28 Reasons This Christian Liberal Is Done Talking To Conservatives

Tiffany Willis’s insightful article saddens me.  In 2015, she laid out 28 reasons she is done talking to her conservative Christian friends and family.  I’m saddened that America is getting to where we can’t discuss our differences anymore without wanting to strangle each other, but I do, nonetheless, understand where Ms. Willis is coming from.

I respond only as myself.  I’m a devout Christian, very political, but I don’t identify with the religious “right” or “left”.  In an Episcopal Church with a very left of center parish on average, I’m the “token conservative”, but put me in a room full of southern Baptists, and I turn into the liberal faster than Jesus makes water into wine.  

So, that’s enough context.  Let me go through each of her points, and I’ll try not to Tu Quoque each of her points, though that will come up in many cases.  From here on I’ll be addressing Tiffany Willis directly.

  1. You support revisionist history.

Here’s my first Tu Quoque.  Yes, I’ve seen the revisionist history that comes from the right.  I’ll use Civil War history as an example.  I’ve grown up white in the south, and am very familiar with the neo-confederate narrative.  “It wasn’t about slavery, it was states’ rights.”  Yet right now, I see revisionism coming from the left.  Just because neoconfederates go above and beyond to deny the importance of slavery, doesn’t mean that the exact opposite must hold true.  I’m not interested in defending the Confederacy.  But a fine man on the wrong side of history is getting his name dragged through the mud lately.  I’m talking about Gen. Robert E. Lee.  He was a complicated man who didn’t want to secede from the Union, and wanted slavery to be phased out.  Yet he fought for the Confederacy.  I, now, here bold faced lies claiming that Lee was a “white supremacist” who supported slavery.  While neoconfederates should be held accountable for their historical cherry-picking and denial, the victors shouldn’t be free to tell bold faced lies about the side they defeated just because – social justice!   

This is just one example, and I want to move on to the other 27

2. You cite Jesus as your reasoning for rejecting marriage equality.

I’m with you on this one!  I’ll defend someone’s right to believe what they will, but that’s not the same as defending the belief.  Jesus never once mentioned same-sex marriage, I’ve talked about my own views on this in detail.  

On the theology I’m with you.  Though I wouldn’t stop talking to my fellow Christians who are die-hard “traditional marriage” advocates.  I would say to them, however, gay marriage hasn’t hurt the sanctity of my marriage, nor your’s.  

3. You use Biblical scripture to excuse yourself from feeding the hungry.

9. You assume that everyone who needs help are losers and parasites who refuse to work.

I’ve see this too, and honestly, it reminds me of Satan quoting scripture to Jesus in his efforts to tempt Him.  I share your position on this.  If you’re tired of talking to the Christian right about this, I understand.  But I usually point out to them, as you did somewhere in this article, that the majority of welfare recipients have a working head of household.  They do work.  It’s just hard to feed a family on 40 hours of minimum wage.

4. You lie when you say you value “freedom of religion.”

Tu Quoque number 2.  Yes, I know.  They say “freedom of religion” and then try to suppress Islam and justify by saying “Islam is an ideology, not a religion.”  Apparently one politician gets to decide what Islam is.

With that said, I don’t know if you, Ms. Willis, are like this.  But anyone who supports punishing a cake decorator for not wanting to provide a wedding cake for a gay wedding, or some grandma for not wanting to provide flowers; anyone who supports this is a bully, and has no respect for religious freedom.  And don’t give me all that “Jim Crow” stuff!  A gay couple having to go to 1 of the other 29 bakeries instead is not the equivalent of a black family sleeping in their cars because no hotel would give them a room.  

5. You claim God speaks to you and tells you to do things.

I always get uneasy about this.  I long ago made the mistake of thinking God had “a plan for me”.  Maybe He does, but if He does, it’s best that I not try to figure it out.  Yes, the religious right does this, and I think it’s dangerous.  If people think they’re doing God’s work, is there anything they won’t do?

6. You question my faith.

I can only think of once when I was talking to someone on the religious right, who questioned my faith, and it didn’t offend me.  He was your typical creationist type, and I was talking about science, and the universe, etc.  And admitted that scientifically, I can neither prove nor disprove God.  He said it sounds like I have a “weak faith”.  He was right.  

That is the only exception.  Otherwise, who is anyone to question my faith, or your’s?  I know exactly what you mean here.  It’s like if I don’t embrace their particular brand of Christianity, they speak to me like I’ve never heard the “good news” before.  I cannot stand supposed Christians trying to “convert me” or “save me”, when I’ve already there!  I don’t question their faith, though I may question their understanding of scripture.  

7. You care more about your guns than you do about children.

This is a tough one.  But you’re thinking – It shouldn’t be!  Choice between guns and children, children win – hands down!  But is it really that simple?  The problem runs much deeper.  Our society is hurting.  People have no sense of hope, they felt alone, unloved, unimportant.  They want to matter.  They don’t get the psychological treatment they need.  There are ticking time bombs walking around every day.  And one of them goes off.  Banning guns, or restricting guns, isn’t getting at the root of the problem.  

8. You get excited about people dying.

18 You love war, death, and destruction.

I won’t Tu Quoque, because at the time this was written, 2015, it wasn’t quite applicable, yet.  But in 2017, we’ve just seen the Democrats nominate the biggest warmonger they could find – Hillary Clinton.  I just watched my loving, compassionate Church full of the tolerant left, rent their clothes and gnash their teeth, all because they didn’t get their warmongering “first woman president”.  

Ms. Willis, on the issue of war, and Christianity, I’m with you.  But it seems that since 2015, the tables have turned.  I hope that you did not in 2016 engage the same kind of hypocrisy you’ve criticized the religious right for by supporting that warmonger-in-chief just because – “first woman president”.  

10. You weren’t concerned about uninsured people– including me.

I know what you mean.  Jesus healed the sick.  

I have different reasons for opposing Obamacare.  Obamacare is a mandate to buy private insurance from for profit companies, with no incentive to keep rates down.  Rates have nearly doubled since Obamacare was implemented, and more than doubled for some.  I’m all for affordable healthcare, but this is not affordable health care.  If you personally benefited from it, then good for you.  But many have not.  What we need is at least a limited form of single-payer.  I’m sure you’re familiar with what that is.  But I’ll point out that by entrenching the private sector insurance, we’re only making single payer that much more difficult to obtain.  So I support the intention behind Obamacare, but I don’t support Obamacare.  It’s not what was intended.

11. The Creation Museum — that is all.

Agreed.

12. You’re liberal in youth, yet grow conservative in age.

Interesting story there.  Hardly seems a reason to be angry at someone.  (Calling you a “baby killer” is certain reason to be angry)  But for becoming conservative, in and of itself – people change.  I don’t want to be entrenched in an ideology my whole life.  I change my positions in light of new evidence, and my views are still evolving.  I’d encourage others to do the same.

13. You don’t want people who disagree with you to vote.

I know what you mean.  A former student of mine was earning his US citizenship.  I congratulated him.  He was proud he’d be able to vote.  I again congratulated him, even knowing full well he was about to vote for the aforementioned “warmonger in chief”.  

I share your disdain for gerrymandering, and wish we’d do more to ensure that districts are geographically logical, rather than political.  

14. Some of your best friends are black. Or Mexican.

There’s a difference between “prejudice” and “racism”, and I think that’s what you’re seeing here.  I see it all the time.  The reason your conservative friends deny being racist is because they don’t have an ideology of racism.  They are, however, prejudiced.  They tend to prejudge people based on such characteristics as skin color.  But they don’t flat our refuse to associate with people who are different.  That’s how they manage to have their “black friend” and still have their negative attitude towards blacks more broadly.  It’s sad.  But I think you’ll get through to them better (if you’re interested in trying anymore) by knowing the difference and discussing their prejudices with them.  Make it clear you know they aren’t in the KKK, and go from there.  Just my advice.

15. You scream about undocumented immigrant children at the border, but you hire Mexicans to do your dirty work.

Definitely hypocritical, and disgusting behavior if they’re exploiting these people.

16. You insist on calling undocumented immigrants “illegals” and “aliens.”

This is a tough one for me, from a religious perspective.  I know we should “welcome the stranger to our land”.  I also know we’re a sovereign nation with laws, and “he who bears the sword bears it not in vain.”  If people cross the border illegally, then I’m sorry, but they are illegal immigrants.  I’m not calling them less than human, but it is criminal behavior.  There is a difference I realize between crossing the border illegally, and crossing legally but overstaying your visa.  But I have no problem calling illegal immigrants – illegal immigrants.  I don’t wish them any harm, but I do want the law enforced.  They should be deported.  I’ll welcome the stranger to our land who comes here LEGALLY.  

17. You don’t mind using force against “lesser” groups to get what you want.

Tu Quoque time!  Have you not seen all the suppression coming from the left lately?  As despicable as the Westboro Baptists are, they aren’t suppressing freedom of speech.  But what about people shouting down speakers at universities?  What about people blocking the Sec. of Education from doing her job and visiting a public school?  Obama calls them out!  Will you call them out?  I have no problem calling out anyone, left wing, right wing, chicken wing on a string; who suppresses freedom of speech.

19. Speaking of war, you think draft dodging is OK and military service is for the little people.

This is a better description of Republican elites than your conservative friends and family.  But I share your disdain for chicken-hawks.

 20. You claim to care about the Constitution, but in reality you don’t.

Tu Quoque number…4?  Who’s counting?

Yeah, speaking of “undocumented immigrants”, what’s your attitude toward “sanctuary cities”?  If you care about the Constitution, that includes the authority of Congress, not local governments, to make laws regarding immigration and naturalization (Article I, Sec. 8, clause 4).  If you don’t support enforcing our immigration laws, than you care no more for the Constitution than many authoritarian “conservatives” who strip our civil liberties in the name of “national security”.

21. It’s impossible for you to see your privilege.

I’ve no disagreement with this statement, in and of itself.  But I hope this isn’t a thinly veiled reference to “white privilege”.  

  1. You don’t care about children.

I know.  If we’re going to be pro-life, we should be pro-life all the way.  I’m with you!

23. You’re greedy and miserable.

Mixed opinions here.  I know what you mean about being thankful and all.  As we see the wealth gap between rich and poor widen, however, I don’t see why the declining middle class should just put up with it in silence just because there are others worse off.  A stronger middle class is good for the poor, also, as it means more opportunity, and therefore a better chance for them to escape from poverty.  I won’t “check my privilege” while some politicians send our jobs to China.

24. You think our religion is the only one.

Half Tu Quoque.  The right is much worse about this than the left.  But on the left, I see a different version of this.  I’ve encountered some on the Christian left who think THEY are the true Christians.  I might agree with them on welfare, aversion to war, gay marriage, etc. but the second I suggest that we should not encourage promiscuity, that Jesus spending time with the prostitutes was NOT an endorsement of that lifestyle, they shun me!  I actually got banned from a rather large Christian Left group on facebook just for adding some context to their cherry picked Bible verses.  I think they interpreted it as “slut shaming”.  

25. You are lazy and you refuse to read.

We should all listen to each other.  Your conservative friends are like this not because of laziness, but because they feel entrenched.  It’s FOX News vs. Every Other Mainstream Media Source In America.  That’s how they see the world.  I’m sure you’re not like this, but some of your liberal friends might be the types who get all smug and act like CNN is the “real news”.  We should take it all with a grain of salt.  But we should listen to each other.

26. Your misfortune is God’s blessing.

Like with number 5, I agree with your point, but maybe not for the same reason.  I prefer not to claim I know God’s plan.  It’s dangerous, and I won’t tempt the Lord.

27. “Everyone has their lot in life.”

28. You think you’re the only one working and paying taxes.

I’m with you on this, and I’ve even seen it with government programs.  I had this man, Southern Baptist, railing against welfare recipients who “won’t work”, so he says.  Yet this same man will fight to the death for Medicare Part D, which, much like Obamacare, is about the most expensive and inefficient way to make healthcare (prescription drugs in this case) affordable.  It’s just subsidizing private, for profit Big Pharma with no incentive for them to lower prices.  

So yes, I’m with you here, too.

 

In Conclusion

Tiffany Willis, this may have been an odd way to go about it.  My original purpose in writing this is to hopefully get you to change your mind, because I fear this breakdown of communication, both in our country, and in our faith, will only make hostilities fester into something that will make the next generation suffer.  

As you can see, we agree on some things, and not on others.  But even with those “on the right” with whom you disagree on nearly everything, like me with those “undocumented immigrants”, you may not agree with their behavior, but remember they are human.  You can reach them!  Just regroup!

The Benefits of Reactionary Politics

Seemingly reactionary politics are actually a far more complex ideology that has for too long been marginalized by mainstream establishments in western civilization.  In this response to a New York magazine essay, I consider the merits of this “reactionary” ideology.

 

Andrew Sullivan’s recent essay for the New York magazine is a good example of how something can be insightful, and yet fundamentally flawed.  His subtitle “An open-minded inquiry into the close-minded ideology…” puts the article off to a rough start.  I do think Sullivan is genuinely open-minded after reading the entire article, but he is too quick to call these “reactionaries” close-minded.  Are they close minded for being skeptical of globalization?  Are they close minded for rejecting what most in academia swear by?  Or is most of academia close-minded for not giving serious thought to the possibility that globalization will do more harm than good?

Despite Sullivan’s inconsistent critical thinking, I do think this article is a genuine effort to understand this movement he’s calling “the reactionary right”.  First, he draws a brilliant distinction between conservatism and reactionism.  This is spot on!  Conservatives, as the very name suggests, seek to conserve the status quo, and implement modest, incremental changes.  The changes they seek are to build upon what is already there, rather than change it fundamentally.  In this last Presidential race, Clinton was actually the conservative.  Clearly, the conservatives are not who elected Trump.  As many in the media stated many times over, Trump voters were “thirsty for change”.  While I think the term “reactionary” doesn’t do this movement justice, Sullivan’s description of these reactionaries is astute:

“Reactionary thought begins, usually, with acute despair at the present moment and a memory of a previous golden age. It then posits a moment in the past when everything went to hell and proposes to turn things back to what they once were. It is not simply a conservative preference for things as they are, with a few nudges back, but a passionate loathing of the status quo and a desire to return to the past in one emotionally cathartic revolt.”

Sullivan’s first-hand experience, and my own

In the essay, Sullivan discussed his own background as a “reactionary”.

“Growing up steeped in traditional religion, in a household where patriotism seemed as natural as breathing, I became infatuated with a past that no longer existed. I loved the countryside that was quickly being decimated by development, a Christianity that was being overwhelmed by secularism, and an idea of England, whose glories — so evident in the literature I read, the history I had absorbed, and the architecture I admired — had self-evidently crumbled into dust.”

I can see that Sullivan is genuine in describing his own experiences, but also that he doesn’t do it justice.

Like Mr. Sullivan, I too have, in the past, fit this description.  In my early adult years, despite my mixed heritage and German surname, I strongly identified with my English heritage to the point of wanting to “go back”.  I romanticized England, the land of my forefathers, and imagined it much like Sullivan describes above.  I’ve discussed my dismay at what I actually found before.  I too know the despair of modernity, when compared to a glossy and cherry-picked image of a past I’ve never experienced except in my mind.  I admit that to this very day, this “reactionism”, which I prefer to call “nostalgiaholism”, is my instinct.  This level of nostalgia really can have an intoxicating effect, and I think of myself now as a recovered nostalgiaholic.  Despite this, the ideals of “reactionaries” should not be dismissed, and may have merits.

Sullivan makes two assumptions that should be challenged.  1. That looking to the past equates to resisting progress, and 2. That change is necessarily good.

The benefits of nostalgia in moderation

As drinking in moderation has proven health benefits, I contend that nostalgia in moderation can also benefit the health of society and human progress.  What Sullivan is calling “reactionism”, Roger Scruton calls this “restorationism”, and distinguishes it from mainstream conservatism, and this label is probably the most accurate.  Reactionaries, after all, would not be proactive, nor have any particular goal other than to impede some sort of change they don’t like.  But restorationists see something from the past they’d like to restore.

While trying to fully restore an entire era is not only dangerous but impossible, this does not mean that the past should be ignored.  Many times in human history, great leaps forward have been motivated by nostalgia.  It was nostalgia for ancient Rome that drove Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance.  It was nostalgia for the logical thinking of ancient Greek philosophers that motivated the creation of the university.  What is more civilized than the critical thinking skills developed out of the early modern university?

Sullivan refers to the Roman Catholic “Counter Reformation” as part of this “reactionary” tradition.  However, it should be noted that the Counter Reformation brought about much needed reforms in the Roman Catholic Church, much to the benefit of those nations that were predominantly Catholic, such as finally ending the practice of “selling indulgences”, and disciplining corruption among the episcopate.

The United States of America was motivated also by nostalgia.  Go back in time to 1776.  Monarchies and oligarchies are the norm.
Republican form of government?  Isn’t that the primitive government the early Romans had before they became an empire?  Oh yeah, they also tried that in England under Cromwell.  Didn’t he turn into a dictator and massacre Irish priests, nuns, and laity in their parish?  Why would anyone want a Republic?

But the Founding Fathers looked to those few examples of a successful republic in the ancient world with fondness.  They also saw the failures of the Cromwell Republic in England, and were careful not to repeat those failures.  (The first amendment guarantee of “free expression” of religion is a crucial component of that.)  Rather than living in the now of 1776, the Founding Fathers lived in the past, the ancient past.  Thanks to the ancient past, they were able to restore a republican form of government.

The Church of England has made leaps forward not only for the Church itself, but also for Great Britain, motivated by nostalgia.  In the 19th century, many in the Church of England started longing for their Catholic roots.  Few desired a full reunion with the Roman Catholic Church, but they did push for the restoration of many Catholic styles of worship.  Consequently, they also found themselves increasingly sympathetic to the plight of their long oppressed Catholic brothers in Ireland.  In the political sphere, they pushed for better treatment for the Irish with some success, and at least brought an end to formalized suppression of Catholic worship in Ireland.

Then comes the Irish themselves.  Around the time of World War I, they began looking to the past.  Ireland was free once, wasn’t it?  They began pining for an independent Irish nation.  They also looked to the United States for inspiration.  This all sparked the Irish revolution, leading to a now small but thriving Irish Republic.  How fortunate that the Irish looked to the past, rather than embracing the now of 1916.

The Fallacy of Novelty – Change isn’t always good

People don’t necessarily resist change just because they are stubborn and set in their ways.  Most academics would in principle agree with the statement – skepticism is a healthy component of critical thinking.  Yet, when it comes to “progress”, suddenly skepticism is to be viewed as the anti-thesis of critical thinking.  But this is not so.

Many of these salt-of-the-earth Americans are more intelligent than recognized by those in the ivory towers of academia, the Washington beltway, and the mainstream media.  There are many changes that they do embrace, some of which Sullivan has identified, such as a desire to fundamentally transform the administrative state.  But their skepticism of many proposed changes that are imposed upon them is perfectly healthy.  Rather than seeing it as a stubbornness that should, at best, be coaxed out of them, or a worst, should be broken by brute force; perhaps we should be humble enough to admit that they might actually be right, or at least partly correct.  Human history is full of examples, after all, of a nouveau elite imposing massive changes on a people with disastrous consequences.

The Cromwell example in England mentioned above is one such.

The Soviet Union is another such example.  Massive changes were imposed on the people of Russia.  Their historic Orthodox faith was suppressed.  Their economy was radically reorganized.  Dissenting opinions were not tolerated.  It was assumed that anyone who doubted communism was “insane” and they were institutionalized.  The Bolshevics never had the humility to consider the possibility that they may not have known what was best for everyone, all the time.  And the result was nearly a century of suffering, mass murder, starvation, and the final collapse of the Soviet Union.  Communism in China went similarly, though they managed not to collapse.

In America, the early progressives implemented some very positive changes that transformed out economy and led us to victory in World War II.  However, some of their imposed changes make up the darker chapters of American history.  Many of the early progressives sought to advance the human species with eugenics, which also influenced early Nazi Germany.  They also studied diseases on some “lesser human beings”.  Sadly, this meant the long oppressed African Americans, some of whom were denied treatment for syphilis as part of the Tuskagee Study in order to study its effects.  A growing number of blacks became skeptical of all that change.  They were right to be skeptical.

How fortunate that in Spain, many reactionaries resisted change!  Led by Franco, the seemingly benign center-left Republic was overthrown.  The momentum to overthrow this Republic was not a desire fascism, nor even Carlism (Spanish conservatism), though those elements were there.  The momentum that led Franco to victory came from the genuine fear that the Soviets were about to use the Spanish Republic to ultimately turn Spain into another Soviet satellite.  Spain could have been like Romania under Ceausescu.  Instead, it went from an authoritarian right government under Franco, to a monarchy, to a now a thriving democracy structured around a constitutional monarchy, much like Great Britain and several Nordic states.

As we should not hold on to tradition just for the sake of tradition, we should also not embrace change simply because it’s new.  Ideas old and new should be scrutinized, and it is the scrutiny of the new that is an essential function performed by these “reactionaries”.

 

Make America Great Again – What does this mean?

Many have dismissed this slogan as a racist desire to return to the Jim Crow era.  As a recovered nostalgiaholic, I can tell you that when I was on the wagon, I had no desire to restore white supremacy.  Actually, I had great sympathy for some of the most radical African Americans who wanted to embrace their African roots.  I wanted to embrace my English roots, they wanted to embrace their African roots…makes sense.  To me, the desire of any people to reconnect with their ancestors, their traditions, and the land of their forefathers, is a perfectly natural desire.  The philosopher Roger Scruton (the aforementioned restorationist) has argued that Islam is incompatible with the West, but he likewise has shown respect for the right of the Islamic people to be autonomous, and not have western values imposed upon their part of the world.    In so doing, Roger Scruton shows greater respect for the Islamic world than many a self-righteous neoliberal, who preaches compassion when calling for admitting refugees, but doesn’t hesitate to bomb entire nations into submission because they think that the west knows what is best for the whole world.

