Phil Snider’s Impressive Substitute For Honest Communication (Racism, Gay “Marriage,” and the Bible)

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It’s gone genuinely viral: the Rev. Dr. Phil Snider’s message to the Springfield City Council. Unfortunately it’s a great example of truth tanked by theatrics, reason steamrolled by emotion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u4Z3n2Fnyc

It leaves a powerful impression, but what’s his argument? What would go in the following blanks, to express his point in rational, logical form?

“X, therefore Y, therefore it’s wrong to oppose gay marriage.”

Dr. Snider’s Argument (Such As It Is)
Let’s start with X. Dr. Snider brings forth a series of quotes from white preachers sometime during the civil rights struggles of half a century ago. These statements were obviously wrong, and yet they are similar to some arguments being brought forth against gay “marriage” today.

That’s it. That’s all we have for X. It’s all he asserted. It’s not much, is it? Think with me how sketchy it is: We don’t know who spoke these things originally, we don’t know the context in which they said them, we don’t know any of the surrounding reasoning, we don’t know how widely accepted their opinions were. I’ll bet most people who saw his show haven’t thought that through, though: His surprise ending served effectively to evoke emotion and derail rational reflection. But a little thought reveals what shaky factual ground his argument stands on: unattributed quotes taken out of all context, and that’s it.

It gets worse with Y. Dr. Snider obviously wants us to conclude something from this spotty information, but precisely what we should conclude and how we should get there are as vague as can be. Still it seems at least likely that he wants us to follow a line of reasoning that goes like this.

  1. Some white preachers misused the Bible to argue in favor of racism.
  2. People today are using the Bible to argue against homosexuality and gay marriage.
  3. Therefore the people who use the Bible today to argue against homosexuality and gay marriage are misusing the Bible.

Now, does 3 follow from 1 and 2? Certainly not. From 1 and 2 we can conclude that it’s possible to get the Bible wrong. Even that’s ambiguous, though: we could get the Bible wrong either by misinterpreting it, or by paying it any attention in the first place. Dr. Snider doesn’t say which of those he thinks is the real problem. It’s fuzzy, just like the rest of his argument.

Unstated, Unargued, Unsupportable Premises
Let’s keep working the question, though. Dr. Snider’s conclusion 3 could conceivably follow from 1 and 2, but only if we accept some additional unstated premises, for example:

  • A. The gay rights struggle is relevantly parallel to the civil rights struggle, and either B or C:
  • B. Christians relying on the Bible in this decade are misinterpreting it in the same way preachers in the mid-20th century misinterpreted it, or
  • C. Christians were, and are, interpreting the Bible according to what it says, but the Bible is wrong on these matters.

But the gay rights issue is not relevantly parallel to the civil rights struggle. In a word, the preachers he quoted from the 50s and 60s got the Bible wrong. It does not support oppression—quite the opposite, in fact: read Isaiah, or Jesus’ first public sermon in Luke 4. It does not support racism. Instead it teaches God’s global blessing reaching all peoples. That message first appears in Genesis 12, but its roots go back further than that, to the very beginning: God created all humans in his image (Genesis 1:26). The theme carries through all way to the end in the book of Revelation. It’s also in Jesus’ Luke 4 sermon, and in his last words, Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8. It’s expressed succinctly in Galatians 3:28.

So we can agree with 1: some white preachers misused the Bible to argue for racism. We don’t know who, or in what context, or with what credibility or authority, but undoubtedly some white preachers did that, and when they did, they were clearly wrong.

Yes, It’s Possible To Get the Bible Wrong
At this point I must pause for an important digression. I doubt that every reader knows it’s possible to be clearly wrong in handling Scripture. I suspect some readers think the Bible’s meaning is malleable, that what it means depends on what the reader wants it to mean. That’s a misconception. There are agreed standards for interpreting the Bible. Generally speaking, they’re just what common sense would suggest: the sentences and paragraphs mean what they mean, taking literary and historical context and genre properly into account. Apart from some very difficult and rather abstruse doctrines (predestination, for example), what the Bible says on its main points is quite clear. Sure, the Bible is open to interpretation, but interpretations can be wrong. Only a limited range of interpretations are supportable; only a limited range can be correct.

It’s Also Possible To Get It Right
The racist interpretation was outside the range of possible correct interpretations. What about homosexuality?

First consider the larger context of sexual morality. The Bible does not stutter on this: sex is intended for marriage, and only for marriage. The Western world left that standard behind long ago. There could hardly be any doubt that the rise in homosexual activism—and the permission our society grants it—has been made possible only by our culture’s abandonment of that principle.

Second, the Bible is perfectly clear that God created marriage.

Third, the Bible is perfectly clear that God created marriage for a man and a woman. (The ancients were polygamous, following a widely accepted social norm; but their multiple marriages never turned out very well, as Timothy Keller points out somewhere. You can’t read these stories and conclude that God treated such marriages with favor.)

Fourth, the Bible is perfectly clear from front to back that homosexual relationships are immoral—ignorant misinterpretations of Leviticus notwithstanding. (Those of you who have tried that tactic know what I’m referring to.)

These first four points add up to a crucial fifth one: the Bible claims moral authority. When Christians speak out against homosexuality we do so from within a biblically-informed moral framework. Western culture doesn’t like the Bible’s claim of moral authority, but it can’t change it, it can only reject that authority—which it has done.

The Unstated Premises Are False
So gay “rights” are not relevantly parallel to civil rights; unstated Premise A is false. Race has nothing to do with moral duties or values; homosexual behavior does. The Bible supports and applauds racial diversity but abhors moral diversity (in the relevant sense. Premise A does not apply. Frankly I think it was dishonest of him to act out his little play as if the parallel was real.

Further, there is hardly any possibility that it’s a misinterpretation to conclude the Bible condemns homosexual behavior or precludes homosexual “marriage.” Premise B does not apply.

Sixth, the Bible’s moral standards are not arbitrary, but reflect what is essentially good for us as God created us. Homosexual relationships violate the created order. That’s more a natural-law argument than a biblical one, but it’s a case that can certainly be made, and it has been. On that basis, Premise C does not apply.

Dramatic Effect Play-Acting As Reasoned Discussion
Of course not everyone agrees with that. What did Dr. Snider say about it, though? Not much. I can’t tell whether he meant for us to conclude (a) that Christians opposing homosexuality are interpreting the Bible wrong, or (b) that the Bible itself is wrong. If he intended us to conclude (a), he’s wrong, as I have briefly outlined. What about (b)? That question could be approached from either of two perspectives. One is that of divine authority: if God inspired the Bible, and if God is true, then the Bible cannot be wrong. Dr. Snider didn’t bring that up for discussion, and it would have been inappropriate for him to do so there at that council meeting. The other perspective from which the Bible could be assessed is that of natural law, or (in more philosophically neutral terms) its effect on human flourishing.

