books, christianity, controversy, culture, quotes, secularism

When Christians Become a ‘Hated Minority‘” (CNN):

Edward Johnson, a communication professor at Campbell University in North Carolina, says we are now living in a “postmodern” era where everything is relative and there is no universally accepted truth. It’s an environment in which anyone who says “this is right” and “that is wrong” is labeled intolerant, he says.

There was a time when a person could publicly say homosexuality was wrong and people could consider the statement without anger, he says. Today, people have reverted to an intellectual tribalism where they are only willing to consider the perspective of their own tribe.

“They are incapable of comprehending that someone may have a view different than theirs,” Johnson says. “For them anyone who dares to question the dogma of the tribe can only be doing so out of hatred.”

The One, the Three and the ManyColin Gunton offers some penetrating analysis of this “intellectual tribalism” in his book The One, the Three and the Many: God, Creation and the Culture of Modernity:

The characteristic peril of the modern is to be found in the tendency to homogeneity, to the intellectual and social pressures by which the distinctive individuality of people and things is endangered. … [T]he death of rhetoric is the reason why much modern political dispute takes the form of aggressive confrontation rather than rational engagement: the demonstration rather than the disputatio. Given the loss of confidence in argument, the noisy and potentially violent demonstration is all that remains. … [Alasdair] MacIntyre has argued that there is in the modern world a complete breakdown of a common language in which to argue and decide moral disputes. Listen, he says, to any argument about abortion or nuclear arms, and you will find that opponents speak past each other’s shoulders because they lack a common language in which to communicate. The reason is to be found in emotivism. …

A diagnosis of American conditions similar to that of [Wayne C.] Booth’s underlies Allan Bloom’s much discussed The Closing of the American Mind. … The problem is the cult of openness:

Openness used to be the virtue that permitted us to seek the good by using reason. It now means accepting everything and denying reason’s power. The unrestrained and thoughtless pursuit of openness, without recognizing the inherent political, social or cultural problem of openness as the goal of nature, has rendered openness meaningless … Openness to closedness is what we teach. (101-103)

UPDATE: Justin Taylor has posted a related article entitled “The Gay Marriage Campaign and the Despotism of Conformity.”  Check it out—it’s worth the read.

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