This claim that “reactionaries” or restorationists are racist is absurd, and is a cheap tactic by the globalists to racially isolate this movement as an exclusively white movement.  But people of all races across the world face different threats from the forces of globalization.

Sullivan, fortunately, is open minded enough not to dismiss this movement as “racist”.  But this is only a matter of strategy, rather than intellectual inquiry in the merits of “reactionary” politics.

“The American elite’s dismissal of these truths, its reduction of all resistance to cultural and demographic change as crude “racism” or “xenophobia,” only deepens the sense of siege many other Americans feel.”

It’s commendable that Sullivan seeks to reach out to these American under siege, but how can he expect them to be open to his ideas, if he is not also open to their ideas?

Sullivan himself not only acknowledges that globalization is very new and fragile, but admits to the negative consequences of globalization.  He refers to the work of Robert Putnam, who found that “people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down,’ that is, to pull in like a turtle.”  I saw this firsthand during my time in London.  You’ll never meet a more unpleasant Englishman than the one who lives in London.  But I found the English I met anywhere outside of London to be far more pleasant and welcoming, contrary to stereotypes.

In America, we are more accustomed to multiculturalism, given our long history as a nation of immigrants.  While the 1950s were, admittedly, “whiter”, it is not the “whiteness” that so many in Trump’s base pine for.  My father tells me of a time in America when you could walk into a factory and get a job the same day.  As a political scientist, I look at a time in the past when there wasn’t as wide of a gap between rich and poor, and America had a strong middle class.  Do I really care how “white” the middle class is?!

The great thing about restorationism is that you don’t have to restore everything.  If we can restore America as a manufacturing giant, it doesn’t mean we have to restore Jim Crow.  Manufacturing in no way depends on racial segregation.  (If anything, segregation was an impediment, and manufacturing thrived in the 1950s despite it.)

We can debate whether or not restoring America’s manufacturing sector is possible, or a good idea if it is.  But to claim that this is “racist” is a cheap straw man argument designed to impede any legitimate debate.

The stale intellectual elites, and Mr. Sullivan 

At the risk of getting back on the wagon, I must lament at the changes I see in academia.  I joined academia in the hope of becoming a part of an institution that valued knowledge and critical thinking.  Many in academia still do.  But I see this under assault by a violent wave of political correctness.  The short term feelings of students and faculty takes precedent over the development of their minds.  Expanding the mind is sometimes a painful process, which involves challenging everything you know, or think you know.  But when doing so is “offensive”, it is increasingly suppressed by those claiming to be the open-minded advocates of the oppressed.  I see this in academia, but others on the #trumptrain see it all around them.

This is not progressive, but the antithesis of progress!  We do not move people forward by shielding them from scrutiny.  We do not move society forward by embedding a strict set of social norms and ostracizing those who challenge those norms.  It makes no difference whether those norms are conservative values or politically correct values.  As John Stuart Mill stated, “This mode of thinking makes the justification of restraints on discussion not a question of the truth of doctrines, but of their usefulness; and flatters itself by that means to escape the responsibility of claiming to be an infallible judge of opinions.”  This assumption of infallibility I see increasingly from academic elites, as well as beltway bureaucrats and media pundits.  Those Sullivan comes from that ilk, he is fortunately more humble.

Sullivan, like me, laments the rise of left-winged authoritarianism on university campuses.  Maybe, like me, he also looks fondly on the past, on the foundation of the university, as a place of open minds, thoughtful questions, and the pursuit of genuine, objective answers.  Restorationism deserves to be a part of the conversation.  It is not merely reactionary, it is a method of critical thought, rooted in the principle that human history contains many examples of past glories that can be revitalized in new and interesting ways.  Don’t get drunk on it, but we could all use a nightcap of nostalgia.

How did America remember what “socialist” means?

BernieSandersfromMSmithArticle

I’m used to boomer generation “conservatives” equating socialism with communist dictatorships.  The boomers lived most of their lives during the Cold War era in constant fear of the communist menace.  I expect better from my fellow millennials, however, particularly the well-educated.

Marion Smith, Executive Director of “Victims of Communism” , has written an ignorant piece of red bait for Politico called “How did America forget what socialism means?”   If I were to write something with that title, I’d argue that decades of fear during the Cold War era, combined with manipulation by right-winged pundits had caused the boomer generation to forget what socialism means and instead equate it with the Soviet Union, as though Soviet style communism was the inevitable result of any attempt at a socialist economy.  As I’ve explained in one of my educational podcasts , Socialism actually can refer to a wide variety of economic systems so long as the means of production are publicly owned and the public decides the distribution of wealth.  Socialism can be anything from total communism to a community of farmers who have decided to collectively organize and share the fruits of their labor.

Mr. Smith’s article shows a picture of Bernie Sanders on the front, and then goes on to discuss the horrors of dictatorial communism, including that of the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba in particular.  His organization, “Victims of Communism”, does an excellent job of documenting the horrors that continue in Cuba.  At no point in this article, however, does Smith explain how this is in any way caused by socialism more broadly, or that it has anything to do with Bernie Sanders.  It pretty much amounts to, Cuba is socialist.  They do horrible things to people.  Bernie Sanders is also socialist.  Therefore…

It reminds me of Dinesh D’Souza’s “2016 Obama’s America” where D’Souza spends an hour or so cherry picking details like how Obama Sr. was a Kenyan revolutionary.  Many of those Kenyan revolutionaries were communistsObama Jr. loves his father and cried over his grave.  Obama must be a communist!

