Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Why Church Conservatives Always Seem to Lose in the Court of Popular Opinion

I used to wonder why "conservatives" always seem to come out on the losing side of modern church disputes, but after careful consideration of the mathematics involved, I have come to the conclusion that our unworthy opponents have an equally low probability of winning any argument.

Let me explain using the following hypothetical debate:

1) Imagine a revisionist bishop at one podium and an informed pewsitter at another.
2) A moderator presents a question such as, "Is same sex marriage an example of sexual immorality in the Church?"
3) The hypothetical revisionist bishop will argue that it is not an example of sexual immorality.
4) The informed pewsitter will argue that it is.
5) The crowd will serve as judge.

It would seem like a simple yes/no argument in which one side must be right and the other must be wrong which should give each side a 50% chance of winning the debate, but given the fact that this is a theological argument, and that the court in which this argument is being held is made up of people and not God Himself, there is a chance that both parties are wrong, there is zero chance that both parties are correct (although some revisionist bishops have been known to attempt to prove just that), and there is a chance that the human judges will be wrong.

If you total up the odds, there is only a 25% chance that either party's argument will be "Right" while there is a 75% chance that one or both arguments are "Wrong".

So how does one's argument carry the day if an undecided, uninformed, and possibly disinterested audience is the judge?

The informed pewsitter would insist that the power of a well structured, scripturally based, theologically sound, and logical argument should carry the day.

He/she would be wrong.

The undecided, uninformed, or disinterested, and humans in general, feel before they think, or at least this is what brain researchers are currently saying. Many decisions are thus made before the logical mind gets a crack at it.

The revisionist bishop will always win such a debate because he/she will primarily appeal to the heart in his/her argument. For example, a common theme we hear runs something like this, "I have seen/witnessed/felt the love present in these relationships," or, "I have experienced God's presence in these relationships."

Game over.

I witnessed something like this during the last election of a bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina. Delegations from every parish in the diocese were called together to receive the report of the selection committee and to watch video presentations from each candidate (except for one who petitioned to be put on the ballot later). Being the sensitive soul that I am, I could feel the emotional impact that each candidate had on the audience. Andrew Waldo's video caused several of the female delegates around me to nearly swoon, and then I "knew" that he would ultimately be our next bishop. My favorite candidates may have lost either because of their looks or because they went for the head before they went for the heart.

Deliberately Inflammatory Question: Assuming a gender difference in the emotional component of decision making, does the increasingly female presence in the ranks of clergy and convention delegations affect how decisions are made, and are male clergy members through selection bias already more like their female counterparts in this respect?

Non-Inflammatory Question: So how can the incredible string of revisionist victories be stopped if easily swayed humans are to serve as judges?

Those who hold traditional values must learn how to show that they first care about others, and that is why they care about good solid theology, doctrine, and tradition. We know that when people lose contact with those things and go chasing after the ever changing winds of Biblical revisionism that souls are in danger because we understand and accept that there is at least a 75% chance that God's judgement will be, "You were wrong."

"Oh Pewster," you ask, "You are always so sure of yourself. Who are you to talk?" (emotionally charged statement)

"You are so right!" (emotionally defusing response to be followed by ideas aimed at the conscious mind's logic processing areas) "I feel that if that is true for me, it is true for you. Can we talk about what scripture has to say about same sex relationships?"

You can guess what kind of response that would get, but if it does not feel like it comes from the emotional mind, then maybe you will have a chance of scoring a few points before the conversation drops back down to emotionally based feelings and assumptions.

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