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On Episcopal argumentation and Advantage-Seeking Invocations of Friedman

On Episcopal argumentation and Advantage-Seeking Invocations of Friedman

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.


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Lionel Deimel

Thanks, Jim. Your explanation was clear and helpful.


“People with power diagnose their way out of responding to legitimate criticism all of the time in our church.”

Touche’! “In our church”, as everywhere else, Power-Over can essentially be measured by how often one tells those around him (less often, her) to “Calm Down!”

JC Fisher

Obadiah Slope


you are batting well right to the end of your innings running the cafe. This is a very insightful piece. Thank you.

John Sandeman

Jim Naughton

Hi Lionel,

Lets say we are about to make major changes in our parish, church, website, whatever. I will have a major hand in making those changes. You will not. When I begin to sketch out what those changes will be, you realized you don’t like what you are hearing and say so. I explain to you that you are anxious, and that I am not anxious. Therefore, I am more credible than you. Therefore, I don’t actually have to respond to your criticisms because they come from an anxious person and are therefore not to be taken seriously.

People with power diagnose their way out of responding to legitimate criticism all of the time in our church.


Lionel Deimel

Jim, can you offer an explicit example of ASIF? Perhaps I have not been paying close attention, but I really don’t understand what you are talking about. (Make up an example if necessary to protect the guilty.)

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