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Why I like Germaine Greer

Last night Q&A had no politicians on the panel and so actually got to have a decent discussion. The topic was ANZAC Day and its significance. I was particularly interested in the discussions about the ANZAC legend, its authenticity and role in building a nation. I admit, I didn’t watch the whole program (sometimes the argument is a little intense so I flip between it and Brothers and Sisters – ah the juxtaposition!) but I thought all of the panel members (even the lady from the Defense Force PR Dept) had intelligent things to say. I wrote on my Facebook status “Tamie Davis loved Q&A tonight – so much better without politicians on the panel! Germaine Greer is so cool!” There were a number of comments, but I want to pick up on one in particular (thanks &y! :) )

Comment #1: ha? Germaine Greer cool?

Someone else said: A women who likes to cut through the crap, while remaining thoughtful and honest.

Comment #2: I really don’t get what people see in her or her opinions. It’s all very well to have a clear opinion (that’s more than many people have), but she’s clearly anti-God, anti-family, and a whole heap of other good things. What’s the attraction?

I want to pick up on two of the theological reasons for why it’s OK to hear what she says:

1. I hear Germaine Greer because I too, am anti-God. Every fallen human is anti-God. That’s the Fall! It’s deciding that we know better than God what is good for us; not thinking it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God; not glorifying God as the Creator. Germaine Greer is not the only one of whom this is true: it’s true of every human. Even those of us who have been made new (and are being made new) by the Spirit, are still fallen. Our every attempt to reach God, know God, love God is flawed by our own sinfulness. If we are to disqualify people’s opinions because they are anti-God, we disqualify the opinion of every human, not just Germain Greer.

2. I hear Germaine Greer because in his goodness, God allows wisdom to be found in the most unlikely of places. While a robust theology of sin reminds us that none of us are in every sense pro-God, a robust theology of creation reminds us that this is God’s world and no part of it is free from his rule and grace. It’s not surprising, for example, to discover that a slab of Proverbs in the Bible has been ripped off the Ancient Egyptian wisdom writings of Amenomope. Now, the Amenomope writings have been doctored by the editor of Proverbs – for example, the Egyptian gods have been replaced with Yahweh -and I’m not suggesting that we ought to swallow Greer’s philosophies whole, but nor should we discount what she has to say.

It’s OK not to agree with Germaine Greer’s stance on God or family, but that doesn’t mean we can rule her out of a discussion about Australian culture and the ANZACs. And on this particular occasion, I thought she had some useful things to say!

Categories: Culture Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.

7 replies

  1. Hi Tamie,

    Thanks for putting the time and thought into answering my question, I appreciate it. I’ve been challenged quite a bit by your answer, as it did speak to my tendency to shut out people I don’t necessarily agree with.

    I am, however, still a bit confused at the reasons you put.

    1) I see what you say about everyone being anti-God. Paul himself uses a similar argument in 1 Corinthians 5. But I’m not sure how this is relevant here. As I read it, your argument is along these lines:

    a) all people are anti-God
    b) if someone is anti-God, their opinion must be suspect
    c) therefore, all people’s opinions are suspect
    d) we have to listen to some people’s opinions
    e) Germaine Greer has an opinion
    f) because c, d, e, we should listen to her opinion

    and I don’t think that follows at all. Firstly, a) and c) are not entirely true. To the extent that Christ is moving in our lives, they’re not true for us as Christians in the same way that they are for non-Christians. Secondly, even granting that point doesn’t provide any reason to listen to anyone’s opinion over anyone else’s; we’re stuck allowing equal voice to John Howard, Saddam Hussein, Winston Churchill, Adolph Hitler, John Piper and Catherine Deveney! What a mess!

    I can’t believe that’s what you meant to say, but if I take what you wrote at face value, that’s what I’m forced to conclude. Can you enlighten me here?

  2. Hi Andy

    Thanks for asking – I think you raise an important issue to clarify. My argument is incomplete because I’m only arguing about why it’s OK to listen to Germaine Greer in some capacity, not how far we ought to take that.

    The first point about being anti-God is more a point about myself than about Greer. That is, I recognise that my own knowledge / opinions are flawed and so I need to be humble in listening to others.

    My second point suggests that wisdom can exist even in those who don’t know God, and so there may be value in hearing Germaine Greer, not just for the sake of my own humility, but because she might have something useful to say.

    I don’t think this means we take each person’s argument equally. As you say, Christians are being transformed by the renewing of our minds and some wisdom is more wise than other wisdom! So it’s not that there’s no place for discernment, just that on wisdom issues there’s not a place for outright dismissal.