Dr. Snider could have argued that point. It would have been relevant and it could have been helpful. But he didn’t. He didn’t offer an argument; he only produced an effect. Take him one way and he’s wrong, take him the other way and he didn’t say anything, so why would anyone conclude anything?

I wish he had been more honest. I wish he hadn’t implied the existence of a parallelism in the Bible that isn’t there, for one thing. And I wish he hadn’t called his skit an argument. It wasn’t one. It was a play, a set piece with a surprise ending that generated emotion where reason is called for; a drama play-acting as reasoned discussion. It had a powerful effect, but that’s a poor substitute for honest communication.

Related:
Reasons for God: A Response to Phil Snider
Another Ascending Lark: A Response to Phil Snider: Spotlighting a Secular Response

Tom Gilson

Vice President for Strategic Services, Ratio Christi Lead Blogger at Thinking Christian Editor, True Reason BreakPoint Columnist

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57 Responses

  1. John Moore says:

    You wrote:

    Some white preachers misused the Bible to argue for racism. We don’t know who, or in what context, or with what credibility or authority, but undoubtedly some white preachers did that, and when they did, they were clearly wrong.

    If it’s undoubted, then why do you even mention the “who, in what context, or with what credibility”? You brought this up twice. It really makes me doubt your sincerity. If you’re agreeing with something, then you shouldn’t turn around and cast doubt on it.

  2. Tom Gilson says:

    John Moore, there’s a difference between what I’m agreeing with there and what I’m casting doubt on.

  3. Elegir says:

    I don’t see why you find the logic tricky.

    X = these are the false arguments used by white preachers to justify miscegenist racism; we as a society recognise these arguments from the 1950s and we know that they are false and unsupportable.
    Y = these same arguments are now being used, mutatis mutandis, to justify anti-same sex bigotry.

    Conclusion: the arguments that failed to convince us that blacks and whites can’t marry therefore also fail to convince us that gays can’t marry.
    Bonus conclusion: anyone using these same tired arguments sounds like a stupid, uneducated, illogical bigot from the 1950s.

    Further reading for advanced students: prove that attempts to tie Christian ideology to US laws, or using Christian ideology to demand specific action by US governments fails at Amendment 1. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

  4. Tom Gilson says:

    So an argument that is wrong in one context is automatically wrong in all contexts?

  5. The Holy Bible is a double edge sword,it can be swung to any angle,but lets be careful how we swing it because if swung the wrong direction it may cause us and the people we influence great harm.God bless us as we labour to rightly divide the word of truth.

  6. Victoria says:

    @Elegir
    But you have not demonstrated at all that the false arguments used by racists are the same arguments used today against same-sex relationships – you’ve just parroted Snider’s speech and missed the point of Tom’s OP. Can you demonstrate, using sound Biblical exegesis and interpretation, that its view of sexual morality is just as wrong as the interpretations used to support a racist agenda? Can you defeat Tom’s reasoning using actual reasoning of your own?

  7. Tom Gilson says:

    I wonder if this is what’s going on here:

    1. The Bible was used to justify racism in the past.
    2. Therefore the Bible can’t be trusted.
    3. Therefore today’s biblical arguments can’t be trusted.

    That would be a fine approach if past use of the Bible for evil ends had been justifiable from a biblical perspective, or in other words, if the Bible really taught racism. If so then we could safely conclude that it was morally untrustworthy.

    If on the other hand there were people who used the Bible falsely, who misinterpreted the Bible to justify racism, what does that have to do with the current discussion? How does the argument go? Like this?

    When the Bible is misinterpreted it can be twisted to mean evil things. Therefore … what?

    The only solid conclusion from that premise is that we ought not misinterpret the Bible and twist it to evil ends.

    This does not follow from the premise: Therefore we ought not use the Bible.

    That second conclusion doesn’t follow logically, so it’s the wrong one to adopt. Example: If I misinterpret the Constitution to mean that the President should disband Congress every other year, does that mean the best thing to do is to abandon the Constitution? No. It means I ought to quit misinterpreting the Constitution. That’s all.

    If some unnamed preachers (taken out of context, I remind you) misinterpreted the Bible on racism, that doesn’t mean we ought to quit using the Bible, it means we interpret it responsibly according to what it actually says.

  8. Angus says:

    Dear Tom,
    Your response highlighted un-stated premises…I think you may have some of your own. For instance, you wrote,
    “Race has nothing to do with moral duties or values; homosexual behavior does. ”
    This statement appears to divide homosexual behavior from identity. The distinction is crucial for understanding the issue you’re discussing. It is also odd to suggest that race has nothing to do with moral duties. That may seem self-evident *now*, but for millennia, people have attached moral values to race, whether theirs or ours (need I mention Martin Luther and his ‘On the Jews and their lies’, to take one egregious case).
    Try to imagine a life where it was impossible to be known as a heterosexual and you might start to appreciate the history of the treatment of gay people (and indeed their current existence in many countries).

  9. Tom Gilson says:

    Well, okay then, I’ll be glad to bring my assumptions out into the open.

    Your example from history is parallel to Dr. Snider’s. Martin Luther got a lot right, but not everything. His errors in interpreting the Bible (and reality in general) do not make the Bible wrong.

  10. Angus says:

    “His errors in interpreting the Bible (and reality in general) do not make the Bible wrong.”

    Er, doesn’t the above assume that someone knows absolutely, unequivocally and timelessly what is a mistaken interpretation & what isn’t? ie. I’m sure Martin Luther thought his views were Biblically sanctioned. The issue here isn’t really whether the Bible is “wrong” or “right” in some inaccessible, unknowable sense, but whether our interpretations / applications are always accurate. History suggests not (and yes, the Luther example supports Dr Snider’s point there).

  11. Tom Gilson says:

    But no,it really is possible to know that some things are written in the Bible and others aren’t. Sure, it’s possible to be carried away in error by one’s culture. There are ways to guard against that as well. One of the best ways to guard against it is to read what the Bible says.

  12. toddes says:

    So Angus if behavior is linked with identity does this mean that a certain behavior is permitted for one race while being verboten for another (Luther’s ignorance or knowledge aside unless of course Luther is considered infallible to you)?

    Do we then as a society forgive a behavior because of the individual’s or group’s race and persecute another because they do not fall within the appropriate race?

    For example, rape. Is it expected that men of a certain race are to be forgiven for raping while men of another race are to be tried and convicted? This seems like bigotry to me but then again, I don’t believe that identity and behavior are necessarily linked.

    Or is it (the idea that identity and behavior are intricately linked) only applicable to sexual behavior, homosexual behavior specifically? Are you asserting that if a person identifies as gay then they must act on that identification? Do we then excuse all behavior based on the individual’s self-identity or, again, is it only acceptable for certain self-identities?

  13. Angus says:

    Tom, we’re not discussing whether something is written with ink on papyrus / parchment / paper-
    “it really is possible to know that some things are written in the Bible and others aren’t”
    – but how one interprets those words.
    You’ve stated that the Bible is unequivocally against racism. Yet one of the great Biblical scholars (who read & knew Scripture better than you or I ever will) espoused anti-Semitism. Is it conceivable that we (Christians) have mis-applied or mis-understood Scripture on this specific issue?

  14. toddes says:

    Also, to your thought experiment. A society where heterosexuality was outlawed would be one that would not survive for long except by outside immigration.

    In that regard, what benefit does homosexual behavior provide to a society? I understand the ‘benefit’ (the quotes are due to my belief that homosexual behavior causes more harm than any benefit that can be derived) to the individual but how does it benefit the society in which it is normalized?

  15. Angus says:

    hi @Toddes. Thanks for your questions. I was opening up an important discussion that needs to be had among evangelicals: identity and behavior *are* different and bring very different implications. For example, Jesus condemns porneia (sexual immorality). Mostly it’s assumed that porneia includes acts like adultery, fornication…and homosexuality. Except, compare (for example) adultery with homosexuality in terms of identity vs. behavior. Many gay people realise that they’re gay well before they have sex. Indeed a very significant proportion of gay people knew they were gay and never ‘behaved’ so sexually (because of social taboos). How many people would know themselves to be an adulterer outside of committing the act? Doesn’t the act – even if only fantasised – define the sin?
    Just reflect on your own sexuality and ask whether you needed any act to realise it was there and very much part of your sense of self. I hope that helps.

  16. SteveK says:

    That’s a great video, Holo. Makes sense to me. Someone may disagree with the arguments FOR natural marriage – just like they might argue about any political decision – but they cannot say the arguments are rooted in religious belief. There are perfectly valid non-religious arguments such as this.

  17. Tom Gilson says:

    This is more involved than you realize, Angus.

    First, I seriously doubt that Luther’s anti-Semitism had anything to do with racism. It wasn’t about skin color, obviously. It was about their religious heritage. (I’m not trying to excuse what he did but rather to put it in a more accurate context.)

    Although the Bible never supports discrimination on the basis of race, it most assuredly does so on the basis of religion. It condemned Canaanite religions in the Old Testament, and it condemned Pharisaical distortions of Judaism in the New. Those are just two examples among many.

    So Luther was operating (correctly, to a point) under a model in which there is such a thing as wrong religion. From that perfectly proper beginning he progressed in improper directions.

    In other words, your Luther example doesn’t do for you what you intend for it to do: it doesn’t demonstrate anything about Christians’ ability to get the clear and perspicacious basics of Scripture wrong.

    Which leads directly to the question, is the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality clear and direct enough so that we can count on the accuracy of our interpretations? In the OP above I outlined several reasons I think it is. I stand by that, and beyond that we can look to natural law for reasons to support man-woman marriage. I included four links above in support of that.

    Is it possible we’ve gotten it all wrong anyway? I suppose so. It’s possible I’m wrong about everything I believe: God, Christ, the cross, everything. A man (or a woman) has got to make a decision based on the best available evidence, though, and for me the reasoning in behalf of real marriage (i.e., man-woman marriage) is strong enough to stand on, not only for my own decision-making but also for me to make confident attempts to persuade others.

    More simply stated, it’s possible the conservative biblical Christian view is wrong, but it’s so vanishingly unlikely that it would be wrong for us not to stake our claim on it.

  18. Tom Gilson says:

    The equation of sexual preference with personal identity is one of contemporary culture’s more serious errors. See my link in #11.

    For the sake of the current discussion, though, I don’t know what it has to do with Dr. Snider’s theatrical irrationalities. Maybe I’m missing something there.

  19. Tom Gilson says:

    Re: natural law, see also the video Holopupenko linked to in #9.

  20. Angus says:

    hi @Tom. Glad to continue this conversation a little longer!
    1. Racism isn’t only defined by difference in skin color. For instance in WW 2, Japanese soldiers showed extreme racism to other Asian nationalities. The same occurs in the Middle East, etc. I recommend a visit to the Jewish museum in Berlin to see how Jews were caricatured by Europeans – frequently apart from religion.
    2. Can I check your definition of ‘discrimination’? The normal meaning in this context is treating someone in the same circumstances unfavorably. So when the Bible says God is impartial and treats no one unfavorably, I take it that God is not a God of discrimination. If however, you mean ‘discrimination’ as discernment / judgement – it is irrelevant to the discussion here.
    So I still think the Luther example is perfectly valid. But let’s say it isn’t. I’m sure you could think of a few social issues where Christians have had differences on the perspicuity of Scripture…or some church order issues…or even some theological issues about which they were so convinced they went to the stake. This is not an argument for relativism, just some patience and openness to listening. For example, when did you decide you would ‘prefer’ to like the opposite sex? Or did it just turn out that way…kind of ‘naturally’.

  21. Tom Gilson says:

    Angus, thank you.

    Your point 1 is true but it doesn’t change the effect of my point. Sure, there are ways to be racist that have nothing to do with skin color. I still think Luther thought he had ethical/religious grounds for his anti-Semitism. He was wrong regardless, but not wrong in the way that you propose, and also not wrong in the way that you think serves your argument here.

    I’m not at all sure what the point of the rest of your comment might be. I used discrimination in the sense I used it, which I think is clear. When I became aware of my sexuality has nothing to do with whether Phil Snider was irrationally attacking Scripture.

  22. Angus says:

    Okay, we’ll leave it there, Tom. All the best and, please, keep thinking! Xaris. (p.s. my last questions were rhetorical…apologies if that wasn’t clear)

  23. toddes says:

    Sorry, Angus, but that’s nonsense.

    Many people know they are straight (what a ridiculous term) long before they have sex. For myself, I had been strongly attracted to girls/women many years before I had any idea of sex.

    Being attracted to someone of the same sex (or for that matter behaving in a manner that could be considered effeminate) doesn’t make someone a homosexual. Having sex with someone of the same gender does. Just as a person cannot be considered a murderer until they actually commit murder.

    (That is not to say they have not sinned. Dwelling on certain acts or events, whether it be sexual or otherwise, with desire or anticipation makes it a sin even without committing the physical act.)

    Speaking only for myself, I know that were it not for my Christian faith, I would have ‘fornicated’ whenever and wherever I could prior to my marriage. I also know that were it not for that same faith, I would have been an adulterer as well. So I hope you understand that I reject your assertion that someone cannot know that they would be something outside of committing the act.

