In just under nine years of moderating comments on an Episcopal blog and its social media outlets I’ve noticed three particular rhetorical moves frequently employed by us and our ilk.
The first two are similar:
1. It’s a both/and.
2. One size does not fit all.
Our debates would be more efficient if we stipulated that it is always a both/and, and that one size never fits all. There are rare instances in which it is helpful to point these things out, but usually the people engaged in the argument take them as given.
The third is far more subtle, sophisticated and powerful. It is the dreaded
3. Advantage-Seeking Invocation of Friedman (ASIF).
Directly or indirectly, Rabbi Edwin Friedman has taught just about every professional Episcopalian the importance of being a “non-anxious presence.” This lesson has been taken so thoroughly to heart that perhaps the most devastating retort you can make in Episcopal argumentation is that your opponent seems “anxious.”
You may have great power that you are about to wield against your opponent for entirely selfish reasons. You may hold advantages of class and position that should engender sympathy for a plucky underdog. You may be speaking complete nonsense. But none of this matters. if can establish that your victim-in-waiting is “anxious,” then the day is yours.
To diminish Advantage-Seeking Invocations of Friedman, I propose a small penalty. Anyone cited for ASIF shall be required to make a $5 donation to Episcopal Relief & Development. This is an elegant solution because it BOTH benefits a worthy cause AND promotes healthier debate. Although, perhaps some people should have to pay a $10 fine. One size does not fit all.