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Further Reading

Parting Shot

Love, Rhetorically

Using a Powerful Word Doesn't Mean Your Argument Is Logical

by Tom Gilson

Another Christian celebrity has forgotten to put on her thinking hat. Religion News Service reports that popular Christian author Jen Hatmaker has said this about gay marriage:

From a civil rights and civil liberties side and from just a human being side, any two adults have the right to choose who they want to love. And they should be afforded the same legal protections as any of us. I would never wish anything less for my gay friends.1

I read that on Facebook, and I decided it needed a bit of analysis.

Article originally appeared in
Salvo 39

Yes! Gay people should have the right to choose whom they want to love.

Hatmaker said,

1. "From a civil rights and civil liberties side and from just a human being side, any two adults have the right to choose who they want to love."

That's absolutely true—and it has absolutely no bearing on whether same-sex marriage should be permitted. Marital love is not the only kind of love. Neither is sexual love. Two adults can love each other intensely without having either a sexual or a marital relationship.

She went on,

2. "And they should be afforded the same legal protections as any of us."

Again, that's absolutely true. Again, it has no bearing on whether same-sex marriage should have been invented to accommodate people who are mistaken on point 1.

Then she added,

3. "I would never wish anything less for my gay friends."

Nor should she. Gay friends should be allowed to love whomever they want to love, under the full protection of the law.

Now, if that last statement makes you feel uneasy, re-read points 1 and 2. Then ask yourself, "What got into me that made me think love between two people is necessarily sexual/marital love?"

Gay people should be able to love whomever, but that doesn't imply any conclusion whatsoever about them having sex or being married—unless you mistakenly believe love necessarily involves sex.

But Don't Be Confused!

So Hatmaker's argument "works," in a sense. But only rhetorically, not logically. Here's how:

We all feel that love is important. Indeed, biblically we know that it's absolutely crucial—see, for instance, John 13:34–35, 1 John 4:7–8, and 1 Corinthians 13:1–13.

And it's emotionally powerful. Really powerful.

It packs such an emotional punch that the very word love can get you responding without thinking. And it's that nearly automatic, unthinking level of response that explains how statements like Jen Hatmaker's can have such rhetorical purchase. That's the only explanation for its being at all persuasive, actually, since there's no logical value to the conclusions she comes to.

Love can short-circuit thinking. Sometimes it's okay if it does that—who wants to analyze everything?!

But when the word love is used as part of an argument (as she uses it here), you'd better keep your head about you.

Otherwise, you're going to find yourself pulled and falling hat-over-sandals over the same emotional/rhetorical cliff so many other people have fallen down. •

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