Are we writing a dictionary or talking about what’s right?

Unless you’ve been living in a cave with no internet or television, you’ve probably heard about the same-sex marriage debate. If you’ve followed it, you’ve probably heard the argument that there should be no same-sex marriage because marriage is something that’s between a man and a woman. That’s just what it means.

Opponents don’t think much of this argument, obviously, but let me analyse just what is wrong with it — and any other argument that refers to the meanings of words the same way. Continue reading


Which ones are really the “cafeteria Christians”?

I happened to read a long Facebook post by David Gerrold (someone I almost recognise by name) a while ago. It had a good point, but my attention was caught by something in this part:

Back in the days of CompuServe, a couple of bible thumpers were going on at length about homosexuality — and after I walked them down the path of bacon-cheeseburgers, shellfish, mixed fibers, and tattoos, I called them out as being “cafeteria Christians” picking and choosing what they wanted from the bible. They changed the subject.

Three weeks later, one of them came back at me, calling me a “cafeteria Christian” — he’d grabbed my argument and turned it back on me the first chance he got.

And that demonstrated something that has stuck with me ever since. There are people who can recognize the words that claim the moral high ground in an argument — tolerance, inclusiveness, helping minorities, etc. But rather than recognize their own responsibility in the matter, they simply grab the language as a useful weapon — a weapon to defend the very bigotry and oppression they’ve been accused of.

That last paragraph was about the overall point of the text, how the intolerant appropriate the language of tolerance. I agree with it, and the text also had even better examples — particularly intolerant people accusing others who disagree of being intolerant. The point is correct, then. This example made me think of something else, though — in just that one example, aren’t both right in a sense? Isn’t it true that both conservative and liberal Christians are picking and choosing from the Bible — so is it a sensible accusation against the conservatives from the liberals?

I think the answer is more or less: yes, both are, yet yes, it is. Continue reading