Monday, May 23, 2016


Matt Walsh posted this commentary on

Christians, We Cannot Adjust Our Faith To Make Room For Our Favorite Sins

It is 100% spot-on, so much so that I would prefer you to read it than this. Do so.

That said, there are people who are allergic to links, so here's the meat:
Yes, all Christians are sinners. Exhibit A: yours truly. I fail to live by my beliefs all the time. I am weak. I am selfish. Lord, I am truly a pathetic sight. I am not saying that Christians who fail to perfectly follow Christian teaching are not Christians. If I were saying that, I’d be excommunicating myself, and the entire rest of the world. 
But it’s one thing to fail in your pursuit of holiness, and it’s another to call holiness ”hateful.” It’s one thing to sin, it’s another to say that sinning is not sinful. It’s one thing to disobey the Commandments, it’s another to categorically reject the authority of the Commandments. It’s one thing to crawl back to God and beg for forgiveness, it’s another to stand there and say you don’t need forgiveness because God was wrong when he called your sin a sin. It’s one thing to follow Christian teachings imperfectly, it’s another to loudly denounce them. It’s one thing to fall short of the faith, it’s another to change the faith to suit you. 
In all of these cases, you can do the former while still retaining your Christian identity. But to do the latter is to reject your Christian identity. And you are free to do that, by the way. There is no law saying you must be Christian (the laws are trending very much in the other direction). You are not compelled or required to profess a faith in Jesus Christ. Many people are not Christian. I have friends who are not Christian. I think you should be Christian, I believe your salvation depends on your acceptance of Jesus Christ, but that is your decision to make. I just want you to be honest about it.
Matt backs it up, of course, with scripture and reason and logic, but if you're of a mindset to call Christians haters because of this, then you are the sort of person who will have nothing to do with actual reason and logic. Instead you'll substitute sloganeering and slurs... like calling people haters. The sad fact is that the vast majority of people who call themselves Christians (as well as those who chastise them) have never read the Bible, have never actually studied what Christianity is, and have no idea of its tenets. For them, it's an identity, not a philosophy, not an ideology, and certainly not a religion. If you think you're a Christian and you're really not, it's in your best interests to know it; and if you're not a Christian, no one is going to force you into it. They can't.

Here's how this works: I'm against a lot of things. I'm against them, not because I fear hellfire and damnation, but because they're wrong. It's as simple as that. But my "being against" something amounts to me not doing the things I'm against doing. It has nothing to do with you, whoever you are. You are free to be as wrong as you like, so long as that doesn't infringe on someone else's most basic rights of life and liberty. I come to this conclusion by way of example: God gave us all free will, and the freedom to exercise it. He never forces anyone to His side, but allows them to choose. And in every case, the wrong choice is yours to make. Since God gave you the choice, I'm not going to take it from you, with the exceptions being where your exercise of free will actively harms others. I will come to their defense against your use of force. And though you know that somewhere in the back of my mind I think of some of your choices as the wrong ones, in practice this is something that well-adjusted adults simply note, with tolerance, as a difference of opinion and move on.

As a result, you might think my being a Christian has very little impact upon your life. Maybe so, but if I were to honestly tally it up, I think it has had a lot of positive impact on other people's lives.

But there is a clear delineation between tolerance and participation.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

John Cleese, 1984, and PC Evasions

No sooner than I had finished my last post than I saw this excellent statement of John Cleese's shared on a friend's Facebook wall:

John Cleese: Political Correctness Can Lead 
to an Orwellian Nightmare:


Follow Big Think here:

This resulted in a comment and conversation as follows (some names changed, and commentary added as I feel like it.)
Lib R. Awl: The problem with this is two-fold. First, as he touches on in the video, there are two types of political correctness. We need different nomenclature for these.

Second is there's a purposeful counter-movement to categorize all political correctness as seeking a land of zero criticism, and using that erroneous classification to push back against equality, or even push for bigotry.
Dave Leigh: Reasonable people understand from context what is meant. We have over 20 definitions listed in the dictionary for the word "run", and nobody sees that as a "problem". So having seen this video, start to finish and seen the context, do you honestly have a "problem" with this? For instance, do you think that that is what John Cleese is doing here can be taken as a "push for bigotry"?
So here I'm simply saying that the context shouldn't be a problem. Lib's second point gave me pause because I saw nothing remotely resembling a push for inequality or bigotry in what Cleese said. So I asked for clarification.
Lib R. Awl: I didn't not say I did not understand the context, but that others do not, intentionally or otherwise. Lumping them into categories of reasonable or unreasonable does not change the fact that the contexts get muddied.
I asked a simple question: does Lib think that John Cleese is pushing for bigotry? I assume that Lib understood the context, otherwise I wouldn't have asked my question. And categories of "reasonable or unreasonable" are essential. You can have a conversation only with the former because the latter are unreasonable. So please forgive the snark in my response:
Dave Leigh: Whew. We agree, because *I* didn't say you didn't understand the context either. I gave you the same benefit of the doubt I give others. Who are these others, btw? I don't think they're here. At least, I don't think that our host has a problem with context, or you or me either. I certainly don't think that John Cleese does.

Perhaps it's the company I keep, but I'd have a hard time finding anyone who could watch Cleese patiently explain that there is a good kind of political correctness and a bad kind and then walk away unintentionally confused. As for those who are intentionally confused, I pay them as much mind as I would a guy who straps rockets to his minivan and then complains about road safety.

