The reason the average discussion about anything goes nowhere is because everyone always talks about the thing at hand rather than the things assumed. What I mean is that we always discuss the "topics" but never our assumptions that under-gird and give life to those topics. It's like having weeds in your garden and deciding whether to break out the weed-eater or pull them up by the roots. Most of us break out the weed-eater: it's easier, takes less time, makes a glorious racket, and is good for a laugh when the casual passerby is barraged with vegetative shrapnel.
Pulling up by the root takes too much work. It's a hands-on, dirty, intimate process. We have to get on our knees and take each weed one at a time, coming to grips with their unique shapes and challenges, finding the right amount of leverage to unseat them, and finding the right consolation when we fail to yank the suckers fully free from the earth. It's all too messy and involved, but we'll never really take care of the weeds if we don't deal with the roots. That's what's wrong with the majority of our so-called "discussions" or "conversations": we're all whacking each other with weed-eaters, while the roots remain untouched.
Is gender a fundamental reality or an arbitrary construction? Is there a fundamental reality out there? How can we know? To what authority do we reference? Is there such an authority? How do we know it/them/him/her? These are the questions that gay marriage is really asking. These are the presuppositions that inform the debate. These are the roots. Gay marriage is not about whether morality is on the decline; it's about whether or not objective meaning is an illusion we've created. It's not about whether we should let inequality exist; it's about whether or not nihilism is true.
|Subjectivist? Nay! Subject-abyss.|
Every topic or "hot-button" issue has their roots somewhere, and the only real way to have a real debate about these things (and not simply a shouting match or a group hug) is to deal with the roots. If you want to discuss gay marriage, then don't start with the shrubbery of equality or morality. Start with the roots of authority and reality: is there an objective reality to things, and is there an authority that tells us what that reality is and is not? Until that debate happens, everything else is so much window-dressing in a never-ending flame war.
|By Jove, it's all linked!|
Those assumptions had to do with evil. Your opinion on whether or not men and women should own a weapon, whether or not certain crimes are punishable by death, and whether or not a just and loving God would send/condemn/confine certain people to eternal punishment all stem from this one source, this one question: what is evil? What does it look like? How do we recognize it? And how ought we to respond to it? Believe it or not, your stance on self-defense, capital punishment, and eternal damnation all rest on this hinge: what is your "stance" on evil? What assumptions about it do you have?
|"I find your lack of evil disturbing."|
This is one of my assumptions about evil, and it is why I am in favor of gun-ownership and the death penalty, and why I believe in a place called Hell. Not because I necessarily "like" those things or are glad they exist, but because I know there are certain persons to whom there is no other solution or answer but an extreme one. There is no forgiveness or mercy or grace that will turn them, no therapy or accommodation or understanding that will change them, no compromise or appeasement that will stop them. A line has been crossed, and they will not turn back. What else is there that we can do to or for them? What else is there for even God to do? If they will not be forgiven, if they will not receive help, if they will not stop, then they must be stopped. I believe in such an evil as that, an evil in which our only legitimate response is to stop it by whatever means necessary.
Because I assume these things about evil, it not only shapes my own stance but also my thoughts on the stances of others. If someone is anti-gun ownership, anti-death penalty, anti-Hell, or (what is more often the case) all of the above, I find myself assuming (because of my presupposition) that they have an incorrect view of evil, that their view of evil is skewed, that it is somehow lesser or weaker than mine. Now, I may be right or wrong in having that assumption, and I may be being unfair to those who disagree with me, but for now it is what it is: the roots have affected the shrub and its relationship to other shrubs.
-Jon Vowell (c) 2013