We are, to be honest, bored of the Swinburne controversy. This, however, seems worth drawing attention to, but will (hopefully) be our last post on it.
Our previous post, Did Swinburne get Swindled?, has received a lot of attention. Among other things, our post was the first to bring attention to Jason Stanley’s appallingly unprofessional comment—“Fuck those assholes”—about Richard Swinburne and conservative Christians. Several outlets have since picked up the story.
In response, the philosopher of language wrote a public Facebook post in which he offered an “apology” purposely misusing the term ‘apology’, since what he wrote was not intended to repair a rift in any interpersonal relationships he may have had with those offended; on the contrary, it was meant to deepen the rift. Here is a snippet of what Stanley wrote:
… I PROFOUNDLY regret not using much harsher language and saying what I really think of anyone who uses their religion to promote homophobia, … This wildly understates my actual sentiments towards homophobic religious proponents of evil like Richard Swinburne, who use their status as professional philosophers to oppress others with less power. I am SO SORRY for using such mild language.
Where to begin? Note Stanley’s use of propaganda when he characterizes Swinburne’s views as “homophobic.” This is manipulative rhetoric with absolutely no basis in fact. That and other epithets aside, more important is the fact that something deeply disconcerting has gone unnoticed here—something that every honest member of the Society of Christian Philosophers should be concerned about. But before noting just what that is, visit a nearby possible world with us.
In this world, head of the Good’ol Values Club (GVC) are President Faux Neuter and Executive Director Janus Face. After their latest meeting, Faux Neuter issues a public apology on his Facebook page for the hurt caused by Dr. Progressive’s lecture celebrating homosexual unions as on par with heterosexual ones. Janus Face follows suit, issuing her own apology, setting social media ablaze with two warring factions arguing over the propriety of the apology issued by President Faux Neuter. They are, after all, a club founded to promote good’ol values like traditional marriage. Of those supporting Dr. Progressive’s view that homosexual marriages are just as good as heterosexual ones, Prestigious University professor Donson Trumpley says “Fuck those assholes.” After his comment is picked up by several media outlets, he “apologizes,” saying that he “PROFOUNDLY regrets not using much harsher language and saying what I really think of anyone who uses their values to promote the gay agenda.” Members of the GVC sympathetic to gay marriage are horrified by Trumpley’s crass comments. Meanwhile, Faux Neuter and Janus Face announce that their public apology was meant to neither shame Dr. Progressive nor take sides in the debate on gay marriage, and that they welcome diversity and inclusiveness. Members on both sides of the debate, they say, should not feel like the GVC administration is against them. And most importantly, the GVC administration does not endorse but repudiates crass comments, like Donson Trumpley’s, against gays.
But then a juicy fact comes to light: in an unguarded moment, Janus Face “liked” Trumpley’s comment; indeed, she had a hearty laugh about it!
What is your reaction to Janus Face’s actions? It seems clear to us that members of the GVC, especially those on Dr. Progressive’s side, should find her actions deeply problematic. They might even justifiably demand that she step down as the Executive Director. Clearly her actions do great damage to the narrative that both sides are equally welcome in the GVC, pro-gay ones especially. Minimally, such actions indicate that there’s something wrong in the culture of the GVS. And they prove that we ought not take at face value the administrator’s explanations that no ill will is intended to the pro-gay members.
If you haven’t guessed, something very similar happened in the actual world. When Jason Stanley made his crass comments, comments we were assured the SCP administrators have not endorsed but repudiated, SCP Executive Director Christina Van Dyke reacted to Stanley’s post with a “Haha.” She laughed at the fact that he “profoundly regretted not using harsher language” toward conservative Christians. She said “haha” to the fact that he “apologized” for “wildly understating” his true contempt for conservative Christians:
Things get even more interesting. If you were to search Stanley’s post now, you would not see Christina Van Dyke’s “haha” reaction:
She apparently realized that it undermined the entire narrative that the administrators of the SCP were neutral toward the views of Richard Swinburne and conservative Christians. It undermines the narrative that she has no skin in the game. It calls into question the claim that the SCP hierarchy is “welcoming” to conservative Christian views. It completely destroys the administration’s apologists’ argument that they do not endorse Stanley’s crass comments.
What to do? As we noted, if the situation were reversed and an SCP Executive Director had joined in a backslapping fest mocking members of the LGTBQ community, it is obvious that this would be cause for much uproar. Would the President of the SCP apologize for the Executive Director’s actions? Probably. But if not, why apologize for Swinburne’s actions? Would members of the SCP, especially progressive ones, call for the Executive Director to resign? Probably. So what will happen in the actual world?