Wrong Analogy

June 24, 2008

Robert Parham had a good column yesterday at Ethics Daily entitled "Holocaust Is Wrong Analogy for SBC Takeover." Here are a few highlights:

The Holocaust is a singular event of 20th-century social evil that should not be watered down by flawed analogies to other moral wrongs. Defective analogies trivialize genocide and the suffering of survivors.

... Jewish leaders have responded critically to those who have used wrongfully this flawed analogy. Their response should be instructive for Baptists who think it is an appropriate analogy to use.

... When Baptists use Holocaust analogies to describe our experience of humiliation and defeat, we wrongfully elevate our modest trials to the rarified heights of genuine human suffering at the hands of corporate evil. In essence, we claim more nobility of suffering than is morally proper. That is a form of pride which assumes our moral superiority and equivalency as victims of an industrial-scale injustice.
This is an excellent point! I critiqued similar misuses of the Nazi analogy in my book (For God's Sake, Shut Up!) since it seems to often be a problem. Parham's focus was comments made recently by Cecil Sherman at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship meeting. Parham also offered his praise for Sherman:
Like many centrist Baptists, I appreciate Sherman's refusal to buckle to fundamentalism which caused and continues to cause much harm.

Like Sherman, I encounter criticism from moderates who would rather have moral amnesia about our shared history than moral truth, who would rather pretend that the Christian Right is powerless than confront that malignant power.

... Additionally, this matter provides us with a wakeup call to be more careful with our moral analogies, with our public language. All of us need to be mindful of the temptation of rhetorical excess.
Amen! Parham's point is an excellent one--Sherman was making a good point but used an inappropriate analogy. This is indeed a good reminder to avoid rhetorical excess so that the excess does not distract from our important message.

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