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Friday, August 3, 2012

Tu Quoque and Other Arguments This Week

I've always tried to make a point of getting at the root of arguments on this blog, rather than jumping in with both feet into debates that are fraught with illogical arguments and other things that defeat them from the start.  So, rather than just jumping in, I want to lay a groundwork today, and try to get to the root of the arguments I've been hearing this week.

First, let me explain my intentions for this. While I do have an opinion, and I do side with a group of people quite often, I am also willing to stand apart from a thousand if that is what God would have me do.  The truth is more important than being liked, and it is much mightier than the largest armies in the world. Truth is personified in Jesus (John 14:6), and it informs every word that He spoke about Himself and His intentions. I want to stand for the Truth, and that is just the kind of bravery that I'd like to inspire in others.

Vain Arguments Damage the Truth

Now, then, speaking of the truth, I'd like to say that I've heard a massive number of illogical arguments this week concerning the whole Chick-fil-A hoopla. In fact, I think I've heard more illogical arguments than logical ones, and I'm just talking about the Christian side of the debate.  I've heard them coming from pastors and church leaders, professors, extended relatives, and friends.  All put together, they have made me cringe, and groan in agony, and weep, and cry out to God.  The truth is logical and true, so it by nature cannot be defended by illogical statements and lies.

Now, it is true that well-meaning speakers can stumble into illogical arguments.  It is also possible (and therefore true in a few cases) that some people using illogical arguments are well-aware that they are illogical, and they are relying on the ignorance of their audience to get away with it.  Either way, it is a problem that will set back any debate about truth. It won't kill truth, mind you, but it may put it out of the grasp of those who need it most. This is why I think it's so crucial to watch our words (James 3: 1-12).

I have written about this before, in a series that spanned several months, and I beg and plead with you to go read those short blog posts, and share them with others, even if you don't credit the source. I don't care. I'm more interested in the truth than I am with growing my circle of friends, remember?

Calling Out Illogical Talk as I Have Heard It

Now that I have voiced my zeal for the truth and my hatred for lies, I want to tell you some of the biggest ones I've been hearing.  What I've got to say is going to make some people mad. I don't know how to get around that. If I say I care about the truth, but then shy away from actually talking about it, then I must not really care. So, I'll try to be gentle and clear. Here goes...
  • Christians should not make a big deal about homosexuality, because the rates of fornication, adultery, divorce, pornography, etc. among churchgoers are extremely high; in fact, they are just as high as the world.  This is a triad of truths that don't belong together, creating a logical fallacy called Tu Quoque ("you also").  It is true that the rates of sexual immorality within the "Christian community" are equal to the rates outside the church.  It is also true and correct to surmise from this that there are a large percentage of people who call themselves Christians, but have hypocritically disobeyed the very teachings they say they support. However, it is a tu quoque argument to say that just because the speaker (a self-proclaimed Christian) is guilty of sexual sin, the statements he makes about sexual sin are no longer true.  Truth is truth, even when it cuts both ways. People who say this are right about one thing: The hypocrites need to get the plank out of their eye if they want to be taken seriously (Matthew 7: 3-5).  However, that is a different topic for a different discussion.
  • All the time you were eating "Chikin," you were not making sure the poor got to eat chicken, too.  This is an illogical statement called a Red Herring.  It is meant to get you completely off the original topic, and in this case, it also packs a masterful wallop of guilt and condemnation.  I think it means to say, "the topic of sexual sin, however you choose to debate it, is not as important to me as the subject of feeding the hungry."  While it is true that feeding the hungry is important, it is off-topic in the debate of sexual sin. If this statement caused guilt in its listeners, then it actually proved that listeners think charity is important, too. That doesn't mean that sexual sin is an invalid topic for Christians to discuss. One thing at a time, okay? We will get to this topic, too.
  • Let's go show the homosexuals that there are still a lot of us who don't agree with them. This is a blatant example of the Bandwagon approach (us versus them).  It also has a dangerous undertone of revenge.  I've already said that I believe that the truth is mightier than the biggest army out there (1 John 4: 4). I imagine there are many Christians who would readily say to that, "Yes, amen."  So, if we really believe that, we don't measure the rightness of our belief in numbers of people or the strength of our "push back."  This basic confidence sets us apart from those who have staged a response--a kiss-in--today (Friday).  Now, Christians are commanded not to shy away from the truth, so coming forward and saying, "Yes, I believe in this," can be a simple way to stand with the truth.  Doing it in front of other Christians is good, because it can strengthen the faith of those who are doubting God's power to support them.  However, when it comes to the Bandwagon approach here, it is critical to note that this situation is not Christians versus non-Christians, us versus them. It has always been sin versus truth. By that standard, there is no distinction between Christians and non-Christians except the line God has drawn. In fact, there is no legal or justifiable rejection except the precedent that Christ set (at least, this far in history), and He has presently been focused on rejecting sins and spreading a challenging and reforming gospel. The right to judge people and take revenge is reserved for Christ alone (Isaiah 63: 1-6), because He is the only one without sin, and the only one with an untainted grasp of justice and equality.  If we are making judgements, we can only go as far as Christ has gone.
  • Christians should not have eaten at Chick-fil-A on Wednesday, because it sent a message of hate to homosexuals and defeated all of our attempts to witness to them.  This is a much more sophisticated piece of illogical speech, so I saved it for last. I count several logical fallacies wrapped up in one, including Rationalization, Ad Populum, and Slippery Slope. Rationalization comes in when the speaker means to imply, "I didn't want to look like a hater, so I didn't go." Now, it's totally fine to have not gone (there is no place in the Bible that says you have to eat at Chick-fil-A), but be careful not to use other people's perceived approval as an excuse to not express your own beliefs, especially in a country that gives you the freedom to do so.  In the end, that just means other people's approval was more important to you than your belief. Ad Populum arguments classify groups of people by emotion-filled language.  In this case, there is a subtle duality: Chick-fil-A eaters are haters, while non-Chick-fil-A eaters are kind and loving. I also see the extreme word "defeated," which implies attack.  Slippery Slope, the last one I can clearly identify, argues that by taking an action, you have set off a chain reaction that will lead to some sort of doomed result.  This particular argument assumes that stating an opinion, even symbolically, will destroy the acceptability of that opinion, leading to a total rejection of it. That doesn't make sense, really.  An opinion, particularly one this polarizing, will be rejected if the individual chooses to reject it, even if it's said in the kindest, sweetest way possible. Gentleness is praiseworthy here (and I didn't hear about any non-peaceful crowds eating at Chick-fil-A on Wednesday), but when we call something a sin, it's going to make some people mad.  That doesn't mean the point should never be made.

