Speck, Meet Log

In response to Becky Garrison’s recent dispatch, “Who Will Save Manhattan?” KtB contributor Daniel Silliman wrote in with a livid reply that takes on not only Becky but the culture of the magazine itself.

I sure hope Becky Garrison feels better now. After that avalanche of snark, surely something’s dead, even if it’s not Ms. Garrison’s own Buddha, but only her impression of someone else’s.

That piece really does represent the worst of KtB: snide self-confidence, a sense of superiority and aren’t-I-sophisticated. Ms. Garrison leads us in a reaffirmation of her own cultured orthodoxy in the praying of the prayer “thank God I’m not like them.” It’s gracelessness. It’s very fundamentalist. Really, we’re going to scoff at other people’s understandings and misunderstandings of God? What’s the value in that, except to make us feel better by comparison to the idiots we scorn? We’re going to call them names? “Christian cockroaches,” “summer salvationists” and “faith flies”?

If religion matters, it matters enough to treat it honestly and with humility, with questioning and searching instead of just this ridicule and dismissiveness. If fundamentalism is going to be critiqued, we must first critique it in ourselves. Or else how is it anything more than “sepulcher, meet white wash” and “speck, meet log”? If we’re going to dismiss other people’s faith as stupid and low class, without even trying to understand who or what they love when they love their God, then there’s really no point in having a conversation is there?

Maybe Ms. Garrison’s yearnings after the divine are all quite cultured and refined. But yearning is still yearning, embarrassing and human and needy, and doing it in art museums and planetariums doesn’t separate her from all of us fools and freaks yammering on about the Gods we think we’ve lost and found.

Becky Garrison has been kind enough to offer a reply to Daniel’s letter:

I hope it is clear in the piece that I am not critiquing anyone’s faith per se but rather the means they employ to communicate their belief systems. What I have noticed this summer is that in the absence of people trying to evangelize me, I was able to chill and find God on my own. My hope is others were able to do likewise. This points to a larger issue about global missions that I pray religious leaders will consider moving forward, which is how to most effectively use the limited resources we have (e.g., money, time, carbon footprint) to put their leader’s teachings into practice. As a Christian, I can only speak to my own faith tradition and here I’d like to paraphrase St. Francis that we are to preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words

Where does this exchange leave us? And where does it leave Buddha-killing? Is it so “fundamentalist” to long for a little summer peace and quiet?