Comment of the Day Trio: “Principled Or Betrayer: Pete Buttigieg’s Brother-In-Law, Pastor Rhyan Glezman”

I won’t make a habit of this, I promise: a Comment of the Day deserves its own post. However, the comments on the question of whether Mayor Buttigieg’s brother-in-law was crossing ethical lines or not by making an inter-family disagreement into media fodder have been uniformly excellent, and bundling the three of moderate length coming up makes sense to me.

Incidentally, the polling shows a real split of opinion, but 59% agree on the basic question: they feel the pastor was ethical. (I’m still not sure about that.)

Here’s the poll so far…

The first of the trio of Comments of the Day on “Principled Or Betrayer: Pete Buttigieg’s Brother-In-Law, Pastor Rhyan Glezman” comes from James M….

As a pastor, Pastor Ryan Glezman has an obligation to attempt to resolve his conflict with his brother-in-law in a way that respects Biblical teachings. (If he doesn’t respect the wisdom of the Bible, he’s probably in the wrong line of work…)

Fortunately, the Book of Matthew, Chapter 18, has some straightforward instruction for dealing with such conflicts. Since both profess to be believing Christians, they are “brothers”, and Matthew’s Gospel gives clear direction:

Verses 15-17:
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Pastor Glezman has expressed his concern that Pete Buttigieg’s frequent forays into Biblical interpretation pose a risk of leading others astray. He didn’t go public over this right away: Mayor Buttigieg has been bloviating about what he thinks Christians should do for quite some time now. Based on that, I’d guess that the pastor has already attempted to privately address the issue with his brother-in-law, and has now moved to treating him as if he were “a pagan or a tax collector”.

Since Chapter 18 gives dire warnings to us all not to cause others to stumble in their faith, Pastor Glezman has ample cause for his concern. Pete Buttigieg’s religious pronouncements do pose a risk of misleading others.

The chapter also emphasizes the vital importance of practicing forgiveness and grace when we deal with others. Now, some people think that means that Christians need to let bad actors continue to cause problems, “turning the other cheek” and “going the extra mile”. That is only part of the truth. Our obligation as Christians includes helping bad actors to understand whatever they’re doing wrong and repent of doing it. We’re not doing a bad actor any favors if our compliance leads him to continue screwing up. We need to approach the problem with love for the bad actor, but we may also cause the bad actor significant heartburn if that’s what it takes to deal with their behavior.

Next is first time commenter Barbara Ravitch. I love when a new commenter enters with such a high-level splash, and with some recent defections and unexplained disappearances, the Ethics Alarms binders full of women could use some replenishment.

Here is her Comment of the Day:

I am more concerned with the response to Buttigieg’s quote in general. The Bible is certainly open to interpretation. I welcome anyone to study it and find meaning in it. I may not agree with what is supposedly Buttigieg’s interpretation of when life begins (he did not specify, he only pointed at that multiple interpretations exist), but it’s not for me to judge who is correct and lives like a “true” Christian. It is disconcerting and disappointing when someone uses the Bible to defend their pro-choice view, but what we should do is explain why we believe the Bible only supports a pro-life view, and argue in good faith. I was not particularly offended by Buttigieg’s words; similar points have been made to me by pro-life Christians for decades. I don’t understand why many chose to twist what he said into something macabre. I too have grown tired of his quest to shame conservative Christians, but let’s not sink to his level.

This is also why I believe Glezman’s actions were not ethical. Even from a pastor’s viewpoint, he did not add any substance to the discussion, merely echoing generic talking points. Both he and the publication that welcomed him seemed to only be interested in receiving attention and possible income, at the expense of Buttigieg.

As the last (but not least) of the three COTD on the post, Rich in CT takes the podium. There were several other comments that deserved mention here, but what really put Rich ahead was his correct use of the Ethics Alarms term, Ethics Zugswang. It brought a tear to my eye.

This is a narrow case and ethics conflict, where true motive is the deciding factor.

Betraying a family member is unethical. Not defending vulnerable human beings is also unethical. It’s a Zugzwang. Self-promotion at the expense of another is also unethical. One might resolve the first two adhoc using utilitarian balancing, but if the third is in play, then the whole thing is a unethical, regardless.

To examine the situation using utilitarianism, let us examine a hypothetical. Pete Buttigieg is presuming to speak for Christians as a Christian. He is relying on his place within a devout family to have any credibility. This is itself would be a betrayal, if the majority of his family disagreed with his theology. This would create a duty to correct the record.

To resolve the issue, the duty to correct must be balanced against the duty to the family member. The betrayal by the latter does not warrant a tit-for-tat response. Rather, the family must decide if the values presented by that member fundamentally misrepresent family in an untenable way.

Given what is known, that Pete Buttigieg presumes to lecture Christians in a manner he would condemn any conservative politician for doing, it is not unlikely that his brother in law finds Buttigieg’s representation untenable. His congregation will ask him about his views, and he will have to answer honestly, contradicting his relative. This will get leaked, and the brother in law has a duty to control the message as best as possible. It may well be that the least unethical route forward is a public release contradicting Buttigieg.

6 thoughts on “Comment of the Day Trio: “Principled Or Betrayer: Pete Buttigieg’s Brother-In-Law, Pastor Rhyan Glezman”

  1. One may suspect that many who voted, voted along lines of which brother-in-law more closely reflects theories views. Otherwise, the only correct answer (taking into account the comments and the referenced biblical passages, as well as several ethics rules from this blog) is “it depends

  2. Barbara Ravitch said “The Bible is certainly open to interpretation. I welcome anyone to study it and find meaning in it.”
    Untold millions -both believers and non-believers- have found and continue to find great “meaning” and value in the study of the Bible, and I seriously question the mentality of anyone unable to find any.

  3. Each comment was well thought out and deserving of recognition.

    Michael’s comment above may be true for some but they actual issue had no bearing on how one feels about abortion or even how one can interpret biblical references, or so I thought. I saw the question as “is it ethical to challenge the assertions of a relative who espouses an argument that is antithetical to one’s core belief or is it an unethical betrayal to a family member.

    Some invoke the golden rule doctrine but that same axiom could be used to negate any act that negatively impacts you. For example: laws restricting access to AR15’s would be a golden rule violation to many who want them. Alternatively, the police come to your home in search of your son or daughter because they have a warrant for their arrest. The notion that you should shield your child from the consequences of their actions by hiding them from authorities may in the long run harm them even more.

    Someone, wrote that the blood is thicker than water argument has been woefully misinterpreted so familial bonds do not necessarily mean turning a blind eye.

    What I am wrestling with is the assumption that family members must sublimate their beliefs by remaining quiet in the face of public assertions made by other family members who may at some point be in a position to legislate required adherence to such a belief. I just don’t think anyone owes any duty to any family member running for office who espouse beliefs completely at odds with their own.

    Now, if that family member is not running for office I have no reason to call that family member out as that relative is not on a position to impose such belief on me or others through legislation.

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