In response to Jim’s recent post, I feel compelled to respond in kind.
Jim and I are friends. We have been friends since 2007. And yes, we disagree on a number of issues, including same-sex marriage. And yes, I too have received emails that ask why I continue to debate, joke with, and dialogue with Jim. The answer: we are friends, and we are professionals, and we shall continue to be.
I have sat in a Santa Monica restaurant and discussed the issue of same-sex marriage at length with Jim. (One of us had beer, the other had soda; I’ll let the readers decide who had what.) And I can tell you that while our minds are firmly made up on the issue, we can agree to disagree and remain friends and professionals, even on this very personal issue.
I do not need to agree with someone on all issues in order to remain friends with them. In fact, I cannot imagine a world where all of my friends agreed with me. My closest friends and I all have wildly different opinions on many different issues, and yet at the end of the day, we are friends first and professionals second, never rivals.
I believe this concept is better understood by scholars, who are trained to critique and examine and judge data and arguments without making the disagreement personal. This is not necessarily so in the public arena, where the rejection of one’s ideas is often closely linked to the rejection of the individual personally. (And granted, this does happen in the academy more than it should, but most professional scholars learn how to separate a rejection of their theory from a rejection of them personally.)
I like Jim, and I appreciate what he does for his community in Petros, Tennessee. He is not only a scholar, he is a true pastor who enriches the lives of individuals that, if we’re honest, most scholars would never know. He marries them. He buries them. He celebrates with them. And he mourns with them. He is one of the kindest, gentlest, men I’ve ever met, and he’s given his life to serving his community. We should all hope to do the same.
Yes, Jim’s online blogging personality is often over-the-top hyperbole, but if readers haven’t figured out what he’s doing with this particular iteration of his blog, and why he writes the way he writes, then I’m not going to give it away. (Hint: READ HIS BLOG’S TITLE!)
So yes, we disagree. And yes, Jim is on the wrong side of the same-sex marriage debate. But I value him as a friend and as a professional because we can disagree and still meet up at ASOR/SBL and grab that dinner. We shall continue to work together on many online initiatives, and without sounding too much like Spock, he is, and always will be my friend, no matter how much we may disagree, and no matter how much either of us feels the other has misspoken or pushed a particular agenda.
You can love Jim West, and you can hate him. But you all read him (even if you don’t admit it). And I will continue to disagree with, chastise, and at times poke fun at Jim, BUT we shall continue to work and play together, because that’s what friends do.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some tie-dye to put on and a seizure to induce. And Jim, I’ve got something for you here that may persuade you on our marriage debate. Let’s just say it would make Zwingli proud. ;-)