  24. Angus says:

    Hi @Toddes. You re-phrased my point perfectly here:
    “Many people know they are straight (what a ridiculous term) long before they have sex. For myself, I had been strongly attracted to girls/women many years before I had any idea of sex.”
    What you said exactly describes the experience of many gay people. It also contradicts the notion that,
    “Having sex with someone of the same gender [makes one a homosexual].”

  25. Tom Gilson says:

    I’m afraid I have to agree with Angus on that last point. Where he goes with it I don’t know.

  26. Fleegman says:

    Toddes,

    Being attracted to someone of the same sex (or for that matter behaving in a manner that could be considered effeminate) doesn’t make someone a homosexual. Having sex with someone of the same gender does.

    Out of which party cracker did you pull that piece of wisdom?

    By your logic, one would have to conclude that you weren’t a heterosexual until you had sex with a woman.

  27. Fleegman says:

    @Tom

    You can’t read these stories and conclude that God treated [polygamous] marriages with favor

    Is polygamy ever specifically outlawed? Or is one forced to come to their own conclusions on that?

    Also, I’ve always wanted to know why all the other laws in Leviticus, which are presumably just as sinful as homosexuality, are ignored by most Christians. What’s the reasoning behind that?

  28. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Fleegman:

    Is polygamy ever specifically outlawed? Or is one forced to come to their own conclusions on that?

    Yes, by Jesus Christ himself.

    Also, I’ve always wanted to know why all the other laws in Leviticus, which are presumably just as sinful as homosexuality, are ignored by most Christians. What’s the reasoning behind that?

    There are many reasons. For starters, Homossexuality is sinful in a way that failing to observe the *ceremonial* ruling of The Law (to give but one example) is not.

  29. JAD says:

    From the OP:

    I wish he [Snider] had been more honest. I wish he hadn’t implied the existence of a parallelism in the Bible that isn’t there, for one thing. And I wish he hadn’t called his skit an argument. It wasn’t one. It was a play, a set piece with a surprise ending that generated emotion where reason is called for; a drama play-acting as reasoned discussion. It had a powerful effect, but that’s a poor substitute for honest communication.

    Snider’s “argument” ironically perpetuates a stereotype. It seems then that he is fighting what he perceives to be discrimination and prejudice against gays by promoting a stereotype that is itself based on prejudice. How does that advance honest dialogue and understanding?

  30. toddes says:

    Fleegman (and by extension Angus),

    “By your logic, one would have to conclude that you weren’t a heterosexual until you had sex with a woman.”

    If we are discussing behavior, then that has to be true. IMO, there is a clear delineation between identity and behavior so there is a clear delineation between gay identity and homosexual behavior.

    (It’s interesting (to me at least) that you wrote “A heterosexual” instead of just “heterosexual”.)

    A person, no matter what their sexual self-identity, is not required to engage in sexual behavior. Nor are they required to engage in the sexual desire that seems strongest.

    If I self-identify as a lion, a tiger, or a bear (oh, my) does that make me a one? Of course not.

    This aspect of self-identity only seems to be relevant sexually. If I self-identify as gay, I must be a homosexual.

    Does that mean someone is not gay because they don’t self-identify as one even if they engage exclusively in homosexual behavior ?

    Is a man who self-identifies as gay but marries and remains sexually faithful to his wife throughout their marriage a homosexual? He must be since he self-identifies as gay even if he behaves counter to that self-identity.

  31. Angus says:

    Hi Toddes.
    I am having trouble understanding parts of your post. Perhaps I can better explain what I’m saying about ‘self-identification’. By that I mean any number of ways we form an idea of who we are (and we all do this). Someone might be ‘American’ / ‘male’ / ‘Jewish’ / ‘father’ / ‘lawyer’, etc, etc. Some are more fundamental categories than others. Some are more ‘arbitrary’ than others. It’s also clear that how we behave may or may not reflect how we self-identify, although usually there’s a reasonable degree of consistency (extreme cases of divergence may cause mental or emotional instability).
    How we ‘construct ourselves’ is rarely conscious or even explicit (to us), because identity is formed socially and implicitly. But our self-identity might become more obvious when it conflicts or contrasts with others. This often happens with minorities, who are more conscious of their identity as members of a minority because, yes, they stand out. Clearly someone who is attracted to a person of the same sex would feel this conflict with the norm. That makes them more aware of their sexuality than the rest of us, who are the norm and take it for granted.
    No one is forced (against their will) to act on a ‘self-identity’. But if part of being human is forming intimate family bonds, many gay people would feel that to live as a (normal) human means the capacity to form a relationship with a person they fall in love with. The alternative (celibacy – without a gift of) amounts to saying that every time they do fall in love they must (always) walk away from the future of a life with someone they love; the kind of life partnership most of us dream about and have the freedom to live out.
    I don’t know if that helps, but I hope you see I’m not talking about tigers and bears!

  32. Fleegman says:

    Toddes,

    IMO, there is a clear delineation between identity and behavior so there is a clear delineation between gay identity and homosexual behavior.

    You really believe that you were not heterosexual until you has sex with a woman?

    Please look up the words “heterosexual” and “homosexual.” I think you may find it instructive.

    It’s not about the act of sex.

  33. deleted at commenter's request says:

    Comment deleted by request of the person who left it here.

  34. Tom Gilson says:

    Comment deleted: it was a response to the previous one that was deleted at the commenter’s request.

  35. Tom Gilson says:

    Fleegman, if the discussion here were about proclivities with no reference to acts, there would be no need for this discussion.

  36. Tom Gilson says:

    Angus, what is marriage, in your view?

  37. Ben says:

    Tom,

    I didn’t actually hear Snider make an argument in his speech, nor did he call his rhetoric an argument in the clip provided. It was all rhetoric—and somewhat effective rhetoric, I don’t mind saying. I don’t know, maybe you don’t like rhetoric. But it won’t do to try to extract from it an argument that doesn’t exist.

    You describe what you call Snider’s argument as having “unstated, unargued, unsupportable premises.” This should have been a big clue that it wasn’t actually Snider’s argument!

    Still, I understand some of your frustration. Unlike civil rights, the Bible really does condemn homosexuality, and quite blatantly. For heaven’s sake, it has God commanding the Hebrews to bludgeon them to death with rocks! That’s how clear the Bible is about it.

    On the other hand, there is a big difference between concluding that homosexuality is sinful and deciding to oppose gay marriage legislation. But let’s go ahead and grant that leap for now.

    Take from Snider’s rhetoric what you will. For my own part, it just reminds me of how out of touch evangelical Christians can be. They follow a religion which instructs them to oppose legislation which would improve the well-being of a great many homosexuals by allowing them to marry each other. I think that’s sad, and it does indeed conjure up memories of the right-wing separatists from the 1950s and 1960s. To insist that yes, your holy book really does say those things this time—well, maybe that’s true, but it’s hardly a defense.

