Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Thoughtful treatment of the tough church controversy

Carson Clark grapples with the church's grappling over homosexuality. He's taking his time and choosing his words over two installments. The link is to Part I, in which he writes,

"Ours is a society of one-sided ideologues, and on no issue is this more apparent than on homosexuality. Both extremes are not only skeptical but are, in fact, vehement that there can be no middle-way. It’s all or nothin’. What is more, they both seem to have framed their entire position upon the slippery slope fallacy. For the liberals, anything but full embrace of the homosexual lifestyle will lead to sheer oppressive hatred. If you so much as try to nuance that position you get branded a bigot. For the conservatives, anything but a complete, unqualified condemnation of homosexuality will lead to absolute moral corruption worthy of God’s fiercest wrath. It’s believed to be an utter abomination and a scourge upon society. And, of course, these accusations are worst among professing Christians on either polarity."


The Archer of the Forest said...

That's well put. I have always used that logic (that is to say simple humility) as a gauge of whether or not I will get into a discussion about homosexuality with other people (or any hot topic for that matter).

If someone is a hardliner on either side of an issue and can't or won't admit they may be wrong and are not open to considering other ideas or maybe even (shocker!) change their mind or thinking, I won't really debate with them because it will *always* devolve into either bland talking points, a scripture spitting contest (what seminary called "proof texting"-though I have some issues with that term because its a buzzword and buzzwords are usually code for something else), or screaming/ad hominem attacks from their end. If both sides can't agree that they might possibly be wrong in their interpretation, debate is pretty much pointless and it devolves into an exercise in polemics for its own sake.

People like Christopher Hitchens and most politicians and talking heads these days are masters of this style of debate. I'm recalling that pseudo-debate he had in Canada a while back with Tony Blair about whether religion was inherently good (a totally vague concept to begin with where what "religion" was defined as was never tackled or explained. Cheap shots and scoring points was more important than sound logic or actually seeking what might be the Truth or even making a coherent case. The whole thing was a farce for these very reasons.

I think we've completely lost the ability to describe much less understand the difference between debate and polemics. One passes for the other in this culture, and they are really quite different styles of rhetoric. Look at the text of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, many of which would go on for hours and compare that to what passes for political debates nowadays. If you are lucky, you get to hear a candidate speak for maybe 3 minutes on a complex issue like foreign policy, and even then if a candidate can't pronounce some weird foreign head of state's name correctly, then people think they lost that round in the debate.

I think everything we do as Christians should be open to this lens of humility. I do have certain things that I believe are Truth, but I try to be humble enough to at least give an opposing view the time of day to state their case and logic. In doing so, I usually find flaws in their logic and return back to what I believed to begin with, but the Pharisees and Sadducees were well meaning and devout people who thought they had it all figured out to, but Jesus usually had words for them and most of them weren't complimentary.

The Archer of the Forest said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Underground Pewster said...

Debate is great, but action before the score is in gets me upset.

Carson T. Clark said...

Here's Part II of II: