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As a 6th grader, I got into an argument about whether a class-five tornado could move a pencil on the ground a mile away.

I insisted it wouldn’t budge. My friend said it would be sucked into the vortex. Our data-free argu­ments hinged on the methods peculiar to 6th-grade argu­men­tation: My older brother, a man at the sagely age of 22, agreed with me. My friend, not to be outdone, quickly coun­tered saying his father agreed with him.

Neither of us changed our minds.

Most of us even­tually learn this lesson: When in argument, don’t appeal to an authority. In an eco­nomics paper, stu­dents cite an economist’s data, not the econ­omist himself.

Basic logic says that appealing to authority is a fallacy, but the fre­quency of Christian politi­cians citing scripture to justify leg­is­lation implies that this lesson might not be as widely dis­sem­i­nated as I first thought.

Just last week, Rep. Jodey Arrington, a Texas Repub­lican, cited scripture to support work require­ments for welfare recip­ients. He said, “The Scripture tells us in 2 Thes­sa­lo­nians 3:10, ‘for even when we were with you we gave you this rule: if a man will not work, he shall not eat.’”

Last year, Rep. Rick Allen from Georgia’s 12th Dis­trict argued against gay mar­riage by citing Romans 1:18 – 32, which lists homo­sex­u­ality among a col­lection of sins that are “worthy of death.”

In 2010, Rep. Lamar Smith, another Texas Repub­lican, cited scripture to support a crackdown on illegal immi­gration. He pointed to Romans 13:1, “Let every person be subject to gov­erning authorities.”

And in 2009, Rep. John Shimkus, a Repub­lican from Illinois, brushed aside climate change by citing Bible verses in Genesis and Matthew and saying, “the Earth will end only when God declares its time to be over. Man will not destroy this Earth — this Earth will not be destroyed by a flood.”

Each of these argu­ments is just like a 6th grader squealing, “my daddy told me.”

When Chris­tians appeal to God’s authority in pol­itics, they imply that there are no sta­tistics or data to support their claims. But the Bible makes an assertion about the world, and if Christian law­makers really believe that assertion is true, then they should have the courage to argue with facts, not Bible verses.

Here are the facts: Amer­icans are less suc­cessful when they don’t get married; children perform worse when born out of wedlock or raised by single or homo­sexual parents; and poor people are less likely to look for better jobs when on welfare. 

Instead of citing scripture to uphold the sanctity of mar­riage, Chris­tians should cite sta­tistics like those from the Her­itage Foun­dation showing that in the United States, mar­riage drops the prob­a­bility of child poverty by 82 percent, and that more than 80 percent of high-income fam­ilies are headed by monog­amous, het­ero­sexual parents. Mean­while, less than seven percent of poor fam­ilies have two married parents. Chris­tians shouldn’t advocate for the bib­lical view of mar­riage simply because it is bib­lical, they should advocate it because it is best.

Sim­i­larly, welfare work require­ments don’t need to be sup­ported by 2 Thes­sa­lo­nians, as Rep. Arrington seems to believe. Con­gress imple­mented work require­ments in 1996 for recip­ients of the Aid to Fam­ilies with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, now known as Tem­porary Assis­tance for Needy Fam­ilies.  The program required half of all able-bodied recip­ients to work. The results speak for them­selves: Between 1996 and 2002, the number of fam­ilies on welfare dropped from 4.3 million to 2 million, and today only 1.6 million use the program. Welfare work require­ments work, no Bibles needed.

Appealing to scrip­tural authority not only makes Chris­tians seem weak, it also dis­tracts from the actual evi­dence. Any ref­erence to scripture in political debate ensures a slew of mocking head­lines. No click-hungry news outlet will pay attention to a lawmaker’s sta­tistics when he also says that Noah’s flood proves climate change isn’t man-made, as Rep. Shimkus did. 

Politi­cians have reduced the Bible to a prop. If Chris­tians want scripture to have weight, then they need to stop using it where it has no rec­og­nized authority. Chris­tians can point to scripture as an authority among Chris­tians, but they need to stop citing Dad in pol­itics and start proving that He’s right. The evi­dence is there.

Mr. Hagstrom is a senior studying pol­itics and journalism.