    Thanks for the blog post.

  38. Tom Gilson says:

    And thanks for the response, Ben. You have effectively echoed the same rhetorical point, sans actual information, that Snider did: that the Bible is worthy of ridicule. You did it your uninformed way, he did it his, and I suppose each of you in your own way is effective.

    As for me I prefer not to deal in that kind of distortion.

    Anyway, please tell me: what in your opinion is marriage?

  39. Ben says:

    Tom,

    Nowhere did I state that the Bible is worthy of ridicule. Nor do I see how I distorted any information.

    However I did present some relevant information, for instance how Snider didn’t offer the argument you attributed to him in the clip. I also mentioned that the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality as sinful, and that this does not necessarily mean Christians ought to oppose gay marriage legislation. So when you suggest that my comment was given “sans actual information,” well, I must disagree.

    If you think that my statements are somehow false or uninformed, then you are welcome to explain why. But they seem to me pretty obviously true. Maybe it’s just my emphasis that you don’t like, but the facts themselves are quite plain.

    As for your question, well, I’m really only familiar with marriage in the United States. Up until recently this has consisted of a legal, social and usually religious romantic union between a man and woman who are planning to spend the rest of their lives together, usually in a monogamous lifestyle. With the rise of the gay rights movement, this conception has been expanded to include the union of homosexual couples.

    Thanks,
    Ben

  40. Tom Gilson says:

    Ben,

    Snider made a point. I analyzed the manner in which he made it. I described it as “his argument (such as it is).” If it bothers you that I used the term argument for that, then I’m sorry about that; for what I was really trying to accomplish was to show that there was no argument there after all. There was only theater—though the thoughtless, unreflective viewer might have gone away thinking there had been an argument made.

    Satisfied?

    I don’t oppose gay “marriage” on the grounds that homosexuality is sinful, but rather on the grounds that two people of the same sex cannot be married without doing severe and harmful violation to marriage itself.

    Your definition of marriage is wildly inaccurate with respect to the way it has been defined “up until now,” unless you mean “from a couple of decades ago, in certain limited sectors of society, up until now.”

    Up until just a few years ago (and even since then for a majority of Americans), starting hundreds or thousands of years ago, in the United States and virtually every society around the world, marriage has been defined as a committed union of man and wife with a view toward procreation.

    Do you recognize that as reality? If so we can proceed from there. If not we can proceed anyway, but it would help if we started on a common ground of historical and anthropological accuracy.

  41. Ben says:

    Tom,

    Well I’m glad we agree that Snider did not make an argument in the clip. I wish we could also agree that I really did present relevant information in my comments above, and that I did not distort any of the facts. But oh well.

    Moving on, you said:

    “I don’t oppose gay ‘marriage’ on the grounds that homosexuality is sinful, but rather on the grounds that two people of the same sex cannot be married without doing severe and harmful violation to marriage itself.”

    I’m curious, why do you think that preserving your vision of marriage is more important than granting people of all sexual orientations the means to share more fully in each other’s lives? It seems to me that helping committed homosexual couples enjoy their lives together should be a much higher priority than catering to your personal socio-religious preferences.

    You also said that my definition of marriage in the United States was “wildly inaccurate,” but you declined to mention what you thought was inaccurate about it. You agree that it has been understood as a legal union, right? And that it is a social union? And that it has a romantic component? That, until recently, it has occurred between a man and woman (or wife, if you prefer)? That they intend to spend the rest of their lives together? That they usually intend monogamy? That, at least until recently, they usually understood their marriage in light of their religion? Surely none of these obvious characteristics are in dispute.

    The only thing you added was that it has “a view toward procreation.” And you asked me if I recognize this characterization as being real. Well, I agree that this has usually been the case, though certainly not always. And that procreative view has been losing much ground recently, as an increasingly significant percentage of married couples in the United States neither procreate nor wish to procreate.

    So the only thing I can see you taking issue with is my statement that, since the rise of the gay rights movement, marriage in the United States has been expanded to include those unions of homosexual couples. Now, you may not like this change, but I don’t see how you can deny it has taken place.

    With all that in mind, I have to wonder, why would you say that my definition of marriage in the United States is “wildly inaccurate”?

  42. Tom Gilson says:

    Ben,

    First, your view of marriage is first of all indeed wildly inaccurate with respect to history and global anthropology. That’s an empirical fact. The vast majority of cultures, past and present, with the exception of the very recent West (and very, very few other exceptions), have viewed marriage as a more or less permanent and exclusive commitment of man and wife with a view to procreation. That’s what I actually did not decline to explain in my previous comment.

    You say,

    So the only thing I can see you taking issue with is my statement that, since the rise of the gay rights movement, marriage in the United States has been expanded to include those unions of homosexual couples. Now, you may not like this change, but I don’t see how you can deny it has taken place.

    Actually I can quite accurately deny that it has taken place, except as a legal fiction (a legal error, actually) in a minority of jurisdictions.

    You also understate this to an extent that ought to be embarrassing to you:

    The only thing you added was that it has “a view toward procreation.” And you asked me if I recognize this characterization as being real. Well, I agree that this has usually been the case, though certainly not always.

    If by “usually” you mean, everywhere in all of history throughout the world with but rare exceptions throughout all time until about 10-15 years ago, then I would agree; but that’s not how we usually mean “usually.” I think you’re playing all too casually with your factual base when you say “usually” in that context.

    But I do agree that it has been understood as a legal union and a social union. I agree that in most cultures it’s been understood to have a romantic component. You’re right, we’re not in dispute about that much of it.

    But there are many legal unions: business partnerships, for example; so “legal union” could hardly be the definition of marriage. There are many social unions: great friendships are common. There are many romantic unions, the stuff of novels and TV shows, not all involving the public exchange of vows. So “social” or “romantic” union could never define marriage.

    And if a legal, social, romantic union were the definition of marriage, then I don’t know why “couple” must also be a part of it. Why not “triad”? I don’t know why “not blood related” must also be a part of the definition, either.

    Note that I’m not raising a slippery-slope argument with those questions. I could, and I have elsewhere, and there is such a thing as a validly formed slippery-slope argument, but I’m not doing so now. What I’m asking for is a way to understand marriage on your terms that provides a consistent and principled reason to limit it to two consenting non-blood related adults.

    And then I’d like to know what it is about those relationships that calls for government endorsement, regulation, or recognition. The government gets involved in legal unions for obvious reasons. It does not get involved in friendships, and it does not regulate romantic affairs.

