Let’s play the aggrieved game, shall we? Let’s play us a round of placing the worst possible construction on the words of someone we are in a dispute with. It might not look so good in the cold light of day, but then we might learn something. Here’s hoping.
Rachel Held Evans has said the following on her blog, emphasis mine:
“Second, I never accused Jared Wilson or Doug Wilson of promoting rape or sexual violence against women, so let’s just strike that narrative from the dialog. I think their position on sex and submission is troubling, and I think the language they used was irresponsible and insensitive, but I would never go so far as to say that their views represent a wholesale endorsement of sexual violence.”
Good to know, good to know. But one does wonder what kind of endorsement of sexual violence our views do represent. Wholesale is almost always used in distinction from retail, and so she must mean that our views represent a particular kind of endorsement of sexual violence. Now my argument (were I to forget myself and start playing for real the game that she is playing for real) is that her words could be construed in this way, premise one, she is on the opposite side in a debate with me, premise two, and therefore the worst possible construction must be placed on her words.
Not only that, but this accusation of endorsing some kind of sexual violence comes in the same paragraph with her denial that she is doing any such thing. Now I could let the denial serve as the context for her later statement, or I could just use the denial as evidence that she is lying on top of accusing of being promoters of violence against women. See, these sentences are in tension. Let’s make them a contradiction . . . no, wait, let’s make them a lie.
Let’s see if we can play this game elsewhere. In reply to Jared Wilson’s wife in the comments on her blog, she said this:
“I want to be clear that I never said Jared (or, for that matter, Doug) condones rape or violence against women. That seems highly unlikely.”
Highly unlikely? Vindicated at last! It is highly unlikely that Jared condones rape or violence against women and, if we can get our Christian charity to stand on tiptoe, we can even extend that thundering exoneration to Doug. Since I am trying to apply to Rachel what the words could mean, instead of what she would say they mean, I would have to put this as a statement that it is 98% certain that Jared would not condone rape, and I would probably be in the 90th percentile. That’s pretty good, but it is obvious I have to do better. Slouching around in the 90 percentile is not good enough, and is obviously hurtful.
Now we have to shift gears in order to move into the aggrieved part of the game. It is clear to me that Rachel, being a woman, does not understand the pain and anguish that can come to a man when he is falsely accused of some kind of sexual misconduct. It is devasting, and women can be very thoughtless in how they talk about such things. So if a man such as I says that he finds the use of such loose language troubling, and deeply hurtful, it seems to me that what women ought to do is just take my word for it. Walk a mile in my cowboy boots, and simply agree with whatever it is I am saying. That, and never using the words wholesale, highly, or unlikely again. That seems to me to be the best way out of our impasse, and I suggest it in a spirit that seeks reconciliation, restoration, healing, and the beginning of the millennium.