August 19, 2019

Sundays with Michael Spencer: August 2, 2015

archie-bunker-unstifled-all-in-the-family-debuts1

“We didn’t crawl out from under no rocks. We didn’t have no tails. And we didn’t come from monkeys you atheist pinko meathead.”

“It ain’t supposed to make sense; it’s faith. Faith is something that you believe that nobody in his right mind would believe.”

• Archie Bunker

• • •

I used to watch “All In The Family” with my dad. It was strange. Strange because my dad was the virtual clone of Archie Bunker (and my mother the twin of Edith), and all the comedy- which I increasingly found both hilarious and truthful — usually went right past him.

Archie was perhaps the greatest practitioner of the art of argumentation ever portrayed on stage or screen. He had all the necessary gifts. He believed himself to be more knowledgeable on any subject than anyone else in the room. He had a vocabulary that ran circles around a normal person. He was never daunted by logic, compassion, or mercy. No, he pressed on, wagging his finger–or cigar–in your face, making his points, calling Mike a meathead or the neighbor an idiot or worse.

Archie loved an argument the way most people love dessert. At the slightest provocation, he bullishly inserted his opinion and denigrated yours. Reality, facts, common sense, sheer numbers of opponents–none of it made a dent in Archie. Inventing and redefining terms was an art form with him. It was Archie who explained that male behavior was determined by khromostones, and later discovered both his-mones and her-mones. When he found humility, it was always his special variety: “The only thing that holds a marriage together is the husband bein’ big enough to keep his mouth shut, to step back and see where his wife is wrong.”

I’ve decided that Archie Bunker is the patron saint of Christians who can’t stop making their point. Christians who love to argue. Christians who can’t stand it that someone somewhere disagrees with them. Christians who are caught up in theological controversy like University of Kentucky basketball fans are caught up in defending their team. Christians who have to correct everyone the way obsessed Lord of the Rings fans must correct any deviation from the Holy Canons of Tolkien. Christians who can’t rest easy if someone somewhere is not understanding, reading, or getting “it,” whatever “it” happens to be.

. . . The little brothers of Saint Archie Bunker, I call them.

I meet Calvinists who have no control over their need to make all Biblical discussions turn into debates on predestination. There are young earth creationists who hunt down anything that smells like a less-than-literal view of Genesis one and label it evolution. Pentecostal/Charismatics have all varieties of little brothers of Saint Archie who can’t stand it that someone isn’t riding the latest wave of the Holy Spirit into last days revival. Seminary students who can’t understand why there is anyone refusing to read N.T. Wright, and hand-wringers staying up nights writing letters to people who do read N.T. Wright.

There are political types who won’t shut up, and Dobson types who won’t leave you alone, and don’t even start on those people caught up in the euphoria of the latest evangelical product, and have to make sure any peaceful gathering is subjected to commercials and testimonials.

Are religious enthusiasts just naturally obnoxious? Or do certain forms of Christianity attract people who have an insatiable need to impose their beliefs on others? Do some of us simply have nothing on the the mental dashboard that registers “too intense?”

. . . A few years ago, I started to figure something out. There were people who didn’t want to be around me. Not many, but some. Now it wasn’t hard to engage in all the usual justifications and criticisms to deal with that, and I could easily blow it all off. It wasn’t that I was being rejected, just avoided. At some point, through an offhand comment made by a much older friend, I realized something clearly. I was always making these people listen to my opinions, my arguments, and my insights about everything. They were uncomfortable. I thought it was all important and insightful. They wanted a pleasant lunch.

These were some of the people we’d had in our home for meals who had never reciprocated, and I was starting to suspect why.  I was too much. I came on too strong. My opinions. My insights. My own horn being played loudly and too long in your ear.

Could it be that that if your religion has turned you into a neurotic, others might not want to join it? They might turn out like you.I’m better now. (I’ve given up on real people and just write all my arrogant wise-yammering on here).