    This is a bigger question than you might expect me to be asking. It’s not, why would the government permit SSM? but if marriage is defined as you would define it, what interest would the state have in it in the first place? Why should it recognize any marriage whatsoever? Why would it involve itself, as governments (or their analogs or equivalents) have done virtually everywhere?

    From the view of man-woman marriage, that question is not hard to answer. It’s because there is a broad societal and therefore state interest at stake there, which is unique to marriage, and which does not exist in other forms of friendship or other sexual relationships. Society is served well when children are raised by their biological parents: when there is legal support for the maintenance of the relationship; the reliable identification of the father and his continuing presence in the home; the stable economic and social relationships that are so produced; the comprehensive unity of the man and the woman, providing identity as well as emotional and economic security to the children, and so on. The long-known result of this is stronger individuals, stronger communities, a stronger economy, less crime, and on and on.

    This (to borrow a phrase from Aquinas) all men call marriage. All women, too. There is a reason nothing else has been called marriage until a hair’s-breadth of history ago, and why governments have never felt the need to regulate any other human relationship in the way they have done with marriage: it’s because nothing but man-woman marriage meets the unique description of such a relationship.

    Marriage is unique in the eyes of government because marriage is unique in itself and in reality; and its special uniqueness is that it is a relational arrangement fitted for the generation and upbringing of the next people to populate the earth.

    The procreative view has indeed been losing ground lately, as you rightly say. The reasons for that predate the homosexual rights movement by several decades. Sex happens without marriage and without without children, marriage happens without children (intentionally and not just due to infertility), and the link between marriage and procreation has been loosened. And look at how much good it’s done. For its most obviously tragic effect, look at what’s happened in American inner cities, where procreation has been separated from marriage.

    I’m as opposed to the denuding of the meaning of heterosexual marriage as I am to the imposition of a homosexual component upon the term. It’s another battle to be fought with another strategy. It’s not the current target of legal assault, so there’s no strategic gains to be effected by mounting a legal defense of it. The better approach—one which churches and ministries are undertaking everywhere—is to support and defend marriages themselves, couple by couple and community by community. It’s no less important in the long run than the SSM issue, but it’s more in the background, because there’s no loud voice as there is in the pro-SSM community making noise about it in the foreground.

    I do not mean to say that procreation is the sole defining characteristic of marriage, but it is its most unique distinctive, it is that which makes it most fitting to be considered a lifelong comprehensive union it has always been thought to be, and it is that which explains why the government has an interest in it as opposed to all other social or romantic relationships.

  43. Ben says:

    Tom,

    I’m having trouble understanding your objections. On one hand, you still insist that my definition of marriage in the United States is “wildly inaccurate.” But on the other hand, you agree that “we’re not in dispute about that much of it.” Perhaps you could clarify what you mean by these things.

    You also claim that you have already explained how you think my definition is so inaccurate. I’m sorry, though, but I just don’t see it. You apparently agree with almost everything I wrote about marriage, except you complain that my view is too broad. But none of your examples actually apply to my definition. I did not, as you imply, write that all legal unions are marriages. Nor did I say that all social unions are marriages. Etc.

    And if you were concerned about broadness, then consider that you took away plenty from my definition, including the legal, romantic and religious components. For instance, what about a committed male/female couple who unite by living together and having children, but neither legally nor religiously contract their union? They would fit your definition of marriage, but not mine. So it seems like, between our two definitions, yours is the one that’s too broad.

    In any case, the only thing you added was a “view toward procreation.” That’s fine as long as we understand that this procreative view is not essential to marriages. Contrary to your suggestion that it is rare for marriages not to have a view to procreation, in fact a whopping 52.7% of married couples in the United States did not have children in the 2000 census, up from 51.5% in 1990 (source). Now, granted, perhaps a large portion of these childless married couples may not have intended to be childless. But certainly many of them planned to be childless all along. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of married couples, here!

    Now, maybe this is a recent phenomenon. Personally, I doubt it, but then I only have stats going back to 1990. However, even if it is recent, well, recent or not, it is the current reality, and has been for decades.

    That said, let me try to answer a couple of your questions. You wrote:

    “What I’m asking for is a way to understand marriage on your terms that provides a consistent and principled reason to limit it to two consenting non-blood related adults.”

    That’s just what most of us would like to see. We don’t want polygamy or incest. As far as I know, we need no better reason than that. And I don’t see any reason to limit it further.

    You continue:

    “…if marriage is defined as you would define it, what interest would the state have in it in the first place? Why should it recognize any marriage whatsoever? Why would it involve itself, as governments (or their analogs or equivalents) have done virtually everywhere?”

    The state is interested in the well-being of its citizens, right? This fits the bill. The well-being of homosexuals is served, at minimal cost, by legislating gay marriage.

    Historically, though, the state has become involved because it is more specifically charged to protect the rights of its citizens. Gay marriage is seen as a right, and denial as discrimination based on sexual orientation. For my own part, I disagree that it is a right, and so I don’t think this motivation is well-founded. But the fact remains, the state is interested, good reason or no.

  44. Tom Gilson says:

    Ben, I’m about to head off to bed, and I’ve actually only read the first line or so of your last comment because it’s late here. But really, I have to ask you to check yourself on this:

    I’m having trouble understanding your objections. On one hand, you still insist that my definition of marriage in the United States is “wildly inaccurate.” But on the other hand, you agree that “we’re not in dispute about that much of it.” Perhaps you could clarify what you mean by these things.

    If we’re going to have a reasonable discussion about these things, I’m going to have to read what you write, and you’re going to have to read what I write. Now, I’ve already admitted I haven’t read all you wrote just now. You, on the other hand, are acting as if you have read what I wrote. But I did not write that your definition of marriage in the United States is wildly inaccurate. Not even close. See my first paragraph, please. It’s not exactly hidden in an obscure place, you know.

    So when the time comes for me to join in with you on further discussion, after a night’s rest and whatever I do in the morning, can we agree not to misread the other person so incredibly obviously, please?

  45. Ben says:

    Tom,

    You wrote in your previous comment:

    “First, your view of marriage is first of all indeed wildly inaccurate with respect to history and global anthropology.”

    And in the comment before that:

    “Your definition of marriage is wildly inaccurate with respect to the way it has been defined ‘up until now,’ unless you mean ‘from a couple of decades ago, in certain limited sectors of society, up until now.'”

    So I’m not sure how you think I’m misreading you “so incredibly obviously,” here. If you don’t think my definition was “wildly inaccurate,” then that’s very good! It’s one less thing we disagree about. But then I’m at a loss to explain the meaning of the quotations above.

  46. Tom Gilson says:

    I did not, Ben, insist that your definition of marriage in the United States was wildly inaccurate. I said that your view of marriage is wildly inaccurate with respect to history and global anthropology. I said,

    The vast majority of cultures, past and present, with the exception of the very recent West (and very, very few other exceptions), have viewed marriage as a more or less permanent and exclusive commitment of man and wife with a view to procreation.

