Oct 15, 2012

Matthew Parris overrides his instinct for tolerance in an attack on Christians in debate

I enjoy reading Matthew Parris in the Spectator each week and occasionally in the Times newspaper. His is a reasoned voice and one of moderation. I was somewhat alarmed therefore when in an article in Saturday’s Times (£) he argued that it is disingenuous of Christians to use sincerely held non-religious arguments in their case against the redefinition of marriage.

Peter Saunders (see below writes)

What appears to have inspired the piece is a debate he had with the former Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Dr Michael Nazir-Ali at a fringe meeting organised by ResPublica, a think-tank, at the Conservative Party conference. Nazir-Ali put forward a case against ‘gay marriage’, which Parris said ‘could have been made by an unreligious professor of sociology’.

His argument was ‘apparently based on the social and cultural value of marriage as presently defined, the importance of a stable upbringing for children, and the resistance people feel to attempts “to change the meaning of the word ‘marriage’ ” ’. Parris then asked the former bishop if he believed that ‘homosexuality was a sin’ and accused him in the article of beating about the bush with his answer. 

He goes on to say that Nazir-Ali was ‘being disingenuous’ because he ’plainly believes that homosexuality is a very considerable evil in the eyes of God’. In Parris’ view ‘the rest of us have a right to know the source of (peoples’) opinions, and if they are faith-based those who hold them have a duty in all honesty to declare it.’

He argues that ‘it is slippery for people to couch objections that are really undeclared religious objections in the language of a secular argument.’ It is the case that Christians have some arguments that derive from their faith but we also have many that are shared by people of all faiths and none.  

Essentially Parris is insisting that religious presuppositions must stand behind non-religious arguments when those non-religious arguments are presented in a debate by a believer. With respect, that is a complete nonsense. The fact that an atheist and a theist may arrive at the same conclusion on the issue of gay marriage based on the same sociological evidence and present the same arguments is demonstration of the fact that whilst a religious person may have some arguments for a position that derive from his religious views they need not all do so. In fact one would expect a rational, intelligent  Christian to derive his arguments from a diverse range of evidence.

Parris’s position is a dangerous one that suggests that any argument uttered by a Christian is inherently one of faith because it depends on their theological convictions. The result is that all arguments spoken by someone of faith can then be conveniently dismissed by the secularist.  Where this leaves us is in a world where arguments against gay marriage may be presented by both a gay atheist and a Bible-believing Christian but where the Christian (unlike the Atheist)  is told he has no right to use them because they derive from his religious convictions (even though they don’t). The result? The voice of the Christian is dismissed at a stroke whatever he or she may be wishing to say.

This is not a position of reason and smacks somewhat of prejudice, even intolerance, against ‘people of faith’. If we use faith based arguments they will be regarded as irrelevant in an increasingly secular world and if we use non-faith-based arguments we will be accused of hiding our real reasons! Either way we can’t win.

Dr Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship and himself a regular on TV programmes such as Newsweek and Radio 4’s Today programme takes issue with Matthew Parris in an excellent blog post here.


  • In the end, I get the feeling that Mr. Parris’ argument amounts to little more than “That’s not fair! You’re not arguing like the shallow bigot I assume you are! Conform to my stereotype! Conform!”

  • The fact of the matter is this: This is not a religious issue! You don’t need to refer to anything in the bible to figure out what is wrong with gay marriage. This has nothing to do with bible thumping or quoting verses against homosexuals. This issue is about SPENDING MONEY WE DON’T HAVE ON GAY MARRIAGE! How is it you can talk about cutting funds off from the troops, and in the same segment talk about expanding the homosexual agenda? This is exactly what corporations like Starbucks does. They don’t send a dime or any coffee to our troops in support of them. But they have all of the time and money for gay marriage? Wow, we are cutting off the very people who defend us just because we are more interested in a greedy perversion we desire more then making sure the lives of those who protect us are safe and thought of with love. Instead of pouring our hearts out to those in need, we are more worried about what could happen in bed. Does everyone really put their perverted fantasies before the needs of others such as the homeless and children who need emergency surgery? If gay marriage will fix everything as advertised, then there should not be anyone else in need, right? We could of created jobs with this money. We could of invested in better technology for our children who are fighting for us over seas so they would have a better chance of survival. What I am talking about are the millions of dollars that get spent every year in our court system to expand the rights of homosexuals. Do you think the court officials work for free just for the homosexual agenda? Oh the judge and law makers say, “Ok guys take me off the payroll this is for gay marriage”? Nothing gets done for free in law making – ever. You know this too. This is why America is behind. This is why China laughs at us everyday because we invested our money into gay marriage instead of jobs and helping the needy. We totally missed the economical budget train and now we are sitting around wondering what happened like a bunch of idiots afraid to talk about the truth of how the money was spent. The issue does not concern the privacy of other people, who cares what anyone does in their own home. But you don’t stick your greedy hands into the Treasury coffers of the United States and start spending our money on stuff we don’t need. If we think it might be a good idea, lets balance everything we NEED first and then get to the issue. Tell me one person that has has their life saved ever since the first day gay marriage was legalized in any state. I keep reading stories of children on the street and how the government wants to cut funds on our troops. Then on TV I see glorious donations made in the name of gay marriage a few minutes later. It makes me sick. You don’t need a bible to have common sense enough to know how to spend money on a tight budget. Say it because its true, not because you think the bible says something about it. This has nothing to do with religion, its a money matter AND a common sense issue.

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