Thanks to Real Clear Religion, I was alerted to someone named Sarah Moon at Patheos, blogging in high dudgeon about the “bigotry” of N.T. Wright, the renowned Anglican theologian. What has Ms. Moon so exercised? Here is how she begins:
In case you haven’t heard, N.T. Wrightauthor of theology books such as Surprised By Hope and Simply Christian, and former Bishop of Durhamrecently did an interview in which he compared people who support marriage equality to Nazis and Soviet Communists.
And Soviet Communists.
No. No, he didn’t. Not even close. The link Ms. Moon provides is to the transcript, posted here at First Things by our own Matthew Schmitz, of an interview Wright gave to the Philo Trust. I’ll save you the trouble of going back to the full transcript. Here is the only part to which Ms. Moon can possibly be referring:
What do you think are the major challenges to the church and the Christian message in the light of the current legislation on the redefinition of marriage?
N. T. Wright: Obviously huge issues there, and there’s no way we can lay them all out tonight. I do want to say a word about a word. When anybodypressure groups, governments, civilizationssuddenly change the meaning of key words, you really should watch out. If you go to a German dictionary and just open at random, you may well see several German words which have a little square bracket saying “N.S.,” meaning National Socialist or Nazi. The Nazis gave those words a certain meaning. In post-1917 Russia, there were whole categories of people who were called “former persons,” because by the Communist diktat they had ceased to be relevant for the state, and once you call them former persons it was extremely easy to ship them off somewhere and have them killed.
In the same way, there was a letter in the Times Literary Supplement just a few weeks ago saying that when we’re talking about assisted suicide, we shouldn’t actually use words like “suicide,” “killing,” and those sort of words because those imply that you shouldn’t do it. Whereas now our civilization is saying that maybe there are reasons for that. I find that sort of stuff chilling, the attempt to change an ideology within a culture by changing the language.
Now, the word “marriage,” for thousands of years and cross-culturally has meant man and woman. Sometimes it’s been one man and more than one woman. Occasionally it’s been one woman and more than one man. There is polyandry as well as polygamy in some societies in some parts of history, but it’s always been male plus female. Simply to say that you can have a woman-plus-woman marriage or a man-plus-man marriage is radically to change that because of the givenness of maleness and femaleness. I would say that without any particular Christian presuppositions at all, just cross-culturally, that’s so.
As any intelligent reader will immediately recognize, Wright is arguing from analogy. As the Nazis willfully altered the meaning of German words for ideological reasons, and the Soviet Communists altered the meaning of Russian words (or coined expressions like “former persons) for ideological reasons, so too the advocates of assisted suicide want to banish words like “suicide” and “killing” from discussions of the subject in order to gain an ideological advantage, and same-sex “marriage” advocates want to change the meaning of “marriage” for ideological reasons.
For Ms. Moon, this is “compar[ing] people who support marriage equality to Nazis and Soviet Communists.” I take it she means likening the one to the others, so that she is accusing Wright of saying that “people who support marriage equality” have a propensity toward using secret police, terror, torture, totalitarian control of society, and concentration camps in order to carry out their ideological objectives. That is simply idiotic. She does, however, prove that Wright is right to argue as he does when she employs the question-begging phrase “marriage equality,” as though it were entirely settled that a same-sex couple and an opposite-sex couple are “equal” so far as the union called “marriage” is concerned. Ms. Moon is either a purveyor of the linguistic ideology Wright observes, or a prisoner of it. Perhaps she is both.
Like people who think Justice Antonin Scalia has likened homosexual sodomy to murder because he regards both of them as species of conduct that the law can legitimately condemn on moral grounds, Ms. Moon appears to have no idea how logic works or arguments function. (Tell me again why it was a good idea to get rid of the analogies section of the SAT?) N.T. Wright no more likened same-sex “marriage” advocates to Nazis and Communists than I am likening her to a planetary body in the following analogy: as the moon orbits the earth, so the mind of Ms. Moon orbits an empty space devoid of logic.