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Richard Land offers qualified opposition to beating people to death

Richard Land offers qualified opposition to beating people to death December 9, 2011

In response to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech on human rights Tuesday, Richard Land, ethics czar for the Southern Baptist Vatican, said:

I certainly don’t believe homosexuals or anyone else should be flogged or put to death for their sexual sins. However …

Wait. Stop. Before you go on, Richard Land, are you sure you want to do that?

Here’s what you just said:

I certainly don’t believe homosexuals or anyone else should be flogged or put to death.

Is that really the sort of thing you want to follow with a “however …”?

There are only two possible directions such a “however” might lead.

The first would be a total non sequitur — something wholly unrelated, such as: “I certainly don’t believe homosexuals or anyone else should be flogged or put to death. However, I’m also fond of pancakes.” A statement like that might be confusing or it might make you look silly, but morally and ethically it’s mostly harmless.

The second possibility, however, is far from harmless. The second possibility is that you’re about to follow that however with some qualification or limitation or reservation about the statement that precedes it. Let’s look at that statement again:

I certainly don’t believe homosexuals or anyone else should be flogged or put to death.

Do you think that needs to be qualified? Or limited? Do you really want to suggest that you have reservations about saying such a thing? Might it not be a Good Thing, for once, just to go on the record as being firmly against beating people to death and to say so without hemming and hawing and trying to however your way into a bit of wiggle room should the occasion arise in which you think beating people to death might be something you’d like to do?

Because that’s the only conclusion the rest of us can draw from a qualifying “however” here. If you can’t just say “beating people to death is wrong” without offering caveats and loopholes, then the rest of us will suspect that you’ve got a hankering to beat someone to death.

Where a non sequitur about pancakes will make you look silly, a qualification or limitation will make you look depraved.

In any case, I’m too late here to stop Richard Land from however-ing himself into a moral hole, so let’s just see what he had to say in full:

I certainly don’t believe homosexuals or anyone else should be flogged or put to death. However, I don’t believe homosexuals should receive special treatment over and above anyone else either.

Hmm. I said there were only two possibilities, and Land seems to have chosen both of them.

His non-sequitur about “special treatment over and above anyone else” doesn’t make any more sense than if he had started talking about pancakes. But at the same time he seems to think it offers some kind of qualification or limitation to his previous statement.

He winds up looking both silly and depraved.

 

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