The kind of socialism advocated by Bernie Sanders is not Soviet style, nor Cuban.  He advocates the kind of Democratic Socialism professed by nations in northern Europe like Denmark.  If you want to criticize Bernie Sanders by criticizing Denmark’s economy, or the economies of other such systems in northern Europe, that’s fair game.  But Sanders advocates nothing close to the kinds of dictatorships seen in these countries that identify as “communist”, such as China, Cuba, etc.  Besides, China’s system would be more accurately described as “authoritarian capitalism” .  75% of China’s economy is privately owned.  The corporations exploit workers and make enormous profits, while being backed by the authoritarian “Chinese Communist Party”.

Smith is so disappointed that most of our millennial generation has “forgotten” the meaning of socialism.  By this, he means that we don’t have the same knee-jerk reaction to the word “socialism” as the half of the boomer generation with 24/7 Faux News echoing through their homes.  But these millennials haven’t “forgotten” what socialism means.  The boomers forgot.  The millennials are remembering.  The boomers on the right are still fighting the Cold War.  Someone really should inform them that the Berlin Wall came down.

I’m forgiving of the old.  They are set in their ways, and their worldview has been shaped by experiences that I’ve only read about in textbooks.  But for Mr. Smith, there’s no excuse.

Stop Exploiting the Victims of the Charleston Shooting for Political Feuds!

Charleston Massacre Victims

Last Sunday I visited a friend’s Catholic Church, and I’m glad I did.  The Priest gave a much needed sermon that helped to put the recent tragedy in perspective.  He was deeply touched that the very family members of the slain were able to look at the murderer and say “I forgive you”.  I recently saw the footage, and heard the pain in their voices.  I don’t know if they forgive him in their hearts yet.  But they said so, because they know that they need to forgive.  This deranged young man was driven by pure hate, and that is exactly what he seeks to fuel.  If this tragedy leads to more racial division, regardless of which side “wins”, that murderer will have what he wants.  As the priest mentioned above was touched by the reaction of the family, he was also appalled by the reaction of so many others.  People who’ve never been to the Emanuel AME Church and knew nobody involved has jumped on this opportunity to push their political agenda.  I remember this boomer age priest denouncing the “left” and the “right” for their selfish efforts to exploit this tragedy, and he was absolutely right*.

Unfortunately, some are all too willing to let that murderer have his way.  There are two groups that come to mind: the anti-gun crowd, and the anti-Confederate flag crowd.  With the first, I can at least believe that they act in good faith.  They truly believe that if we had better gun control, these kinds of tragedies could be prevented.  Though they opportunistically jump on every tragedy to call for more gun control, at least they have a logical defense of a sort.  They can say that they are directly responding to the very cause of these tragedies.  Still, it’s a far more complex debate than they realize, and best decided by people thinking clearly rather than worked up into an emotional frenzy.

The second group, those attacking the Confederate flag, are no better than those who started harassing Muslims after the 9/11 attacks – actually, they are worse!  These are the worst kind of bigots, because they think they are so enlightened.  We can argue for years and decades over the history of the American Civil War, and what the Confederate battle flag historically represents.  But does anyone honestly believe that most who display it today are pining for the “good ol’ days of slavery”?  The average white southerner who displays the Confederate Battle Flag today has no problem with black Americans.  He/she likely embraces the symbol as an identity – “Look at me, I’m a redneck”.  Some of the more sophisticated will make a more eloquent argument for states’ rights and the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution.  Others just like Lynyrd Skynyrd.  And yes, some who display the Confederate Battle Flag are racists.

The comparisons to the Nazi Swastika are absurd, however.  Nobody in Germany says, “Well, I don’t support murdering 6 million Jews, but I did like the Nazi policies on reparations from WWI, so I display the Swastika because of that.  Not the whole genocide thing.”  The Nazi regime was built around racial hierarchy.  The Confederacy, however, was about as racist as most other nations of the time, including the Union.  Furthermore, as terrible as slavery was, it wasn’t genocide.  If anyone is guilty of that, it would be the Union, who then went fourth after the Civil War to slaughter the Sioux and Apache.  Many were put on “reservations” (much like concentration camps) and barely kept alive in appalling conditions.  But I don’t call the stars and stripes a symbol of Native American genocide.  Bigotry of every kind must be opposed, and bigotry usually has its roots under pretense of righteous indignation.  Just like I don’t hold my Islamic neighbors responsible for the 9/11 attacks, I don’t hold the average neo-confederate responsible for the Charleston massacre.

I’m not into the neo-confederate stuff myself, but if I were, I would at least for a few weeks refrain from displaying the Battle Flag out of respect.  Like it or not, the murderer did display that flag.  If you want to argue that he had no idea what that flag truly represents – fine.  But right now, there is a family in mourning and they do not need to see the symbol displayed by the murderer of their family members.  Likewise, they do not need a bunch of supercilious white liberals exploiting this tragedy to attack their political enemies.  Before they judge us, maybe they should clean up their own back yards.  States’ rights didn’t murder those people at the Emanuel AME Church.  Neither did Southern pride, nor did Lynyrd Skynyrd.  And they sure weren’t murdered by the 10th Amendment!  I was happy to see CNN host a discussion over the Battle Flag, where one man was defending it with the usual states’ rights argument; and another was wanted it removed from state buildings (I wish I could find the clip).  I think now more than ever we need to listen to each other, especially in the South.  Stop exploiting a tragedy to settle old political feuds, and instead let’s send our condolences to the family and friends of those slain in Charleston at the Emanuel AME Church.  Rather than allowing this tragedy to divide, as the murderer** wants, let it unite us.