The Christian Response

 All illogical arguments aside, I think this situation revealed some problems I have only barely touched upon.
  1. Christians need to clean up their own households.  There is a sexual sin problem in the US today, and many in the Christian community are part of it.  I've heard preachers preaching about sexual immorality in the church, and now I've heard homosexuals preaching about it.  They were both absolutely right to call it out, and yet the blatant unrepentance marches on. It is truly unbelievable.  Reform and revival are needed, or God's judgment will come; in fact, I think we are just beginning to see the front edge of it (Joel 1: 13-20).
  2. Christians need to do more than just show up on August 1. The demonstration at Chick-fil-A really had some political meanings, and only one valid Christian meaning (at least that I can work out).  So, for the sake of clarity, Christians need to define their own beliefs (not politicians), and they need to "show up" and express them when called upon. And I'll say it again--express them without logical fallacies! This topic is a lot older than Chick-fil-A, and it didn't end with Chick-fil-A.
  3. Christians need to pray for friends, their families, their opponents in this debate, and their nation.  If we really believe that God is supreme, then we understand our own limitations by comparison. The kind of reform that is needed in this country cannot be brought about by limited human effort or human wisdom. It must come from God. We should be asking God for help, wisdom, gentleness, strength, patience, boldness, perseverance, and so forth. Without His help, we're just wasting our time.
Now, for something I wrote on Facebook on Wednesday, encapsulating my general thoughts on Wednesday, Friday, and the whole Chick-fil-A debate, without going into another round of logical analysis:
 Today, at Chick-fil-A, there was a man with a bunch of signs. They all had hateful, profanity-laced messages on them, the worst of which included the F word. I watched as he waved them at the cars leaving and those pulling in, including a woman with a van full of children.
So, if you asked me why I went, I would say it was for the van full of children, not the man with the sign. I want to send the message to those kids that it's okay (Jesus called it "blessed") to believe something, even if you get cursed out for it. I wanted to tell them that God is mightier than neon green handmade signs or even lines of people buying sandwiches, and I wanted to challenge them to pray for their nation, since the moral situation has shifted so much that sandwiches have become a point of political and moral contention. This was about showing support for fellow believers, and cheering them on for taking a stand for the truth (even if it's unpopular).

Now, I think I will rest my case for today.


Thomas said...

Good stuff! I especially appreciated the 4th bullet point! I think you're right about the judgement of God - we seem to be a culture in it's moral death throes: a good sign He's removed His hand of restraint a good distance.

Rachel said...

Thank you for your comment! I really appreciate it.

The timeliness of my comment about God's judgement has been (eerily) reinforced by the reports of wildfires this evening, just like that passage in Joel that I cited. Time for that call for a day of fasting and repenting before the Lord...