    But I know you’ve got another comment coming, so hit me! ;)

  3. Thanks, Tamie. I think you’ve partially answered what I was going to put here, so I’ll be briefer than I was going to be the first time around.

    2) I totally get the common grace aspect here. I affirm with you that every human still bears the (albeit shattered) image of God, and as such can contribute greatly to society, business, culture, and family. That’s a great reason to listen to anybody.

    Moving from the general to the specific. I didn’t see the program live, and I didn’t want to dismiss her out of hand so I went and read the transcript. To be honest, I didn’t really find the discussion that invigorating, although there was some good discussion. I still fail to see what it was about her and her contribution that you really liked. (In fact, the biggest thing I took out of it was that I find Tony Jones more annoying in text than I find him on the screen :)) In particular, I found what Germaine Greer had to say was pretty mild compared to what Catherine Deveney was spouting on Twitter around the same time.

    Now that we’ve established we’re on the same theological page, what was it about what she said that struck you enough to mention it in a facebook status? :)

  4. Point one, even once clarified, still annoys me. Don’t take it personally, but I always get frustrated when I hear that that attitude from Christians. I’m not saying we should all be pious and “holier than thou”, obviously. We should act in love towards all. We should attempt to act as much like Jesus as we can. But at the same time, we CAN be confident in our knowledge of God, and our experience. That DOES count for something.

    Even Jesus chastised people. Particularly those who were anti-god. I’d love to be enlightened as to where in scripture he encouraged us to listen to such people. He wasn’t a “you should listen to every human, because every human is fallen” kind of guy. He was a “these people don’t get it, listen to me instead” kind of guy….

    Sometimes, as you say, there are good reasons to listen to people who do not agree with your faith. Sometimes they have good things to say, or challenge us and our faith, ultimately resulting in growth. Or they may have had something to say about something not related to faith. I think that should have been your point originally. Lose the theological gymnastics, resort to common sense, and I agree with you! Like your last paragraph:

    “It’s OK not to agree with Germaine Greer’s stance on God or family, but that doesn’t mean we can rule her out of a discussion about Australian culture and the ANZACs. And on this particular occasion, I thought she had some useful things to say!”

    If you’d just left it at that you would have changed my opinion [I agreed with Andy originally – writing her off completely]. :-) I just find the “everyone’s a sinner, baby, that’s the truth” [forgive me, Tom Jones! ;-)] just a little too trite for my taste. It’s OK to be sure of your faith. It’s OK to say “that person doesn’t align with my faith”. But it’s equally OK to say “She’s a nutcase on God & Family, but in this case she said some things I agreed with”. That is, after all, a sign of maturity!

    John

  5. P.S…

    Oh, and I think your headline is entirely too sensationalist! ;-) Your point is “She shouldn’t be completely written off – sometimes even those who disagree with us can provide an opinion worth listening to”. A less Herald Sun, more The Age like headline would be “Why listening to Germain Greer can be Ok”… ;-)

  6. Hi Andy

    I didn’t see Catherine Deveney’s tweets but what I like about Germaine Greer is the different perspective she brings. I went and re-checked the transcript too. Here are a couple of things:
    – I like how multi-racial her viewpoint is – she talked about English and Afghan casualties, for example.
    – I like how she speaks from her own experience – it may be anecdotal at points but I thought her reflections about her father, for example, we quite powerful. At the same time, her comments about the taxi driver were a real-life example of the issues being discussed.
    – I like how she advocates for minorities – like Indigenous peoples, flipping the discussion about protecting Australia to pointing out that at one point, we were the invaders, with the damage of that still evident today.
    – And I liked what she had to say about the Britishness of ANZAC Day. I don’t necessarily agree, but I think it’s an important question to ask. I wonder, if we didn’t have the ‘nasty poms’ myth of ANZAC day how the Australian corporate imagining of identity might be different..

    So partly it was the points she was making but also, as I said in my original status update, it was how different she was from the politicians and experts they normally have on. I felt like she spoke from the heart and was articulate and poised. I find that very appealing.

  7. Thanks for all this. It reminds of the bit in John’s Gospel where the High Priest says (in effect) “don’t you understand that it’s better for one man to die than for all of us to die?”. John’s gloss on it is that he unwittingly spoke truly because he was God’s high priest, even though he didn’t understand what he said. Now there’s someone who fitted the definition of anti-God and yet spoke truth! I think the point is that if someone speaks the truth we should listen to them, no matter who they are or what their beliefs. Furthermore, if someone says something that shocks us we wshould listen carefully to that, because it might be someone speaking the truth and challenging our favourite falsehoods. For Christians to think we know everything is to make ourselves into mini gods and indeed to be anti-God – that’s what the fall was all about, the temptation to turn ourselves into our own gods.

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