Kiwiblog has some discussion on the recent mix up between Gordon Copeland and Destiny Church. Predictably respondents in the comments section denounce Destiny as hate filled homophobic bigots. This of course nothing new this charge is frequently bandied about in the media whenever a theological based objection to homosexual conduct is raised.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am no fan of Destiny. Destiny is a Neo-Pentecostal denomination of Christianity, founded by controversial Tele-evangelist Brian Tamaki. Studying Theology over the last decade has lead me to be fairly critical of the Neo-Pentecostal movement. Its anti intellectualism, it’s over emphasis on subjective experience, its a-contextual citing of scripture and excessive emotionalism are all problematic. Moreover, the theology of such Churches is often deeply flawed, as are the dispensational eschatology and corresponding anti-nomist ethics they often expound. Much can and should be said in criticism of this movement and its effect upon evangelicalism
However those who denounce Destiny’s alleged homophobia are not concerned about such theological questions. What they object to is a specific ethical teaching of Destiny Church: that sex between members of the same sex (homosexual conduct) is wrong.
However, this teaching on homosexual conduct is not unique to Destiny Church, it is believed and proclaimed by numerous other religious organisations. My own Presbyterian Church also teaches that homosexual conduct is wrong. As do Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, evangelical Protestants, Muslims, Orthodox Jews, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witness’s etc. Hence the objections raised against Destiny apply with equal force to these organisations as well. An attack on Destiny for holding this belief is an attack on all those groups who agree with Destiny on this point.
Now this objection: that teaching homosexual conduct is wrong is homophobic, has always puzzled me. It puzzles me that educated intelligent people give it so much credence. Because it seems to me an obviously ridiculous argument in fact it is downright Orwellian.
To see this we need to consider what the objector here is saying: he argues that because Tamaki teaches and takes seriously the teaching that sex between people of the same sex is wrong, Brian Tamaki is homophobic. That is he has an irrational fear, hatred and loathing towards homosexual people. Two things are worth noting about this.
First, this argument is clearly fallacious. Tamaki has proposed a moral claim: that sex between members of the same sex is wrong. The objector responds, not with an argument that this claim is false. Rather, he argues that there is something wrong with Tamaki’s character; he has irrational hatred towards others. But this is a paradigmatic case of fallacious reasoning its clearly an example of the ad hominem fallacy.
Second, this attack on Tamaki’s character is based on a clear, non-sequitur. Formally it assumes that if a person teaches that an action A, is wrong, then they are have an irrational hatred and fear of people who engage in A. Such an assumption is false. Destiny also teach that lying and theft are wrong, it does not follow from this that they are inciting hatred and violence against thieves and liars.
If this assumption were correct, the only way one could avoid hatred and violence would be to have no moral teachings at all – which would not be love, but nihilism.
This argument is also incoherent, those making this claim are making moral judgements of their own, they are proclaiming that condemning homosexual conduct is wrong. Parity of reasoning entails then that they are expressing irrational hatred and fear against Destiny Church. By their own argument they are guilty of the very hatred and violence they protest against.
So what do we have here? We have an obviously fallacious objection, which constitutes an attack on another’s character on very flimsy evidence, evidence which is at best worst incoherent and at best nowhere near sufficient to establish the allegation made.
Now I contend that it’s irrational to base ones position on an obviously fallacious argument and it’s irrational to believe something on the basis of an incoherent non sequitur. Moreover, I also contend that it’s wrong to denigrate another’s character on the basis of little or no evidence, this is called slander. To slander someone is to show them contempt; it’s to disrespect them. In this instance one refuses to treat ones interlocutor as a rational agent to be reasoned with instead one ignores what he says and smears him with a unwarranted allegation hoping that other people will also jump to this unwarranted conclusion and despise the speaker.
So; here is the irony, To argue that one should reject a prohibition on homosexual conduct on the grounds that those who say this are homophobic is to express irrational contempt for another person. The charge of homophobia then is in fact an expression of irrational hatred of others.
Welcome to 1984 where irrational bigotry is called tolerance.