Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Uses for Euphemism

It seems to me that if you want to do something nasty to another person, the easiest way to justify yourself is to not think about it at all. If your conscience starts to nag you, don't fight with it; just ignore it. Give it a zennish dismissal; tell yourself, "I'll have to think about that ... but later."

Of course, you can't always get away with this. Sometimes, obnoxious people will show up and ask you pointed questions about the nasty things you want to do. In this event, you can salvage your blissful ignorance by speaking abstractly. For a good example of this technique at work, listen to the following interview with Representative Thomas Tancredo (R-CO).


Tancredo thinks that we should pursue a stricter immigration strategy. First, we need to seal our southern border, and second, we need to deport the nearly 2 million illegal the illegal immigrants now living in the U.S. Wait, did I say 2 million? I meant 20 million. We need to deport the nearly 20 milion illegal immigrants now living in the U.S. Of course, Tancredo wisely avoids describing the situation this way:

ALEX CHADWICK: But aren't there millions of illegal immigrants currently residing in this country? What are you going to do with all those people?

REP. TANCREDO: The most conservative estimate I have ever heard is 13 million, but I, I think it's much closer to even 20 million people who are here illegally. And what are you going to do? You're going to enforce the law.

Pure genius! What sleight of hand! Notice how deftly Tancredo points us toward the black-and-white world of legality, drawing our attention away from the ethical messiness that we might otherwise have to deal with. Obviously, says Tancredo, the only question here is whether or not the law should be enforced. And of course the law should be enforced! Case closed!

But Chadwick was asking about about people. And while it's easy to agree with a generic "we should enforce the laws", it's a bit more difficult to agree with, "we should hunt down 20 million people, uproot them from their homes and send them back to whichever third-world nation they came from." It's even more difficult to say, "we should arrest my neighbor Joe and his wife Alma, evict them from their house, and ship their entire family back to Panama." Therefore, if you want to protect the borders of the United States of America, you shouldn't start thinking about these real people. Instead, speak in abstractions. It's much easier that way.

Monday, November 14, 2005

An Odd Sort of Argument

Well, Texans did even worse than I expected, voting nearly 75% to 25% to approve a the Texas constitutional amendment to ban nontraditonal marriage. This is too bad, because:

1. The amendment is redundant, because Texas already has laws prohibiting gay marriage. But our representatives obviously don't have enough work to justify their paychecks, so they resort to passing laws about cheerleading and other unnecessary legislation.

2. The amendment denies legal, emotional and perhaps even the spiritual benefits of marriage to a long-ostracized minority group. For many voters, I suppose this outcome was just what they had in mind. That doesn't make their behavior any more ethical, or any less harmful.

3. God thinks that, all things considered, gay marriage is OK.

Statement #3 is simply a summary of what I think God thinks about gay marriage, which arises from an aggregation of the following experiences:

1. My upbringing in the church, which included lots of Bible reading. This means I have a good idea about what's actually in there, and what's not.

(An aside, here: please don't expect me to take seriously your comments about scripture if you haven't at least read the entire Bible. I consider that a minimal standard for competent discussion.)

2. Masters of Divinity friends discussing good ways and bad ways of interpreting the Bible.

3. Discussions with helpful acquaintances who considered themselves gay or lesbian.

4. A few years spent attempting to empathize with other people.

5. A few years spent thinking about suffering (disease, famine, natural disaster, pogroms, abuse, depression, post-nasal drip) and the way God interacts with the world.

6. A few years spent attempting to ask questions clearly and answer them precisely.

These ideas and experiences have lead me to the conclusion expressed concisely in statement #3: God thinks gay marriage isn't such a big deal. To support statement 3, I suppose I could provide a well-reasoned analysis of the Bible and the world, trying to prove that God thinks one way or another. This is probably what Paul was expecting when he once asked me to post on the topic of homosexuality. But in my experience, this sort of analysis isn't helpful unless you and the other party have spent some time trying to understand the history of thought that underpins your reasoning.

So here's my invitation to you. If you can spare a few brainwaves, take some time to think about God and gay marriage, and then take a few minutes to write a brief post for the rest of us. But don't just share your reasoning in this post; also summarize the experiences that make your belief ring true.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Election Tuesday Nov. 8

Just a friendly reminder to you Texans: This tuesday, you can vote on the proposed amendments to the Texas constitution.

My advice: if you want to give the thumbs-down to prop. 2, get out there and vote.

On the other hand, if you want to give the thumbs up to prop 2., first visit Liberty and Servanthood, Jeff Wilhite's blog. One of his recent posts gives some good reasons that social onservatives should vote against proposition 2.

If you read Jeff's post and you're still not convinced, just stay home on Tuesday. I mean, you're probably tired, right? I bet you've been working hard every day to defend the institution of marriage. You deserve a break.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Diablog Shelved

Just wanted to let you know that I've removed the Diablog links from my blog. I hadn't been able to give much time to developing it, and there didn't seem to be much interest in using it.

But if I'm wrong, and you're still interested in using Diablog or testing it, holler.