Wrong Question, Wrong Answer

May 22, 2008

Sometimes people ask the wrong question when trying to determine how to act and sometimes they give the wrong answer in an attempt to justify their actions. Or sometimes they do both, as in the case of Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Land's group helped pay for a poll question to see what people thought of Christian involvement in politics, which he used to justify political activity. However, Land asked the wrong question and gave the wrong answer.

First, he asked the wrong question. The survey his organization helped pay for asked people to express their level of agreement or disagreement with the following statement: "I am concerned that at times Christians are too involved in politics." Land reported that most Americans disagreed with that statement, which he apparently thought justified the efforts of his organization. Land claimed they worded the question in such a way as to get the most negative responses (instead of asking about being involved in "public policy"). However, the real problem is not Christians being involved in politics--which we should be--but Christians being involved in partisan politics. We should be involved in society but not as partisan pawns. Thus, the wrong question was asked.

Second, he offered the wrong answer. Even if he had asked the right question and found that most people thought it was okay for Christians to be involved in partisan politics, that would not matter because right or wrong cannot be determined by a survey. Land is making the ad populum fallacy by claiming that since most people say it is okay then it must be. However, judging the proper level of political involvement by Christians should be determined based on principle, not polls.

Since Land asked the wrong question and gave the wrong answer, he did not actually prove anything (I wonder how much ministry money he dumped on commissioning that poll). It is time for serious reflection on how Christians should act in politics instead of licking a finger and holding it up to the wind to see what is right.

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