Editor’s note (Rod): I was outraged about how wrong someone gets slavery and church history; that’s all I wanted to say. ENJOY!
“Gabe Pfefer is a graduate of the M.Div program at Brite Divinity School in Ft. Worth, TX and a part time pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He’s originally from Western Missouri and he grew up around farmers. He loves to cook, but can’t bake to save his life. You can see his post from February here“
Anybody who’s kept even half an eye on the progressive Christian blogosphere this week will have no doubt encountered Tony Jones’ latest outrageous bid for attention. In his crusade to combat misogyny and complementarianism in the church, he called for an outright schism between complimentarian and egalitarian factions of Christianity. Mr. Jones brogressive jihad was met with disbelief and alarm by many, but that never stops good old TJ from doubling down on being scandalous. His latest salvo was this blog post (insert link here) in which he compares those who disagree with his idea of fragmenting the church to slaveholders and medieval torturers.
Now let me be clear, I am a vehement opponent of complementarianism, patriarchy, and anything less than full egalitarianism in the body of Christ. I understand Jones’ fury at those who remain stuck in the stone ages of oppressive attitudes about gender roles. I oppose with all my being any attempts to deny full inclusion to women in every aspect of the church. Where I and all but Jones’ most ardent fangirls and fanboys part ways with Jones’ thinking is in the idea that the church should schismatically separate over this issue. Yes schisms are historical and have at times led positive change, but they ALWAYS represent a wounded brokenness of the spirit of Christian unity. A schism over this issue would only deepen those wounds.
Aside from the debate over the appropriateness of a schism is the question of why Jones believes himself to be qualified or powerful enough to declare such an action. Yes it’s true he has written many well received books and has contributed a great deal to the archive of progressive theological thought. It’s also true though that he’s been a historically contentious figure with a reputation for causing conflict even within his corner of the Emergent movement. He’s hardly the most diplomatic fellow and although he presumes to often speak prophetically, his demeanor has frequently distracted from his message. Jones is never one to listen to or consider even the mildest of critiques without an excessive amount of bristling defensiveness towards his critics.
Even beyond my questions about his assumption of the mantle of would-be schismatic leader are my questions and outrage about his latest accusations. I was highly disturbed to see him resort to a slavery analogy to attack his critics. The horrors of the slave trade like the horrors of the holocaust should be, in my opinion, beyond the pale of access for use as weapons in casual battles of rhetoric. As a white male from a middle class background I was appalled to see Jones (another white middleclass male) so casually employ the images and symbols of African American oppression in this manner. He might as well have invoked the idea that his critics were akin to Hitler while he was at it!
It seems Jones has never gotten used to being challenged or not being seen as the brightest kid in the room. When his brilliance (in this case in the idea of a schism) was questioned he couldn’t take it and lashed out. I assume he believed that by comparing his critics to slave traders and sympathizers he would automatically cause his fellow progressives to reflexively distance themselves from these critics in their midst. His casual and completely basis appeal to racism falls flat however since he’s comparing apples to oranges and his analogy falls flatter than a Bundt cake without the baking powder.