You Love Chicken? If So, You Must Be A "Hater"

As the controversy over Chick-fil-A continues, I have noticed something that has been reoccurring.  Ad Hominem reasoning has been really active lately.  

Ad Hominem reasoning is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by not confronting the claim itself but by pointing out a perceived or realistic negative characteristic in the person making the assertion in order to negate or dismiss their claim. In other words, Ad Hominem reasoning occurs when you attack your opponents personality and character rather than engaging in the argument at hand.  Ad Hominem reasoning says, “You are not loving, therefore, what you are saying is simply not true.”

Here is how Ad Hominem reasoning works!  With the heated Chick-Fil-A debate it seems that when a traditional-marriage person offers up an insight or opinion there is a quick response by some to label him or her a, "hater."  Personally I believe the term, "hater," is an overused word that allows for individuals to avoid rich and civil conversation in light of well structured reasoning, facts and insights.  Jumping to label someone a, "hater," is an easy way to slap a label on someone in order to avoid healthy debate and proper understanding.  Keep in mind that understanding must always precede criticism.  

For example, let's say that John is in the midst of a civil debate with Susan on the issue of marriage.  During the conversation John offers an important factually grounded statement that Susan has not considered.  After making the statement Susan fires back, "Why on earth am I dealing or talking to you.  People like you are narrow-minded and I simply refuse to be the target of your hate, condemnation and false hurtful reasoning!"  John has just received Ad Hominem reasoning.    

Ad Hominem reasoning is most painful and detrimental for both parties because:  
  1. It moves the discussion away from a specific subject to personal attacks.
  2. Typically, once the "Ad Hominem" shift has happened the other person in the conversation retaliates back with a personal attack, thus increasing hostility in the discussion.
  3. It avoids addressing the issue at hand, it is a tactic to dodge the real issue.
  4. Often times personal characteristic that have no relationship towards a particular subject are used as basis to validate assertions as true or false.
  5. It can be used as a justification why a person is believed to be wrong.  
Now keep in mind that there are times when a person is truly a jerk yet their argument and position are true.  There are also times when a person is a perfect sweet angel and their argument is dead wrong.  In other words, one does not have to be nice to be right and one does not have to be mean to be wrong.  

So keep in mind that just because a person is very loving, it doesn't mean that they are right.  Furthermore, just because a person is a jerk or may be a hater, it doesn't mean that they are wrong.  

So, do you like Chicken?  If you do, don't worry, that does not make you a hater.    

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Matt said…
I agree. However, you also have to look at why ad hominem are being used. Usually ad hominem attacks either vent frustration or unify one's own supporters in an argument. As a means of winning people from the other side to one's own point of view, such attacks are generally useless.

In the case of same-sex marriage, however, these attacks are working. Why? I believe there are two reasons:

1: The liberal churches claim in one way or another that they are "following the Gospel imperative." And a quick glance would seem to say that they are proclaiming Gospel at the expense of Law. In reality, they are proclaiming a different kind of Law, a law of self esteem. Christ died to show how much He loved the world. He loves you just as you are. etc. If the purpose of the Gospel is to make one feel good about the self then the preaching of the Law is not a confrontation of sin but looks like an attack on the essence of the person. By allowing them to define Gospel in this manner, we have opened ourselves to an affective ad hominem attack because the perception of the public is that we fired the first volley by attacking the homosexual's personal esteem.

2: Unfortunately, in response, instead of properly defining and defending Gospel, we have responded almost entirely with Law. This is one area in which the conservative Church seems to skip straight from 2nd use of the Law to 3rd use of the Law without the application of the Gospel in between. In fact, it seems that, in our desire to encourage sanctification, instead of proclaiming the Gospel we have, strangely, turned to the first use of the Law, as if the government, by defining marriage, keeping gays out of the military, etc. could produce sanctification in society. Such a perception only adds weight to argument that we are "haters" who desire the government control behavior while we are unwilling to forgive.

The situation at this point has never been more dire. The options and resources available are quickly disappearing.

3 years ago Focus on the Family transferred its "Love Won Out" series to Exodus international. Though not completely silent on the issue of homosexuality, FotF's outreach to those who face homosexual temptation and their families now is greatly reduced.

2 years ago Willow Creek severed its ties with Exodus, only one of a number of mega-churches and non-denominational churches which distanced themselves from the topic of homosexuality altogether.

This last summer Exodus itself severed ties with NARTH and all forms of reparative therapy while moving to a Gospel reductionist stand in several interviews Exodus president Alan chambers had with the national press. This also resulted in Dr. Robert Gagnon, one of the foremost authorities on the Scriptures and homosexuality severing his ties with Exodus.

At the same time, recent joint statements released by the LCMS and other denominations/religions on the subject of same-sex marriage have included no Gospel.

In other words, for the first time in 40 years there is no cohesive public proclamation of Law and Gospel on the subject of homosexuality by any organization in this country.

In such a context, the ad hominem attack "haters" is effective and will probably continue to be used.

Some very good thoughts that you offer to this conversation! Kudos to you!

Just a thought why there is such a response of Law to homosexuality as you have shared.

It seems to me that within our culture the fight is not on how a person struggling with homosexuality can find rest in the Gospel. Rather the issue with homosexuality is a much more fundamental issue, a very basic question of whether or not homosexuality is a sin or not, thus the argument has drifted toward the dimension of Law alone.

For example, take a 14 year old boy who may be struggling with homosexual thoughts. If he goes online what is he going to see? He is going to see a fight on the issue of whether or not he should feel ashamed or not. Should he consider his situation as a struggle or should he consider it o.k? How does he make sense of his conscience and all the talk? Are the inclinations and his actions wrong or not?

The sad reality is that many churches and groups that would consider themselves to be 'strong on the Gospel' in the area of homosexuality would actually deny him the Gospel. They would appeal to a generic 'love' and would deny him the Gospel because they would say that he has not sinned. Furthermore, they would deny him the Gospel because they would say that he has nothing to be ashamed of or be afraid of. According to some churches, why give the Gospel and why look for absolution when homosexuality is not a sin nor a breaking of God's Law?

I resonate with your comments that the church needs a Law and Gospel approach. I believe we are failing in this area for two reasons:

1) Those of the Liberal persuasion have lost their moral compass in realizing that homosexuality is a sin. No sin = no need for the Gospel.

2) Those of the Conservative persuasion fail many times to grant absolution to those who have been crushed by their sin of homosexuality. They point out sin by the Law but then fail to pronounce the Gospel.

You are right on that we need a Law AND Gospel response. Law to convict of sin. The Gospel to absolve the sin. The Gospel to sanctify. This would be the same solution and approach to heterosexual sins that are also so common and just as much a problem.

Great thoughts!