… they always fall off.”
If you grew up during the golden age of Ronco television commercials, you will not be able to forget this one for the Buttoneer. The commercial’s voice-over repeated this phrase ad nauseam.
The problem with the commercial is … well, they don’t. Buttons don’t always fall off.
You would be a soul of weak and gullible mind to believe such a claim to begin with, but even the tender-aged among us shrugged off such outlandish illogic as simply advertising.
The problem with the commercial is … well, we absorbed that “simply advertising” shrug as a culture and made it acceptable in discourse to assert outlandish and illogical claims as proof of the point we wish to sell.
It’s as if the vast majority of us slept through Sesame Street the morning that the show covered “sometimes, always and never.”
Christianity has not been at all immune to this tactic. Even those who consider themselves the most logical among us fall prey to the most insidious logical fallacies – which, as far as I can tell, are only rarely taught in our schools these days so that they can be recognized for what they are.
A couple of examples:
“I’d rather be a legalist than an illegalist.”
Well, that sounds right, doesn’t it? Plus, it’s short and clever-sounding. The problem is that it assumes that there are only two mutually-oppositional positions available and the other one is morally wrong, therefore being a legalist is morally right.
“The postmodernist claims that he can’t and doesn’t know anything for certain.”
The problem is that this is a generalization, an overstatement, un-attributed to any source, and applied to a labelled group of people. Worse, there is an implication that such people are somehow stupid by choice and can’t be taught anything, so why try?
Behind such rationalizations is an implicit demeanor of “I’m right; you’re wrong. I go to heaven; you go to hell.” That pride and arrogance – rather than true rational thinking – is what puts off so many unreached people whose first encounter with Christianity is that attitude. The truth is that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. The truth is that while we were impotent, Christ died for us, the ungodly. The truth is that no one is righteous; not even one of us.
That’s the truth we need to express in thought and word and deed and attitude and behavior.
The problem is that self-righteous, chest-swelling, button-popping pride.