    Do you see the difference? I wasn’t talking about “in the United States;” so I could not have been criticizing your definition “in the United States.”

  47. Tom Gilson says:

    Also, Ben, when I said we’re not in dispute over that much of it, the antecedent to which “that much” referred should have been grammatically clear in context:

    I do agree that it has been understood as a legal union and a social union. I agree that in most cultures it’s been understood to have a romantic component.

    From there I went on to demonstrate how legal/social/romantic relationships do not constitute marriage or anything like it, which means that marriage cannot be accurately defined in those terms alone; there must be something more to its definition than that, which is family and children. (I developed that argument earlier so I won’t do it again here. And of course there’s more in your most recent comments for me to respond to than just this.)

  48. Tom Gilson says:

    Ben,

    Here’s what’s going to be very interesting to discuss concerning the definition of marriage:

    In any case, the only thing you added was a “view toward procreation.” That’s fine as long as we understand that this procreative view is not essential to marriages.

    I would say that the procreative view is essential to the definition of marriage, even if some individual marriages don’t include children.

    But I’m getting ready to explain the reason for that in a new blog post, after allowing time for discussion on last night’s post, so I won’t go into it here. I know, I’m the one who started us down this path, and I hope you’ll understand and forgive me for throwing a few days’ delay into the discussion, but this comes as a result of some other reading I’m doing. I think in the end we’ll have a better conversation, having had a chance to discuss what it is about SSM that makes sense to its proponents, and only then talking about where I think it goes wrong.

  49. Ben says:

    Tom,

    I don’t mind the delay. I’m happy to enjoy our conversation at whatever pace it takes.

    I’m glad you don’t think my view of marriage in the United States is “wildly inaccurate” after all. Please keep in mind that I declined to offer a more general definition of marriage to be applied to all times and places in history. So I could not have possibly gotten that wrong, because I didn’t say anything about it in the first place!

    So I guess you’re concerned that marriage throughout other times and places in history has differed dramatically from marriage in the United States today. I don’t doubt this is true, although I would expect the same to be true for any particular historical context.

    But let’s go ahead and assume for the sake of argument that marriage has been pretty much fixed and constant in terms of its characteristics and functions, up to the modern era when it began to change. Again, I think that sounds pretty far-fetched, but I’m willing to assume it is true for the sake of argument.

    What is it you want to infer from this assumption?

    Anyway, you wrote:

    “From there I went on to demonstrate how legal/social/romantic relationships do not constitute marriage or anything like it, which means that marriage cannot be accurately defined in those terms alone; there must be something more to its definition than that, which is family and children.”

    And I have already reminded you that I did not characterize marriage only in those terms. Here is what I actually said: Up until recently this has consisted of a legal, social and usually religious romantic union between a man and woman who are planning to spend the rest of their lives together, usually in a monogamous lifestyle. With the rise of the gay rights movement, this conception has been expanded to include the union of homosexual couples. You mentioned the legal/social/romantic components, but you neglected the components of religion, lifelong commitment and monogamy. I think you would be hard-pressed to find an example of a union satisfying all my criteria which is not a marriage.

    Still, I’m happy to concede that my definition may need some refinement. Certainly yours does, as I illustrated with the example of the intentionally-childless couple. But refinements are often required when constructing definitions. And moreover, a “view to procreation” won’t do the job, since as we have seen, many married couples never have that view. My main concern before was that you appeared to be saying that my definition was “wildly inaccurate.” Now that you (apparently) agree it is not inaccurate after all, we can hopefully move on.

    In your latest reply you insist that a view to procreation is indeed essential to the definition of marriage. However you must not be using the word “essential” in the same way I used it. For when I say that “this procreative view is not essential to marriages,” I mean precisely that it is possible for the procreative view to be missing from a union, and yet that union still be a marriage. This plain fact seems hard to deny, since many couples marry who never intend (and never do) procreate.

    If you think that a view to procreation is “essential” in some other sense of the word, then I’d be curious to hear how. For example, maybe you think that even though many individual marriages lack a view to procreation, nevertheless they cannot be marriages unless some other marriages have that view to procreation. But then I don’t see how that would help your case against legislating homosexual marriages.

    Or maybe you have something else in mind. I guess I’ll find out soon!

    Thanks,
    Ben

  50. Tom Gilson says:

    Ben, would you please read what I write? Please? I have moved beyond asking. Now I am imploring you.

    You say,

    I’m glad you don’t think my view of marriage in the United States is “wildly inaccurate” after all.

    I didn’t say that. (This is not the first time I’ve re-explained this.) I said I was not talking about your view of marriage in the United States. How could you have any idea whether I think your view on that is accurate or not, when I haven’t said anything about it?

    The irony is this: you go on to tell me,

    Please keep in mind that I declined to offer a more general definition of marriage to be applied to all times and places in history. So I could not have possibly gotten that wrong, because I didn’t say anything about it in the first place!

    You’re aware of what it means not to say something about a given subject. Why not apply that same principle to what I haven’t said about a given subject?

    I think we have real potential for a good conversation here, but only if you read what I write. If I’m unclear on something, feel free to ask what I meant. But I wasn’t unclear about these things, you just put words in my mouth, and I’ve had to correct you on that repeatedly. It gets boring after a while, you know, and it goes nowhere. It goes nowhere slowly.

    Now even though I’m going to pick up this discussion with another blog post, I do owe you a response to this, since apparently I missed something earlier.

    And I have already reminded you that I did not characterize marriage only in those terms. Here is what I actually said: Up until recently this has consisted of a legal, social and usually religious romantic union between a man and woman who are planning to spend the rest of their lives together, usually in a monogamous lifestyle. With the rise of the gay rights movement, this conception has been expanded to include the union of homosexual couples. You mentioned the legal/social/romantic components, but you neglected the components of religion, lifelong commitment and monogamy. I think you would be hard-pressed to find an example of a union satisfying all my criteria which is not a marriage.

    I’m looking for an essential definition of marriage, something that would provide us with a principled base for decision-making on what constitutes marriage and what doesn’t. When you qualified some of your terms with “usually,” I figured they were not part of the essential set of defining characteristics for marriage, in your mind. That’s why I left out the parts about religion and monogamy in my response to you.

    I’ll have to admit I missed the part about “planning to spend the rest of their lives together,” and I apologize for not including that part. I’ll ask the questions I asked before, amending it with that in mind: what is it about a lifelong social/romantic commitment to spend lives together that calls for government endorsement in the first place? What interest does the state have in marriage, if that’s what it’s about? And why not extend it to include polygamy and incest? You said in response to that:

    That’s just what most of us would like to see. We don’t want polygamy or incest. As far as I know, we need no better reason than that. And I don’t see any reason to limit it further.

