Phil Snider’s Impressive Substitute For Honest Communication (Racism, Gay “Marriage,” and the Bible)

by Tom Gilson

phil-snider-missouriIt’s gone genuinely viral: the Rev. Dr. Phil Snider’s message to the Springfield City Council. Unfortunately it’s a great example of truth tanked by theatrics, reason steamrolled by emotion.

It leaves a powerful impression, but what’s his argument? What would go in the following blanks, to express his point in rational, logical form?

“X, therefore Y, therefore it’s wrong to oppose gay marriage.”

Dr. Snider’s Argument (Such As It Is)
Let’s start with X. Dr. Snider brings forth a series of quotes from white preachers sometime during the civil rights struggles of half a century ago. These statements were obviously wrong, and yet they are similar to some arguments being brought forth against gay “marriage” today.

His surprise ending served effectively to evoke emotion and derail rational reflection

That’s it. That’s all we have for X. It’s all he asserted. It’s not much, is it? Think with me how sketchy it is: We don’t know who spoke these things originally, we don’t know the context in which they said them, we don’t know any of the surrounding reasoning, we don’t know how widely accepted their opinions were. I’ll bet most people who saw his show haven’t thought that through, though: His surprise ending served effectively to evoke emotion and derail rational reflection. But a little thought reveals what shaky factual ground his argument stands on: unattributed quotes taken out of all context, and that’s it.

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It gets worse with Y. Dr. Snider obviously wants us to conclude something from this spotty information, but precisely what we should conclude and how we should get there are as vague as can be. Still it seems at least likely that he wants us to follow a line of reasoning that goes like this.

  1. Some white preachers misused the Bible to argue in favor of racism.
  2. People today are using the Bible to argue against homosexuality and gay marriage.
  3. Therefore the people who use the Bible today to argue against homosexuality and gay marriage are misusing the Bible.

Now, does 3 follow from 1 and 2? Certainly not. From 1 and 2 we can conclude that it’s possible to get the Bible wrong. Even that’s ambiguous, though: we could get the Bible wrong either by misinterpreting it, or by paying it any attention in the first place. Dr. Snider doesn’t say which of those he thinks is the real problem. It’s fuzzy, just like the rest of his argument…

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RECOMMENDED APOLOGETICS RESOURCE FOR FURTHER READING:

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