80 Useless Questions on Marriage Equality

When conservatives and progressives go head-to-head, the church is always the loser. Also, logic takes a beating.

Last week, Kevin DeYoung wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition entitled, "40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags." I thought a handful of the questions were a bit dismissive or presumptuous, but overall, they seemed to be pointed yet fair and representative of most conservative Christians.

But instead of fostering dialogue, I mostly saw conservatives rabidly re-posting it as a less than charitable argument by assertion (which is a logical fallacy akin to declaring victory before the war has even begun).

Two days later, Matthew Vines wrote an article for Religion News Service entitled, "40 Questions for Christians Who Oppose Marriage Equality." Here again, most of the questions seemed reasonably pointed with a few presumptuous ones sprinkled in.

And just like their conservative counterparts, progressives chose to attack rather than communicate. They used this piece and many others like it as their formal response to DeYoung's article--which they likely never read in the first place.

I doubt most folks have read either one very carefully because, if they had, they'd realize how impotent such a deluge of questions actually is. Playing twenty questions (or in this case, forty) may seem thoughtful, comprehensive, and even formidable, but it only comes off as combative, reductionist, and obtuse. Your motive will be suspect, your knowledge of the subject will be called into question, and your voice will be lost in the vacuum of a self-important echo chamber.

For example, both sets of questions are really just four questions repeated ten times:

DeYoung -
  • Does the Bible support gay marriage? (Q's 1-10, 33, 40)
  • If not the union of a man and woman, what defines marriage? (Q's 13-24, 32, 34)
  • How should the church relate to gay people? (Q's 11-12, 28-31, 36-39)
  • Is it discriminatory to theologically disagree with gay relationships and marriage? (Q's 25-27, 35)
Vines -
  • If sexuality isn't a choice, at what point do its desires become sinful? (Q's 1-2, 6-7, 9, 36, 38-39)
  • How important is personal experience to forming an opinion about gay marriage? (Q's 3-5, 8, 11, 32, 35)
  • How should the church relate to gay people? (Q's 12-13, 33-34, 37, 40)
  • Is it possible for the church to avoid being culturally-conditioned? (Q's 14-31)
Inflating the questions serves to accomplish a seemingly effective purpose: to place the burden of proof on the opponent and make it look enormous. Imagine if someone were to string all of them together in the middle of a conversation. After ten questions, it would be pretty clear that they were more interested in making a point than hearing answers.

As such, this overwhelm-the-enemy approach only reinforces the self-righteousness of the like-minded. While most dissenters will roll their eyes and keep scrolling, the faithful will take comfort in the fact that someone else has thought through their position for them. They'll happily cheer for their particular, partisan rhetoric because it's easier than the uncomfortable task of trying to understand an issue. In other words, those who might benefit from being challenged are never reached because the focus is on digging in one's heels, not walking in another's shoes.

The saddest part is that flooding the conversation with questions creates the illusion of argument by defining victory as silencing one's opponents. Which is a lot like saying that unity is built on censorship. But where there is no disagreement, there is no unity because ignored disagreement will only lead to division. And the best way to ignore it is by talking at each other, not to each other.

This makes it all the more ironic that both DeYoung and Vines asked if we could disagree and still love each other--both seem too invested in their own questions to offer a constructive answer. Based on such mutual silence, allow me to answer for them: Can love and disagreement coexist? Apparently not.

photo credit: Rainbow (Explore #392) via photopin (license)