Links and Notes:

Rod Dreher also wrote an excellent piece on the tragedy

Dreher also wrote a piece calling for the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag.  I don’t agree with him, but he makes the case effectively without the kind of liberal, pseudo-intellectual bigotry I mention above.

*I admit to being a Christian of often weak faith, bordering agnostic.  But moments like that (the boomer aged priest denouncing the “left” and “right” exploiting the tragedy) certainly restore my faith, because surely it’s easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a baby boomer to see beyond the left/right paradigm.

**I don’t call him by name because people who do these things want to be remembered.  I won’t give him that.

***I do not display the Confederate Battle Flag here because, as I stated, I think we should suspend use of it for a few weeks out of respect.  However, if we can cross the racial divide and have a civilized discussion about the Flag, and race in general, I think we effectively honor the victims by doing so.

Let’s fight pornography with compassion, not piety

RelationshipLove

Porn addiction is harmful to everyone involved.  Porn actors and actresses are physically harmed by the oversized penetration and rapid pace.  They are psychologically harmed by the humiliation, and hollowing out of something that should be very intimate.  Some are driven to suicide, many more are driven to drug addiction.  Viewers are harmed mostly psychologically.  Pornography desensitizes the libido, much like an addictive drug desensitizes the good feeling of dopamine in the brain (the high).  Pornography harms natural relationships by killing that wonderful feeling we get when being intimate with another.  Do you remember your first kiss?  I remember mine.  My face must have been red as a tomato!  I won’t dig any deeper than that, but the butterflies in the stomach, the rush of endorphins you feel your first time – it’s a beautiful thing!  Pornography offers only a hollow equivalent of that, and makes the real thing far more difficult to enjoy.

A well-intended article titled “3 Self Interested Reasons to go Porn Free” attempted to make this case, but relied far too much on piety.  The constant references to “sin” may appeal to Christians like myself, but we’re preaching to the choir.  Yes, I know many Christians are addicted to porn, but let’s not limit our message to them.  Besides, it gives the impression that you’re being preachy, contrary to the title of the article.  Still, the article made some excellent points.  Porn rarely delivers the hoped for thrill, and usually leaves the viewer “fixed”, but unhappy.  Many porn addicts are in denial, and will claim that it does make them happy.  This is all the more reason not to put them on the defensive by calling their behavior “sin”, even if this is true.

My main point here is that there is so much real evidence on our side that we don’t need to be preachy.  We won’t free people from pornography with legal prohibitions, nor will we won’t free them with judgment.  As a Christian, I remember Jesus among the tax collectors and the prostitutes, and it’s clear what He would do.  Let’s meet them where they are.  Instead of piety, let’s try compassion balanced with knowledge.   Let’s show how much we genuinely care for those who are hurting themselves and loved ones (especially spouses) with porn addiction.  Many think it’s victimless.  They often give selectively libertarian retorts such as “if consenting adults…” (and you know the rest).  So instead of judging them, let’s persuade.  ASAPScience has done an excellent short video on the Science of Porn Addiction.  ASAPScience is not a church group.  It’s not a conservative special interest.  ASAPScience relies on solid science to give short, entertaining, and very informative lessons.  As they show in the video regarding porn, the science is on our side.  Deep down, porn addicts know they have a problem.  They need to know how much happier their lives will be when they break their addiction, and learn to love real people again.

PS I love the reference to James Hetfield in the article.  Here is the link to that video.

Obama and Bush are both right about Islam

ObamaAndBush

Normally when I compare Bush and Obama, I’m talking about the worst in Obama.  Not this time.  From the moment Obama took office, he has argued consistently that Islam is a religion of peace and that our conflict is with the terrorists.  Obama has pursued terrorists as President and eventually found and had Osama bin Laden put to death.  I’m not singing Obama’s praise, but he does deserve some credit.  Like Bush, however, he was often distracted by other conflicts in the Middle East that ultimately played into the hands of Al Qaeda (and now ISIS, or ISIL if you prefer).  With that said, Obama is certainly correct in asserting that Islam, as a whole, is not the enemy.

Obama takes a lot of flack from certain elements on the right for this.  They love to sardonically refer to Islam as “A religion of peace” while showing, say, a beheading by ISIS, or the Twin Towers crumbling.  However, Bush made the very same such statements, as this article explains, and the right had very little to say about that.  I’m sure they were gritting their teeth as Bush spoke fairly of Islam, rather than fueling their bigotry, but Bush has an “R” next to his name, so they held their tongues.  Obama, however, not only has a “D” next to his name, but speaking of his name, it’s Barack Hussein Obama.

Some of the less extreme critics of Obama’s policy on Islamist terrorism will at least distinguish between “radical Islam” and “moderate Islam”, but even that is misleading.  Even “radical Islam” as a whole is not the enemy.  Saudi Arabia for example is a valuable ally, but their version of Islam is about as radical as they come.  Saddam Hussein was far more tolerant of other religions and allowed far more rights to women than the Wahabi sect that dominates Saudi Arabia.  Iran is a nation with whom we have an antagonist relationship, but we haven’t had any direct conflict (other than threats and sanctions) since the hostage crisis over 30 years ago.  Iran is less radical that Saudi Arabia, as they do at least sanction some non-Islamic religions, mainly Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism.  They also fund a terrorist group called Hezbollah.  This is a dangerous and violent group, but they don’t attack us.  They mostly fight against Sunni radicals.  The enemy is not Islam, and it isn’t even necessarily radical Islam, it is specifically Al Qaeda, and the more radical ISIS offshoot.

