This post was originally featured on SFL in March of 2009
For when the claim of the “appearance of evil” just isn’t enough to create the required amount of fundamentalist guilt, the “weaker brother” technique is the veritable Swiss Army knife of fundamentalist arguments, ready to be whipped out in a moment to do any job that requires guilt and manipulation.
The argument goes something like this: “Now we know that there’s probably nothing wrong with doing X, but X is something that someone out there somewhere may think is wrong. And if that person by some chance happened to see you doing X, or thinking about doing X, or talking about having done X, or goes through your wallet and finds receipts for costs incurred doing X, then that person will surely stumble and become a Presbyterian.”
The Weaker Brother claim is great for making rules against all those things that aren’t morally wrong but that fundamentalists are convinced you shouldn’t be doing anyway. He’s a handy guy for any moralizing legalist to have around. The problem is that nobody really ever seems to know who the weaker brother is. Certainly nobody in a fundamentalist church claims the title for themselves. As near as one can tell he’s sort of a shadowy character who spends all of his time hanging around outside places like bowling alleys and gas stations that sell booze, looking to see if anybody else is going in so he can get offended. The weaker brother apparently has a lot of time on his hands.
Be on the lookout for this poor and troubled soul wherever you go. He may be weak but he’s a fundamentalist force to be reckoned with.