Wednesday, February 11, 2004

The closer beliefs are to the heart the uglier disagreement will be. Now even in the case where two people hold "diametrically" opposing viewpoints, ugly disagreement does not need to be. Witness formal debates.
For most of us our emotions are about who we are and what we treasure, and what we can't give up. These emotions are rarely seated in objective reality except in the sense that the objectivity is selective. Thus we have people arguing from their emotions and giving many arguments but they will fall into logical fallicies because their emotions will dictate the assumption of facts not yet proven. This can be circular argument, this can be ad hominem attacks, this can be a "false dilemma", this can be any number of things. If this were the extent of the effects of arguing from emotion than it might be merely pitiable...
However, due to the nature of the defence when defending an issue that is tied in with the emotions, the individuals will resort to dehumanization in order to "win". Personal and ad hominem attacks are the hallmark of argumentation that is on it's last legs, and that exists merely to provide a facade of reason to the that person's viewpoint.
But there does exist a second response that is used by those who are challenged on an issue that has an emotional connection, or is close to the heart. This response is simply, "I just believe it." or, "I know I am right.", or "I respect your opinion." I think this is the best response for the person who finds its impossible, because of how they feel, to really tune in to the other side of the issue at hand. It is not a bad response in its own right. It implies that the person is not ready to think about the issue in the way they are being challenged, and that's OK.
Two problems can stem from this secondary response. The first is the zeal of challenger- when they recieve a response of that kind they smell the weakness and really lay into the person with all the facts. This is irresponsible and insensitive.
The second problem in this secondary response comes from the person making it. Instead of admitting the response to be what it is, they call it "faith" and then call the issue at hand "one of faith" and then turn on the challenger and accuse him of "not having faith" or "being in the intellect and not in the spirit." Such rebuttal ignores the critical connection between faith and spirit-led reason. God gave us our brains for a purpose.
Many of those who find themselves frequently in opposition to other viewpoints need to bear in mind the limitations of arguing with someone whose emotions are part of the issue. The answer is of no value if the question is not being asked. Be a friend and make an emotional investment in them, and let them open up to you and trust you of their own accord. Then you have enough of the person's respect to gently approach the issue.
As Christians the value in persuading others to the truth and giving an answer is not to vindicate our rightness but to enrich and minister to the other in love. This can't be done if we are dehumanizing our opponents and treating them with disrespect.
All sides are guilty of forgetting that bit of wisdom at times.

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