The truth is that both Christianity and Islam are meant to be peaceful religions.  Both are very idealistic and seek the change the world through evangelism and charity.  However, both have very dark chapters in their history, as well as their religious texts.  It’s easy to cherry-pick and make one religion look very peaceful while making the other look barbaric.  In the end, its people, not religions, who do good or harm.  Individuals decide how they want to see their religious affiliations, and which parts they want to live by.  The non-religious are just as capable.

As I have often contended, however, while religions have dark chapters, there are plenty of examples of great leaders and great nations that have been religiously motivated.  FDR was an Episcopalian who felt his faith motivated him to fight for the poor and disadvantaged.  MLK led us to a new era of racial integration and cooperation, largely motivated by his Christian faith.  Malcolm X is a very interesting case.  He was always officially a “Muslim”, but originally was part of a very hateful fringe group called “Nation of Islam”.  This group was in reality an anti-White group that perverted the Islamic faith.  However, Malcolm X spent some time in Africa and then made his pilgrimage to Mecca as required by the Islamic faith.  As a result, he saw people of all races fighting for a common cause.  He also saw Muslims in Mecca of all races coming together in peace.  He then turned from the “Nation of Islam” and embraced Sunni Islam.  From that time onward, Malcolm X was also an advocate of racial equality and integration.  He has a reputation for violence, but he only supported violence in self-defense (while MLK was a pacifist).  Obama contents that religion can actually help in our fight against ISIS, and I think he’s right.  If human beings are so terrible with religion, imagine how much worse we’d be without it.  Want an idea?  Consider that the few examples of atheistic governments in human history have consistently resulted in massive atrocities and state-worship.  I’m not saying that atheists are inevitably this way, but so far, their track record is terrible.

As Fareed Zakaria explained on his GPS on CNN, Islam has, in the past, been a religion that has promoted science and social progress, and they can be again.  Both Bush and Obama realized this, and both realized that we need peaceful Muslims on our side in order to defeat the cancer that is Al Qaeda and ISIS.  Islam isn’t going away, but if we make Islam as a whole our enemy, that will only serve to legitimize ISIS in the eyes of Muslims everywhere…at least Sunni Muslims.  It will also further agitate Shia Muslims, such as most of Iran, with whom we’ve never had particularly good relations, but with whom relations could improve.

Christine Sommers is consistently pro-choice – deal with it!

ChristineSommers1

Christina Sommers has been very consistent in her pro-choice position.  She’s always supported a “woman’s right” to choose abortion*, and has always opposed government funding for abortion.  She sees it as a freedom, not an entitlement.  Despite this, “rationalwiki” claims that her views have modified.  This article is informative, but somewhat slanted, as it follows Sommers unique life as a feminist and seems to describe her as drifting away from feminism.  On abortion, their claim that she has “modified” her stance on abortion is based in part on her position that abortion should not be pushed onto women who oppose it for religious or other reasons.  Yeah, that’s called being pro-choice…as opposed to being pro-abortion.  Many so-called pro-choicers are actually pro-abortion, such as by opposing even so much as a 24 hour waiting period for a woman seeking an abortion, or requiring women receive some basic medical information.  Sommers just wants women to have the choice, she isn’t trying to make it happen.

The “rationalwiki” article’s other justification for saying she’s “modified” her position is the following quote:

“I find it appalling that there is such a disregard for what is in fact a majority of our countrymen [pro-lifers] who view it differently, and some passionately. Rather than attack them as somehow engaged in some kind of dark conspiracy against women’s bodies, we have to understand why they hold these positions… and why it’s not going away as a moral question.”

So, she recognizes that prolifers have other reasons for opposing abortion than being “anti-woman”, or trying to control women.  I’m pro-life, and have no desire to control women.  I want to stop the termination of an innocent life.  If women don’t want a baby, and use birth control, that’s their choice.

What this really boils down to, as you can see from the general tone of the “rationalwiki” article, is that Christine Sommers is an independent feminist, rather than just another vitriolic, rape-fear mongering, male basher spouting talking points about a non-existent patriarchy.  Sommers is a true feminist in that she believes women are equal to men, and will likewise stand up for men by the same standard.  This has caused her to be perceived by others as an “anti-feminist”, which the article admits.  However, the article falls into the same kind of paradigm thinking, assuming that feminism is what we are led to believe it is, rather than what it is actually.

Today’s “feminists”, after a lengthy male bashing tirade, and denouncing fellow women who don’t conform to the current “third wave of feminism”, or pretending to speak on behalf of all woman kind, then quote the dictionary definition of feminism, as follows:

“the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities” from Merriam Webster 

Most self-identified feminists have little in common with this definition, but Christine Sommers is the real deal.  Due to Sommers’s courageous stand for gender equality, many in the “feminist movement”, particularly the “third wave”, find it hard to accept that she really does believe in women’s rights, including abortion.*  Her consistency and devotion to gender equality puts the modern “feminist” movement to shame.

*For the record, I do not consider abortion to be a “woman’s right” or anyone’s right.  Nobody has the right to kill an innocent unborn child.  I do believe in a woman’s right to use birth control, and with that right, I fail to see why abortion is necessary.  Don’t want to get pregnant, buy a $1 condom!