. . . It would be far better if we enjoyed the truths we believe, rather than if it appeared we are made anxious by the need to convert others to those truths. Delighting in, exulting in and savoring the truth we believe is a God-honoring witness free from the ministry of Saint Archie. If we yearn for others to know the truth, then may that truth satisfy our own yearnings, even the yearning to be heard and be right. May it bring, as Peter said, the welcome questions that seek to know of the hope that is in us, and why it is a source of joy. It really helps when it IS a source of joy.

And if it doesn’t bring us to that fountain of joy, and bring us delight, trust, worship, and peace, why are we talking about it anyway?

Comments

  1. Ok, so let’s not just jump on the ”castigate the young earth, dominionist, complementarian evangelicals” bandwagon and try looking into the mirror. Uncomfortable, eh? It’s call self reflection…

    • i mean…..really?

      The level of vitriol in your posts on this site is unmatched.

    • Oscar, the original post was about how we are all guilty and you leap to post the first comment, which is a condescending slap at liberals.

      Yes, I am self righteous. Now check your own mirror.

  2. Thanks, Oscar, you beat me to the punch. Seems to me that there is a steady stream of “Bunkerisms” right here on a regular basis, denigrating all those “less enlightened souls” who haven’t embraced the “new light” that shines on Internet MONK members…LOL!

  3. I was too much. I came on too strong. My opinions. My insights. My own horn being played loudly and too long in your ear.

    My wife has told me repeatedly that I do this. Instead of listening to her, and engaging in dialogue that respects her perspective with regard to theological matters, I listen, then embark on a lecture. When I do this, I can actually at this point see and feel her freeze up, battening herself down against the theological onslaught she sees coming; sometimes I’m able to stop myself, other times the old habit asserts its rights and presses on no matter the futility.

    I know that this comes from uncertainty, the doubt of my own views that wants assurance by making someone else agree with me. There really is no joy in it, and it’s a terrible imposition on others. The opinionated chatter of the scared monkey in me is incessant, and he’s in the habit of throwing his notional crap at anybody who passes close enough to his cage.

    • Not only that, but I’ve found that my viewpoint has changed on various issues (including some high up on the chain of importance) over the years, so it’s not like there is always a clear-cut right/wrong to most of them anyways. When I look back now, it makes me feel regretful and somewhat embarrassed at how fervent I have gone off on a topic when now it’s something I no longer even hold to

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > I’ve found that my viewpoint has changed on various issues

        My humility came as much through the undeniable demonstrable reality that so many of these issues “high up on the chain of importance” do not seem to impact to much of anything – shouldn’t they be visible if they are so important? I used to think of people as, as many of these argumentative souls do, as conclusions of a chain of thought. If you believe X than Y, so if Y is bad, X must be defended at all costs. Only it is not true. People are not thoughts, they are people. And people with the most precise Theological positions are just so …. unimpressivev – when if X-than-Y were true they should be the amazing people.

        It becomes exhausting to continue to believe in the vital importance of X when it is continuously demonstrated to be irrelevant.

        • Agreed. Even if our position on a particular topic hasn’t shifted over time, what’s more important is coming to the realization that it is most likely peripheral anyways.

      • Ronald Avra says

        When I initially came to faith through an experience in an evangelical community, it was some time before it occurred to me that there was possibly a viewpoint other than mine. I can’t recall how it came to be that I shut up long enough to consider the possibility that another person was an actual human, not simply a target for proselytizing, and that person could have different information and experiences than I. It may have been about the same time that my testosterone levels ran down a little, and I realized that women were actually people and not just possible partners for copulation.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          It may have been about the same time that my testosterone levels ran down a little…

          I’m pretty sure the two behaviors are linked through the testosterone levels.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            Yep. And failure of society to inform some of us – like me – of the madness that is our natural condition, and healthy coping mechanisms. Fortunately, at least in the bit of the world around me, there seems more openness about and recognition of the teach-ability of psychological/intellectual health.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I also noticed that you find both the above behaviors at full intensity in the Culture War/Reconstructionist/Quiverfull movement. And beyond full intensity into roid rage in the extreme forms of Islam that are all over today’s news.

