The naked sting of exegesis

{josquote}Consider a recent clash on FaceBook with a particularly radical Baha’i. He described himself as a “moral conservative”, “world federalist”, and “monarchist”.{/josquote}

I’m an arguer: the desire to dismantle another person’s argument is strong within me. I usually try to contain this desire, partly for selfish reasons of saving face — the desire has sometimes led me to overstep the boundaries of both expertise and propriety — and partly for agapeic reasons of empathy, to really hear and understand the other side.  I want to have compassion and patience, even for those with whom I strongly disagree.

Yet, sometimes the desire burns through like acid.  I’m not entirely sure why.  I know that it’s more than just the content of the conversation because, although I’m normally a critique of theocratic and conservative viewpoints, as well as of overly left-wing or atheistic viewpoints, I usually take these in stride with most people. The chemistry of personalities must be the reagent.

I’ve thought long and hard over what this mixture could be.  From what I can see, apparently the provocateur needs certain qualities: committed to a cause, be it an ideology or religion, with strong intellectual capacity but coupled with a very legalistic,  reductionist, and conservative exegesis of scripture and an authoritarian demeanor. In other words, the archetype of a fundamentalist.

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