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"Today's mob will not listen to my argument"


"Today's mob will not listen to my argument"

Thomas Whitley

A piece over at the American Conservative (Cake and Cosmology) today attempts to make the point that supporters of same-sex marriage need to at least try to understand why Christians oppose it.

same-sex marriage supporters ought to at least understand why Orthodox Christians int he Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions have to stand firm on this issue. It is not blind prejudice.

I appreciate what this piece is trying to do, but it still seems quite tone deaf to me. The main point is that those who support same-sex marriage don't understand "why . . . [opponents] have to stand firm on this issue." The "mob" that supports same-sex marriage simply is not listening to the arguments of "intelligent Christian men of goodwill."

Rod Dreher includes lengthy excerpts from pieces written by Chris Roberts and Ross Douthat. Roberts says that "today's mob will not listen to my argument, will not listen to my attempt to make my case plausible, because they are convinced I'm a homophobe." 

Yet it seems to me that many have heard that argument and simply don't accept it. Losing an argument does not mean that your argument is not being heard.

Similarly, Douthat puts forth his argument for why he thinks opposition to same-sex marriage by some Christians is completely unlike Christian support for slavery.

The debate about race was very specific to America, modernity, the South. (Bans on interracial marriage were generally a white supremacist innovation, not an inheritance from Christendom or common law.) The slave owners and segregationists had scriptural arguments, certainly. But they were also up against one of the Bible’s major meta-narratives — from the Israelites in Egypt to St. Paul’s “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free.”

That’s not the case with sex and marriage. The only clear biblical meta-narrative is about male and female.

One can easily put forth an argument against Douthat here by pointing out that "marriage" meant a lot of things in the bible including a man and his concubine, a man and his slaves, a soldier and prisoners of war, a rapist and his victim, and a man and his many wives. One can also argue that slavery had just as much justification in the Bible as those who oppose same-sex marriage. Many interpreters spoke of the "mark of Cain." The entire letter of Philemon and the rest of the Pauline corpus do not oppose slavery, even when seemingly given multiple opportunities too. People can, and do, disagree about how the Bible should be interpreted, but Douthat does not have room for other interpretations. Dreher agrees with both Roberts and Douthat and laments that people simply do not understand why this issue is different and why he and others must stand firm on this issue.

It must be said again, someone hearing your argument and disagreeing with it does not equal "I'm not even allowed to make my argument."

The deeper implication, of course, is that if only people would listen to my argument, they would see its wisdom and logic (and probably come to agree with it). That is, if you actually listened to what I'm saying, you'd see that I'm right. This approach, which is implicit in this piece, fails to do just what it's asking for its opponents to do: engage in a conversation where people can understand the arguments of each other and yet still respectfully and intelligently disagree. Insisting that those who disagree with you don't really understand your point is patronizing and an attempt to discredit their positions without engaging their arguments or engaging in the debate that you profess to want.


Image: St. Paul by El Greco via wikipedia, to whom is attributed Ephesians 6.5, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ" and Titus 2.9-10, "Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our savior," and who did write 1 Corinthians 7.21, 24, "Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. . . . In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God."