        • Hilarious and awesome.

    • Brianthedad says

      Yes. This. I have sinned against my wife in this way for years, whether it’s theology, history, science, etc. she has pointed this out to me, and I have tried, and gotten better at keeping my mouth shut, but I still slip into the monopolizing of conversations. Fortunately, I’m married to the most forgiving of women. She is a saint. 24-1/2 years of marriage to her have made that clearer and clearer to me.

  4. Or, to summarize in the form of cartoon: https://xkcd.com/386/

  5. Oscar, waltg –

    Gripe all you want, the shoe fits. There is plenty of this type of argumentation in evangelicalism. I should know – I hung out with them, and was one of them.

    You got your pro-conservative posts last week, now it’s time to let us have our say. 😉

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      Yep, there is no other ‘side’ which is as prone to the back-into-a-corner-preaching-at as the ‘conservative’ Traditionalist YEC, etc… tribe. There are lots of preachy groups, but nobody else can compare in intensity and the bending of *every* last issue into a conflation with their-thing. I am ashamed by the fact I took part in it.

      • Adam, we are all made of the same stuff, all prone to the same faults, and we all fail to remember that reflection in the mirror once we walk away from it. It reminds me of this verse, at the risk of sounding self-righteous myself, Rom 2:1 If you judge someone else, you have no excuse for it. When you judge another person, you are judging yourself. You do the same things you blame others for doing.

        I am not a young earther, I am not a complementarian, I do not believe in dominionism, yet I still consider myself in the evangelical camp. I can’t recall very many instances of the afore mentioned group preaching and condemning on this site, but I DO see a lot of the reverse going on. You make no apologies for your self-admitted leftist opinions and I have not seen anyone discounting them with criticism.

        Archie Bunker was a swaggering bigot who was not afraid of speaking his mind. This tendency runs in the human DNA and ALL sides are and that is what I got from today’s post. To begin banging away on the familiar bogeymen just makes us all ”Archie”.

        • DRAT! That last paragraph should read:
          ” Archie Bunker was a swaggering bigot who was not afraid of speaking his mind. This tendency runs in the human DNA and ALL sides are prone to that tendency and THAT is what I got from today’s post. To begin banging away on the familiar bogeymen just makes us all ”Archie”.”

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Something to keep in mind about Archie Bunker, from the mouth of Norman Lear who adapted All in the Family from a much-nastier British TV predecessor: Archie Bunker is motivated not by hatred but by FEAR. Listen closely to the lyrics in the opening theme as sung by Archie & Dingbat:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oV5LQcmuGg8

            The song is filled with nostalgia about a past Golden Age and lament of the Decline from that Past. The world has changed, leaving Archie adrift (“Trapped in a World he Never Made” — Howard the Duck). And he clings to what remains of the familiar and pushes back against the disorienting changes. ARCHIE BUNKER IS A WALKING REACTION TO FUTURE SHOCK. With two observations:

            1) His Past Golden Age is the relative peace and prosperity of the Late Forties and Nifty Fifties (decompressing after the one-two punch of the Great Depression and WW2), the time when “Guys like us, We had it made”. This is the same Golden Age you find among a lot of Christianese Culture War types.

            2) His lectures full of “Bunkerisms” echo a stock character from 19th Century minstrel shows: “Joe Coon”, a young black fop who’s always talking big (and it’s obvious he knows absolutely nothing about the weighty subjects he propounds). Though Archie spices it up with some unique word substitutions, coming across as more confused (again by Future Shock) than anything else.

