Something I have been keeping an eye on over the last few weeks are arguments being mounted by people (sometimes ostensibly Christian, sometimes not ostensibly Christian) in respect of hot button issues, particularly one issue, 'gay marriage.' So we have had an outpouring of angst/celebration in British Christianity because a leading evangelical, Steve Chalke has come out publicly in favour of blessing same sex partnerships. Here in NZ in recent days we have had a conservative citizen associated with 'sensible sentencing' re crime make the attempted case that gay marriage will lead to an increase in crime. (Just in case that seems totally irrational to overseas readers, his proposal rests on the logic, gay marriage is a further declension of moral standards here, the lowering of which increases the crime rate). One of the thing which interests me, partly as theologian, partly as one-time philosophy student, is the quality of the arguments being brought to the table of public discussion.
A quick read of Chalke, for instance, suggests his laudable sentiments (a better deal in churches for gay Christians) are not well under-pinned by his arguments (as, argue indeed he does, offering an assessment of the Bible on homosexuality). The connection sought here in NZ, between gay marriage and the crime rate is ludicrous: there is a connection between the general state of morality in a society and its crime rate, but it is hard to pin down to specific declensions, the crime rate can be improved by means other than improving morality (e.g. 'zero tolerance' policing), and, most importantly, it is just unjust to pick on gay marriage of all possible declensions in morality. Why not ban divorce, remarriage after divorce, sex before and outside of marriage, excess drinking, smoking anywhere (OK, we are heading towards that!?), breaking the speed limit (we could put 'governors' on car engines if serious about that!), and so forth.
On another matter altogether, I have been appalled at the argumentation brought forward to oppose President Obama's attempt to control the sale of guns in the USA. 'Let schools have armed guards rather than ban the sale of assault guns.' Really? Has the apex of Western civilization and learning come down to this?
Ergo, where are the good arguments? Perhaps a challenge for Christians, conservatives, and conservative Christians in 2013 is to think before speaking, review and revise before writing, discuss privately before proclaiming publicly. Paul once said 'Test the spirits.' Perhaps today he would advise 'Test the arguments.'