Today is a good day to consider one of my favorite quotes: “inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument”. When facing controversial topics in this week’s news cycle such as the Confederate Flag and Same Sex Marriage, I suggest to keep a few things in mind that may save some time, pain, and reputation.
Is arguing with everyone profitable?
It seems to me that in general when it comes to debating arguments, there are two types of people: those who are willing to listen and consider, and those who no matter what, will stick to their pre-established opinion. Arguing with the latter, is usually a waste of time and a trap to fall into losing your mind –and temper; arguing with the former, has the potential of bearing some fruit. Therefore, I would suggest focusing on interchanging ideas with one who is willing to civilly and decently speak, listen and consider, and also, I suggest to strive to be one who’s civility and decency to speak and listen encourages others to dialog. Especially if you are a Christian, be aware and avoid the point in which your desire to argue for the truth, can quickly become the destruction of your and Christianity’s reputation.
Focus on form just as much as content.
It’s been said that people have the ability of cursing you and still make you feel good; or others, the ability to yelling at you, punching you in the face, stealing your lunch, and still somehow make you feel like asking for forgiveness. I hope these two make sense as analogies pointing to this skill of expressing opposing views accurately enough (content) while still having such grace and respect (form) that the other person doesn’t feel the need to raise a barrier of defense and ignore what you said. I‘ve noticed many times that the good content of someone’s message can be nullified by their bad form. I have also seen bad content being transmitted with such grace and politeness, that it makes the bad argument credible. I suggest to strive to communicate arguments without offensive words or calling names, avoiding exaggerated hyperbole and unnecessary diminishing comparisons. Especially if you are a Christian, I am not sure Jesus jumps with joy when you diminish, insult or offend someone.
Be consistent with your own arguments.
This is the heart of this writing. I have come to conclude that nothing shots someone off to hearing what you have to say, more than expressing irrational, incongruent or inconsistent arguments. Independently of how right or wrong your premise may be, being consistent may help you to make your point in a respectful way. Let me give you some examples, not without being upfront in that (1) every analogy falls somehow short from the complete intended meaning, and (2) I am not advocating for any particular idea below, but rather for a consistent presentation of whichever position one holds:
- There are some who oppose to “banning the confederate flag” (external), because “it is not going to solve the racism problem” (internal). However, often times they are the same who claim that we need to “ban Same Sex Marriage” (external), to solve the “gay problem” (internal). It sounds that either you stand for freedom for people to do what they want to do (fly flag and Same Sex Marriage), in spite of who may be offended, or ruling a prohibition of both…. And how this same argument principle could be carried out to other issues: crosses, Bibles and bumper stickers in public places, Gay pride rainbow flag etc.
- If you as a Christian advocate to change a law for freedom of religion, so that Christians can be legally allowed to pray in certain places or express their faith in certain ways, are you willing to concede the same liberties to Muslims, Mormons and …. Maybe Atheists? Or, if you oppose to –say, allowing the Quran to be studied at a schools, shouldn’t you be opposed to studying the Bible at schools?
- If you believe that Christianity’s central message is one of sacrifice, and you claim you would give anything up for the sake of Christ, would you be willing to give up the confederate flag, your right to oppose marriage for homosexuals or the rights to express your faith publicly, so that bridges of dialogue are built towards people of other color, sexual orientation and faiths?
Stand for what matters.
As I mentioned before, I am not necessarily advocating for either point necessarily. I know there are plenty of views about these three topics both in the public and political sphere, as well as within various religious schools of thought –many with good, reasonable, and convincing arguments. Nevertheless I wonder if for anyone who believes in Jesus as God in human body who came to save, the faithfulness and integrity of the Bible, the great commandment, the great commission, and the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, would be easier to communicate and reason with others the message of the Gospel, if he/she gives up certain rights –for the sake of a higher call of love.
Consider Paul, who circumcised Timothy, not because he had to (he had the right from God not to), but in order to create a bridge to the Jews, he chose to give up a right for a higher call of love (Acts 16:1-3). How many Jews came to faith in Jesus through this gesture who, ironically enough, understood they did not have to be circumcised?
I wonder, if Christians were willing to give up certain legal rights, how many people would, through that gesture, open their attention, and come to faith in Jesus, ultimately agreeing with those argued-over Biblical principles Christians stand for, not forced to obey, but willingly from their hearts.