            Again, not hatred so much as fear and confusion. Here’s a contemporary music video of that Land of Confusion, in direct contrast/opposition to “Those Were the Days”:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pkVLqSaahk

          • Bunker is also a blue-collar, working class stiff. The ascendance of minorities and the marginalized is experienced by him as a threat to his own tenuous hold on greater prosperity. He sees these others as competition, and his blustering bravado is partly a defensive cover-up for the fact that he doesn’t really know how to compete to protect the socioeconomic gains he’s made in his lifetime. As you say, he’s afraid. In a way, it was rather nasty of Lear to lampoon working class whites, as if they were the fount of bigotry in this nation, when in fact the real power behind retrogressive attitudes to minorities and the marginalized was the blue-blooded old money in the upper class, and their operatives in the middle-class.

            And did you really quote Howard the Duck?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Yep, there is no other ‘side’ which is as prone to the back-into-a-corner-preaching-at as the ‘conservative’ Traditionalist YEC, etc… tribe. There are lots of preachy groups, but nobody else can compare in intensity and the bending of *every* last issue into a conflation with their-thing.

        I have seen similar intensity and tunnel-vision obsession in various Activists & Fanboys over time — Marxist/Leninists, Anime Fanboys, Gay Rights Activists, Furries, Global Warming Activists, Vegans, Cause-du-Jour Kyle’s Moms. It may just be that Evangelicals/YECs are the largest and highest-profile concentration of the type.

        Especially after the end of the USSR and Young Radicals aging to become The Establishment dispersed a lot of the equivalent leftist concentrations. And the Internet (and SOcial MediA) makes it very easy for any sort of obsessives to link up online and achieve Critical Mass.

    • Tit for tat, is THAT how it works here?

      • I had hoped that the emoji made my actual feelings clear. But I guess not.

        Oscar, I think you need to realize that this is a site of, by, and for people who have been burned by standard-issue evangelicalism. And for those of us (like myself) who did some of the burning and now want to repent. This is nothing new, as these Sundays with Michael Spenser posts show. We’re gonna come down on those parts of evangelicalism that have burned us. What I find useful is that there is space to talk back against the main course of thought here – both in posts like Damaris’, and in the comments. But we’re still going to say what we think needs said.

        As far as this specific post goes – I’m sorry, but it’s just as true now as when it was first posted. You’ll note in the actual text that IMonk did not just single out YECers – seminarians, pro and anti-NT Wright-ers, Pentecostals – it’s a general phenomenon. *You* made it into a personal attack against yourself.

        But even if you want to make it an attack against conservative evangelicals, so be it. If anything, conservatives have gotten even more shrill as their cultural influence continues to wane.

        Forgive me for putting it so bluntly, but methinks thou doth protest too much.

        • Eeyore, you say you want to repent but I see only attack in your post. We all need to admit that Archie is us. It is not liberal versus conservative. It is the human condition that applies to us all. I am guilty and try not to show false humility. The proof will be next week when new posts will give us a chance to see if we learned anything.

        • Emojis are no substitute for words. And incidentally, I could not make out what your emoji looked like, and I have a 32 inch monitor.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Sign of the Coming Apocalypse:

            Someone’s actually making a big-budget movie about Emojis.

            (But then, I would not be surprised to find someone (or a LOT of someones) whose only “literacy” is the ability to read and write in Emojis. Looks like texting is obsolete…)

          • Texting is obsolete?!…. But I just started texting!

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Oh, and here’s another Sign of the Apocalypse.

            I don’t know whether this was a joke, a hoax, or both, but I vaguely remember something in Time a few weeks ago mentioning an Emoji Bible.

  6. Clay Crouch says
    • The best part is at about 6:30 where it gets really intense. Of course to get the full effect you have to listen to the entire build-up. After that it kinda loses it’s momentum but hey, can’t be geniuses all the time, tight?

    • This video is called Cricket sound (10 hours). If, like me, you spent the first two minutes fuming because the moon was running backwards, I suggest going three. If, like me, you never heard crickets like what’s in the video, I can’t help you there. There must be someone somewhere who has actually watched the whole thing.