    I trust you can see that “we don’t want polygamy or incest” (whoever that “we” might be, it’s not clear to me who you meant) fails to reach the status of a principled explanation for why your definition of marriage should exclude polygamy or incest. Remember, there was a time in the not-distant past (less than half my own lifetime ago) when “most of us” didn’t want gay “marriage.” Actually that’s still the case, according to the polls. Nevertheless a person like you and many others can take it up as if it were a civil right. So what “most of us” want has little to do with what history eventually produces.

    Further, there are a small but significant number of people who do want polygamy, who want bestiality, who even want incest, who want pedophilia. They are not very prominent in the social and legal discussion sphere today. In 1990 the people who wanted gays to be able to marry weren’t very prominent in the social and legal spheres, either. Again, this shows that the “most of us” answer fails to provide anything like a solid definition of marriage, one which can in principle define marriage to include gay couples but exclude triads, brothers marrying sisters, sister marrying sisters, and whole clans marrying each other in a polygamous relationship.

    If you are going to say that those relationships are not marriages, or ought not be recognized by the state as marriages, you need to answer the question, “why not?”

    I am not saying that to raise fears about a slippery slope. (I could do that, but I’m not going to do that here.) I’m saying it to try to help you see that you haven’t yet delivered a solid and defensible definition of marriage, one that accomplishes what you yourself seem to want to accomplish. You want to limit it to two non-blood-related adults. I can’t see any principled reason for that in your approach. That’s the problem I’m going to continue working on, mostly in the yet-to-be-written blog post.

  51. Ben says:

    Tom,

    I’m doing my best to understand you here, but it’s proving rather difficult. So let me see if I can get some things cleared up.

    Now, you spent a good deal of time explaining that you do not object to most of the characteristics I listed in my definition of marriage in the United States. Namely, you wrote:

    “But I do agree that it has been understood as a legal union and a social union. I agree that in most cultures it’s been understood to have a romantic component. You’re right, we’re not in dispute about that much of it.”

    Evidently, you also agree with the lifelong commitment part, and presumably you agree with the monogamous and religious components too.

    What’s more, when I expressed surprise at your intimation that my definition is “wildly inaccurate,” you vehemently complained that you never accused me of having a wildly inaccurate definition. In particular, you wrote:

    “I did not, Ben, insist that your definition of marriage in the United States was wildly inaccurate.”

    If you don’t want me to conclude from all this that you agree my definition is not wildly inaccurate, then I really think you should say so. Because it sure looks like you agree with me on these hopefully uncontroversial points!

    So which is it? Do you think my characterization of marriage in the United States is wildly inaccurate or not? Or are you undecided? And if you think my view is wildly inaccurate, then kindly explain how.

    I don’t mind clearing up miscommunications. They happen from time to time, and that’s just how these things go. But I’d like not to spend so much time on them. There are more interesting things to discuss, if you’re up for it.

    One of those interesting things is the “principled reason” you seek for excluding polygamy and incest from marriage, and which you talked about in your latest comment.

    First of all, you wondered what precisely I mean by the terms “us”/”we.” Well, I mean the citizens of the United States.

    Second, you claim that my given reason, popular demand among citizens, “fails to reach the status of a principled explanation.” That may be so. For I don’t really know what you mean by the term “principled” in this context. Perhaps you could explain what exactly you are looking for.

    Whatever kind of reason you have in mind, I’m curious whether or not you think we really need that kind of reason instead of just popular preference such as I described. If so, then what makes you think that? And if not, then why does the issue matter to you?

    Finally, you wrote:

    “…you haven’t yet delivered a solid and defensible definition of marriage, one that accomplishes what you yourself seem to want to accomplish.”

    All I want to accomplish is to capture the meaning of the term. That’s what definitions do, right? And it seems to me that I have given a satisfactory definition of marriage in the United States. So far your only relevant criticism has been that my definition did not include a view to procreation. But as we have seen, this is not required for marriage to be marriage, and so that criticism doesn’t work. (You have attempted other criticisms too, but as explained previously, these do not apply to the definition I actually gave.)

    If you have any other criticisms of my definition, then by all means lay them out. But so far, the only thing you have said which actually addresses the definition I gave has been about procreation, and I’ve responded to that already.

    Regards,
    Ben

  52. Tom Gilson says:

    For the last time, Ben:

    You said I had called your definition of marriage in the United States wildly inaccurate. I did not do that, because I did not comment on your definition of marriage in the United States.

    Let me recap: In #42 I put my criticism in context of world history, not the United States’ current culture. In #44 I reiterated that point. Perhaps at that point you thought I was misunderstanding your comment or its context. That would have been an opportunity to say, hey Tom, you thought I was talking about x, but I really was saying y. I could have corrected whatever misunderstanding I was laboring under.

    In #46 I was even more clear on the fact that I wasn’t commenting on your definition of marriage in the United States. In #48 that was the only thing I said. In #52 I got on my metaphorical knees and begged you to read what I wrote.

    Let me be more specific. I said I had not criticized your definition of marriage in the U.S. You asked me on what grounds I was criticizing your definition of marriage in the U.S. I repeated that I had not done so.

    Now, at some point if you were reading what I wrote your question should have changed from ignoring my response to questioning it, and asking why we had this disconnect. But you just kept on asking why I was doing claiming something, which I kept denying I was claiming. To ignore my assertions in that way is discourteous and destroys communication.

    This is no longer a discussion of SSM. It’s a discussion that has stalled over your persistent inability to read. That’s an important matter, because it’s the essential basis for every fruitful conversation. That’s why I thought it worth it to pursue it for a few rounds. My attempts to get you on to quit distorting my words have sadly failed. To keep trying would annoy other readers—as I’m sure it already has—so I’m going to call it off.

    I have nothing further to say to you on this thread.

  53. Ben says:

    Tom,

    It looks to me like the distortion is on your end, not mine. Perhaps instead of insulting me over my alleged “inability to read,” you should go back and look yourself at what has been said. For example, despite your insistence to the contrary, I have questioned your response on multiple occasions, and you have repeatedly declined to explain yourself, instead tossing around thinly-veiled insults and irrelevant criticisms of things I never wrote.

    If you ever feel like answering those questions, or actually addressing what I’ve written, I’d be more than happy to pick up our conversation again. But as long as you don’t want to do that, then I agree it is best that the conversation stop here.

    Regards,
    Ben

  54. Tom Gilson says:

    I’m confident I misunderstood you in one way or another, Ben. I know you misunderstood me. When you “questioned my response,” some of it involved questions about why I had said something which in fact I had never said. I hope we can reset and do better on the next try. I still think we can have an interesting and fruitful discussion.

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