Wednesday, October 16, 2013

An abuse of privilege

One of the wonderful things about Zac's is that it is an open forum. Everyone is encouraged to take part, share their sometimes opposing views on what we're reading, and is listened to. That, as I say, is an unwritten rule - and a privilege - and usually it's respected as such. Not so last night.

Last night some occasional visitors abused that privilege and hijacked the study for their own purposes, which was largely to use it as a platform for their own agenda. I think it's safe to say they had no interest in the subject of the study (Abram, Sarai and Ishmael) but that didn't stop them finding ways ostensibly to ask questions while not being interested in the answers and, indeed, usually providing the answers themselves. To talk at length about whatever issue they could vaguely relate to the topic while staying far away from the story.

It's a powerful story and we lost it in the mayhem. There were so many things that could have come up and been questioned and discussed but even our normally vociferous were silenced in the face of such rudeness for that's what it was even if it were masquerading as a search for knowledge.

And finally it turned into obvious rudeness and then I had to speak up. Until then I'd mostly tuned out and was praying for a family who've just lost their wife and mother. 

It was a good job I wasn't leading or I might have been unable to resist the urge to give the rude man a good slap. Sean, who was leading, is much more patient and gentle. When he finally managed to get a word in he made some excellent points about boundaries and relying on feelings but, unfortunately, they fell on deaf ears.

It's a very fine line between freedom of expression and abuse of privilege. At Zac's we err on the freedom side - which is a good thing - but sometimes it can be very frustrating.


Furtheron said...

It is difficult - to be truly inclusive not to dismiss people and to provide an environment for people to have a freedom of speech etc. I'm constantly amazed that in environments where this is encouraged that I regularly attend it is rarely abused too much. Some are new about and need to learn the etiquette of the group but again I rarely see them cut over people, be dismissive of differing views and genuinely give others the space they need to just be themselves.

On the rare occasions I do see this abused I have to watch myself and my anger and wish to chastise those, since to do so would endanger them and their ability to come and talk and also run the risk of leading to an oppressive regime that could lead to a reduction in my and others freedom.

The problem with these freedoms is just that - we have to allow other people to express that freedom in ways that we don't necessarily agree with but which we have to accept to allow us the freedom to express ourselves in our way.

Ole Phat Stu said...

Rosa Luxembourg (q.v) famously said :-
"Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters", for which she was murdered.

Meanwhile in Malaysia :a court rules that a Christian newspaper cannot use 'Allah' to refer to a Christian God.

Liz said...

that's okay if you allow other people to have their say too, furtheron. But when a minority monopolise the freedom of the rest to join in is lost.

Dissenting is not a problem, stu. It's the hogging of the platform and preventing others from participating that I object to.

Robyn Lee said...

It's a very selfish attitude on the part of those visitors, Liz and not one which embodies freedom. It's a shame when incidents like that happen and hopefully it doesn't happen again. Unfortunately there are people around for whom no view is more important than their own. Keep up the good work at Zac's.

Anonymous said...

Liz, a tip :

Thank the offenders for being so ultracrepidarian and they'll probably consider it a compliment ;-)