Logical Gal and why slogans fail us

14 Jan

Slogans

A recent letter to the editor in our local newspaper provided practice in thinking.  A lawyer had written to champion the ‘Separation of Church and State’.  He counseled Christians to confine their religious practices to church and NOT bring them out into the public square.  He fumed over comments made by supposed conservative Christians who ‘dared’ criticize recent Supreme Court decision.

If he had thought a bit deeper, he might have seen that he was misrepresenting the activity of  ‘religious practices’ because he hadn’t considered his terms.  Since I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to influence the readership of the local paper, I did write a letter to the editor.  In my response,  I pointed out that ‘religious practices’ were actually what people did in church (where people sing songs, celebrate communion, hear messages teaching Bible content and principles and pray together).  What the lawyer probably meant to castigate was what he, himself, might be guilty of….the supposed ‘sin’ of letting one’s values affect one’s actions.

Core values

(Surely law schools must drill into future lawyers the necessity for precise language.  Since lawyers are good at splitting hairs, I picture them spending hour upon hour practicing drawing careful distinctions!)

Back to this so-called requirement to keep one’s religious practices confined to a place of worship! It’s not hard to see that the rites and behaviors one performs in a church service are narrower than one’s core values.  Yes, our values DO influence particular religious behaviors.  But values in general shape most of our actions and decisions. The essential truths that every human being holds create beliefs, which in turn guide one’s intentional behavior.

Justice is blind

I’m assuming that men and women who choose the legal profession esteem many values that they express publicly.  Being charitable, I will say that a career in law presupposes that one cares about truth and justice for all.  So it’s not just Christians who advocate the care and dignity of their fellow human beings.

The danger of slogans is that they brush with too broad of a brush.  They remind me of those mall-stalking pollsters with their clipboards who take sport in canvassing your views, yet all the while limiting your responses . But the problem is that your opinions don’t fit any of the categories!  The same pitfall is attendant in sound bytes.  Lack of time prevents clear thinking!  And furthermore, these written or shouted symbol-laden words actually can cloud communications.

As an aside to my rebuttal letter to the editor, I pointed out how the values and beliefs of many Christians have resulted in much good for society!  Accounts abound, throughout the world, of Christians who have sacrificed to care for the poor, the sick and those in prison.  These followers of Christ have allowed their values and beliefs to shape their actions.  One only has to think of British Christians like William Wilberforce and others who fought tirelessly to abolish the slave trade.  And what about American Christians like Martin Luther King who sought to bring civil rights to the black community?

Beliefs formed from values DO matter and everyone has them.  And unfortunately, we know too many examples of evil done in the name of beliefs, from Christians and non-Christians alike.  My point in gently taking the lawyer to task was to ask him if he really believed that only Christians allow their convictions to inform their actions.

Declaring he doesn’t want ‘conservative Christian values’ spilling out into public, leads me to think that he apparently values autonomy for everyone.  That belief has led him to defend the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.  To be consistent, maybe he should leave his values at home when he ventures into the public square.  Or is he, alone, allowed to vote his conscious, but those who happen to engage in ‘religious activities’ not?

I admit, it’s difficult for all of us to be even-handed in our thinking and consistent!  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

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