When there is a discussion, and one of the conversationalists cannot advance his position, he may be tempted to advance an ad hominem argument. An ad hominem argument is a logical fallacy and moves from the issue to an appeal "against the man."
Such arguments stereotype the opponent, so that the audience or readers are biased against him for being such a person. In the church we tend to label and mark too quickly. It is easier to make a charge than it is to convince others the charge is not true.
Several years ago my brother-in-law, Dale Hartman, left the church in Senatobia, MS, to enter the mission field in Australia. Dale is from western Oklahoma and grew up on a farm/ranch. Rodeo is a big deal in Oklahoma, and some rodeo wannabes are often called "goat ropers." Since I was coming to Senatobia as he was leaving, he told everyone I was a "goat roper."
Dale's description of a goat roper was rather detailed. He wore Levi's and had the circle of a Skoal can in one of his back pockets. Of course, he also dipped. He wore a western hat, belt, and boots. He practiced his calf-roping on goats and often road home-made or mechanical bulls. A goat roper was indeed a wannabe that never did. Oh, he said, and there is one last thing:
"A goat roper will deny it to the end!"
Now, I was caught between a rock and a hard place. No matter how often I told the guys at Senatobia that I grew up in town, didn't care about rodeos, and wasn't a goat-roper, the more they were sure of it. One dear friend even left a couple of cans of Skoal on the pulpit one Sunday morning after our twins were born. (I attended my dear friend's funeral a couple of years ago, and his boys gave me an empty can of Skoal.) This half-truth stuck on me for years.
When I began this blog, I began it due to criticisms leveled at me from both the far left and the far right. (Go to the early posts.) I have been slapped on both cheeks from the ultras at both ends of the theological spectrum in churches of Christ. I even found my name on a website featuring its title in red, burning letters....suggesting my eternal end.
Some folks think I'm conservative; others call me liberal. I guess it depends on what issue you are dealing with. I am often called a Pharisee, a traditionalist, and a legalist. I always liked what J.D. Bales said, "I'd rather be a legalist than an illegalist!"
I really don't care to be labeled except for this: I am a Christian. Jesus is the Lord of my life, and I don't care who knows it. I belong to Him.
Name calling is rude, pejorative, and often unfair. Few gossips who call names are honest enough to apologize or take it back, when they are found to be in error. I was once the featured victim of an acid pen calling me a deceiver and compromiser. The fellow who wrote the drivel had failed to do his homework, but he never apologized. Instead he got another guy to join in the slander.
Before you call a name, consider whether that is the best approach. You may lose any opportunity to dialog with that person later on. You may unfairly label someone you don't understand.
There is a time to mark and avoid (Rom. 16:17-18), but such an action on unfounded evidence is cruel and dishonest.
Our law does not judge a man until it hears him.