There has been, and no doubt will continue to be, much written about the controversies engulfing Rev. Samuel Rodriguez. But this is not about all that.
This is a story about the banal hubris of a public figure, facilitated by the unhinged boosterism of a major periodical (and at least one of its editors) that published unsubstantiated ad hominem attacks against a writer in an apparent effort to intimidate, discredit and ultimately silence him. "So this person," as Rev. Samuel Rodriguez put it in his Patheos interview, "in my opinion, loses any sort of legitimacy as a commentator on issues of the public sphere."
This is the story of a sliming.
Journalist Greg Metzger was in for it. He had had the temerity to write critically about the protean Christian Right leader, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez at the very moment when Rodriguez was being hailed as the Great Hispanic Hope for the Republican Party. And what Metzger was writing on his personal blog (and at Talk to Action) just would not do. Someone might, you know, read it. And consider it.
The sliming was to be a tag team effort by one Timothy Dalrymple the managing editor for content at Patheos -- and the Rev. Rodriguez himself.
You could tell the slime was coming at the end of Dalrymple's introduction to his interview with Rodriguez, which was to appear the next day.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of the interview, concerning Samuel Rodriguez himself, his responses to his detractors, and the role of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership ConferenceDalrymple, who holds a doctorate in Religion from Harvard and a Master of Divinity from Princeton, is ostensibly a scholar, a journalist, and a committed Christian. But he is nothing if not a Man of Diction. Thus it was telling that he used "detractors" instead of a neutral term like "critics."
In any case, the sliming was certainly all that Dalrymple's Tell portended.
Rodriguez said, among other things:
The intolerance embedded in the hard Left is as venomous as the bigotry embedded in the hard Right. It’s amazing. On both extremes, you have this cancer of intolerance. What they fear are voices that really offer a reconcilliatory platform without sacrificing truth.Who exactly is this "hard Left" and the people who populate it? And what exactly have they said that is venomous, intolerant, bigoted, cancerous and intolerant? Rodriguez didn't say -- but he suggested that they might be prochoice.
I am one hundred percent staunchly pro-life. That offends people. Now, in no form or shape to I discard or disrespect those who disagree with me, but that conviction drives me to want to reconcile, to appreciate the beauty and purpose of every single human being on this planet. They see it as a political issue. I see it as a biblical issue.The sly implication here is that all prochoice people come to their views for non-religious reasons, and must be non-Christian or non-religious themselves. Of course, there are religious and non-religious people on both sides of the abortion issue. Indeed, the prochoice religious community formally includes much of mainline Protestantism and the major bodies of Judaism, epitomized by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. For these historic Christian and Jewish institutions, making reproductive choices is not only moral, but biblical.
But this has nothing to do with abortion.
Rodriguez's effort to cast Metzger's writing as the malignant effort of an anti-biblical abortion supporter couldn't be more off the mark. Metzger is a Democrat, but his is also a prolife Christian.
Dalrymple asked Rodriguez to respond specifically to recent critical articles by Metzger and Religion News Service writer, Mark Silk. And the slime continued to ooze like crude from a BP oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico:
One of the individuals behind the articles you mention — and I say this without any hesitation — has a very discriminating, very bigoted anti-Pentecostal, and in my opinion anti-Latino, presentation. Looking at other articles this individual has written, he explicitly went after the Pentecostal/Charismatic community and tarnished the group as a bunch of lunatics.... So this person, in my opinion, loses any sort of legitimacy as a commentator on issues of the public sphere.He was openly referring here to Metzger. In fact, Greg Metzger is a meticulous writer (and a contributor to Patheos!) who goes where the facts take him and draws carefully considered, fair-minded conclusions. Dalrymple and Rodriguez present zero evidence to the contrary. But thanks to the slimefest featured on the front page of Patheos people may come away thinking that Greg Metzger is a "hard Left," pro-abortion, atheist and an anti-Pentecostal, anti-Latino bigot to boot.
Rodriguez then congratulated himself on his performance in the interview.
I’m not the first Christian leader ever to be criticized. It’s the price you have to pay when you speak the truth with love. The question is how do you respond. Do I respond with equal amounts of anger and venom? I’m not going to cross that line.A reasonable person who is unfamiliar Rodriguez, Metzger, and for that matter Patheos, might be wondering what to make of all this. Did Rodriguez actually cross any lines? They might also wonder, as I did, what editorial standards does Patheos apply to the work featured on their site? After a considerable effort I was able to find this two sentence assurance in the Patheos "press room."
Our content is produced by the world's top experts on religion and spirituality. In addition, the content is peer-reviewed to maintain objectivity and accuracy.Elsewhere, to their credit, they acknowledge:
Patheos is not perfect.... We are working to constantly improve our content and resources, and we appreciate your feedback and suggestions.Clearly, Patheos has some work to do. In the meantime, maybe some one or all the founders, directors, and editors will explain for us what standards of accuracy and objectivity guided Patheos in the sliming of Greg Metzger.