Saturday, August 24, 2013

Terminology Matters

Warning: adult themes, potentially not safe for homeschoolers.

Thabiti Anyabwile has been catching all kinds of flak for this recent article (warning again - it's a very frank discussion of homosexuality, use discretion). To sum, he recounts a thinktank meeting years ago when he saw the tide turning towards pro-homosexuality, and what he thinks he should have done differently. He suggests that one way to counter the pro-homosexual agenda is to discuss it openly, describing in gory detail what actually occurs, and letting our collective gag reflex work.

Obviously the usual suspects have lined up to denounce him. But there's even been flak from solid quarters, such as Carl Trueman. So I'll try to explain why I think Thabiti has it right, starting by clarifying what he's not saying (if I'm reading him correctly).

Thabiti is not saying that morality is defined by what we find disgusting. He's not saying that our gag reflex always works as it should (sinful creatures that we are). He's not saying that our argument should be primarily or even largely aesthetic. While it is true that we all know sodomy and other homosexual acts are the perverse acting out of idolatry and we generally find them disgusting (see Romans 1), I don't think he's primarily arguing that the disgust makes or proves them to be wrong. He may be suggesting that the sense of disgust at homosex perversion is a residual effect of the imago dei, a warning from the conscience, but that does not seem his main point.

I think his main point is just this: the way we speak of something affects how people view it. That's it. If your opponent controls the terms, he wins the debate.

How many who are now scolding Thabiti use the same reasoning regarding another great evil, the child sacrifice known as abortion? They know full well that evil hides behind euphemisms. So "killing an unborn baby" becomes "aborting a fetus", "removing a blastocyte", or "women's rights". Only the most depraved would vote for a politician who is pro-sucking out a baby's brains before dismembering it and throwing it in the dumpster. But change the term to pro-choice, and suddenly we have a champion of freedom!

Similarly, who could be against 'love' or 'equal rights' or 'marital freedom'? But when you understand that what is really meant by those terms in this context is serial sodomy? It's a little more difficult to support a measure to treat two males violating each other anally as if they're the same as a man and woman in marital covenant. But if you let them hide their disgusting perverse acts behind the banner of 'freedom to love who I want', their evil can gain societal approval much more easily.

Describe evil for what it really is. The deeds of darkness hate the light, and thrive in the shadows. Why let them define the terms?

One more point - a common objection I've seen is that we should be more 'winsome'. The pro-sodomite won people over by being winsome, they say, and we need to outdo him; if we do as Thabiti suggests, we'll lose. Listen - it is impossible to be regarded as the more winsome when you are the one saying "No". Men passionately hate it when God says "No"; do you really think they'll take it well when the message is passed along from a fellow creature? If your idea is to be more kind and loving, absolutely. If you think we will ever be viewed as such, try it a few times and see what happens. Then feel free to join us in speaking the truth plainly.

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