  7. In a post like this, there shouldn’t have been one comment, not a single one, about someone else.

    I am Archie Bunker. I can’t see the plank in my own eye. Lord have mercy on me.

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    IMonk Staff:

    I remember the original title of this piece being “The Little Brothers of Saint Archie Bunker”.

    Shouldn’t that title be appended to this reprint’s? As in —

    Sundays with Michael Spencer: August 2, 2015:
    The Little Brothers of Saint Archie Bunker

  9. ..I meet Calvinists who have no control over their need to make all Biblical discussions turn into debates on predestination. There are young earth creationists who hunt down anything that smells like a less-than-literal view of Genesis one and label it evolution…

    I’m not sure if I read this when Michael first wrote it, but looking at it today, it certainly was prophetic. It’s also an excellent primer for people new to the “Christian internet” and may wonder what the heck is going on.

  10. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    ..I meet Calvinists who have no control over their need to make all Biblical discussions turn into debates on predestination. There are young earth creationists who hunt down anything that smells like a less-than-literal view of Genesis one and label it evolution…

    Or “no control over their need to make everything about” Politics, or How Nuclear War Could Start Tomorrow, or Global Warming, or Everything’s Gotta Be FURRY FURRY FURRRREEEEEE!

    It’s like everyone’s entered their Cage Phase all at once.

  11. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    ..I meet Calvinists who have no control over their need to make all Biblical discussions turn into debates on predestination. There are young earth creationists who hunt down anything that smells like a less-than-literal view of Genesis one and label it evolution…

    Or “no control over their need to make everything about” Politics, or How Nuclear War Could Start Tomorrow, or Global Warming, or Everything’s Gotta Be FURRY FURRY FURRRREEEEEE!

    It’s like everyone’s entered their Cage Phase all at once.

  12. Been there, done that, still doing it, still repenting. Not subscribing to cable, satellite, newspapers or magazines helps. Now if I could only let go of the internet…

  13. . . . It would be far better if we enjoyed the truths we believe, rather than if it appeared we are made anxious by the need to convert others to those truths.

    This, +1000. Who cares if we all think of our ideological antagonists when we read this comical caricature. The line clearly runs through all of our hearts, and some of us manage it better than others. That’s not the point.

    And if it doesn’t bring us to that fountain of joy, and bring us delight, trust, worship, and peace, why are we talking about it anyway?

    Some of us argue because we are still seeking the fountain. Some of us argue because we see people running away from it. Not everybody who enjoys intense rhetorical fencing is seeking the cheap thrill of one-upmanship. Those arguments are never won.

    Some things are argued for because they really matter. Sometimes important arguments are dismissed as “Bunker-isms.” Nothing grinds my gears faster than judging the motives behind the argument. It’s a cop out, a non-sequitur, and a confession that you can’t answer the challenge.

    But the fountain remains elusive as long as we persist in this vale of tears. The truth never satisfies our deepest longings. The best we can hope for is that it helps us to cope with them. In the Gospel today, we heard Jesus say that those who come to him will not hunger or thirst, but he must be referring to something else. If we weren’t thirsty, we wouldn’t be coming here.

    I just don’t have any trouble with Archie. I know many club members. I am one. Jesus tends to surround himself with them. Somehow, he manages to get past our wagging fingers and help us believe.

  14. I’m confused. Oscar, I didn’t get your first post, or the back and forth replies. It sounds (just read some of them again) like you are bemoaning the “liberals” here who attack the good “conservatives”, A.nd then you are accused of being vitriolic, which surprised you. It’s a good example of how we see things very differently in so many cases. I do not see much ugliness here; kindness often, preach(y), some anger,

  15. I really don’t like this one.

    Tough medicine.

    Way too close to the truth for comfort.

    I need to repent of this one.

  16. Brendt Wayne Waters says

    I read the comments and I don’t know which is funnier (read: sadder):

    * The “he did it first” argument — which mom made me give up when I was 7
    * All the criticism being levied at a guy who graduated over 5 years ago