You might conclude that I don't think what John Cleese is saying could be taken as a "push for bigotry" in any way that constitutes a problem for any reasonable person, you included.
That's right. I have to specifically state that I'm not calling Lib unreasonable.
Lib R. Awl: The problem lies in not addressing those who conflate the two types of political correctness, which was my second point. Ignore them, and they run for president.
Our Host: lets leave Hillary Clinton out of this....
Apparently if you lack specificity about two types of politicians, somebody's going to come along, conflate them, and make a joke. A funny one, too. But note that suddenly we're talking about politicians instead of freedom of thought and speech. Note that John Cleese is not talking about politicians at any point. The thought he is expressing is not about election politics. Lib is attempting to change the subject, and it's not unnoticed. Furthermore, the attempt is a slide toward the smug style noted at and discussed in my previous post. You don't have to mention who they are, nudge, nudge, wink, wink. They are idiots. While no one can mistake me for a fan of Trump's, I am a fan of sticking to the subject:
Dave Leigh: I think, Lib, that you're illustrating Cleese's point. He said, "when you're around super sensitive people you cannot relax and be spontaneous because you have no idea what's going to upset them next."

When viewing a conversation between two individuals, interviewer and interviewee, it is not reasonable to expect a speaker to address the questions that *you* would have asked had you been there. It's even less reasonable to expect that person to explain points that *you* imagine will be misunderstood by hypothetical viewers who *may* be either unintelligent or unreasonable.

That said, your first point was addressed by Cleese in the video itself. As far as I can see, your second point has nothing to do with Cleese, this video, or anybody in this conversation. You say that part of the problem with this statement is that there is a purposeful counter-movement, and I asked if you thought Cleese was doing that. IOW, here, in this video, is Cleese pushing for inequality or bigotry?

It should be an easy question. Yes or no. But if it's "no", it's irrelevant, because that's a problem with something some other guy said.
It's really a rhetorical question. Of course there's nothing wrong with what Cleese said. Of course Lib's comment was irrelevant within that context. But I would rather Lib admit it.

I don't ask for much. But I do ask for this: if you tell me that there's a problem with what someone said, then point out the problem with the thing he actually said. Do not invent people... not YOU, mind you!... who misunderstand or deliberately twist the message into something different, find fault with that fictional parody of the original point, and then claim that the problem lies with the original speaker. That is so irrational it should never have to be explained.

It's also a shit-ton of work. Being a "Lib R. Awl" must be incredibly hard due to the sheer creativity involved in providing completely unrelated, fictional meanings to be assigned to someone else's words. And since you're far too intelligent to hold these fictional meanings yourself, you must then invent fictional dumb-asses and fictional villains to hold them for you. It must be exhausting.
Lib R. Awl: It is reasonable to expect the interviewee to see the broader picture. What we see instead is Cleese basically taking a “Get Off My Lawn” position, generalized against college students.

It's no different than a reporter asking a protester, “Don't you think the speakers have a right to free speech?” The answer is obviously yes, but it narrates the issue away to a lesser problem.
Lib doesn't even notice that college students were not generalized in the statement at all. Rather, Cleese noted in a broader discussion of free speech that he was warned away from college campuses. To Lib's mind, it's all about Lib. The "broader picture" is, of course, defined by Lib. It has nothing to do with trying to accurately note the context of Cleese's statement or understand the message that Cleese gave.

Lib has changed my mind; this is not a reasonable person. It's a very simple thing to hear a speaker and either admit that they're not advocating bigotry, or explain how they are. At that point a conversation can move on. But here we are instead getting slogans and desperate evasions. We've reached the point where it's just silly.
Dave Leigh: Cleese made a case for tolerance. He said that he's offended every day, and yet that does not make him want to silence anyone. However, YOU claim he's taking a "Get off my lawn" position, which is blatantly inaccurate and misleading. And given your prior statements, you full-well know better. I'm not ready to believe that you didn't answer yet again because yet again you simply didn't understand the question. I won't ask again. You know that there's not a thing wrong with what he said.

It is your mis-characterization that "narrates the issue away to a lesser problem". The larger problem here... the one being made by Cleese... is not just the quashing of freedom of speech, but the sheer lack of human respect that would deny others their say. Hence his reference to 1984. This is Cleese's statement. To say that Cleese "narrates the issue away" from some other point that you'd rather make is your problem, not his.
I was sorely tempted to note the implicit fear of Lib's response. The answer here is, of course, "No, Cleese is not pushing for inequality or bigotry." But in saying that you have to go back to what he is saying, which is that every voice matters, especially critical voices. This is a message that absolutely terrifies the new Left. They will tie their asses around their necks to avoid it, as you can see from Lib's evasions.


And with that we'll part ways with the conversation, and with "Lib R. Awl".

Now you might notice that I take the liberty of reading quite a lot into Lib's responses. This is far from our first conversation. Lib has over the years become more and more the reflexive parrot and less and less the critical thinker, and our conversations have been less and less productive. When a person meet the assertion that freedom-of-speech is a good thing with either agreement or rational debate; when that person cannot answer whether a man is advocating bigotry because the answer is at odds with the pre-set ideological script; then it's clear that what we have here is a 'religious' zealot. Just one more reason why the Left should abandon the "smug style".

Smug Alert

It's rare that you find an admission such as this in a liberal publication:
Nothing is more confounding to the smug style than the fact that the average Republican is better educated and has a higher IQ than the average Democrat. That for every overpowered study finding superior liberal open-mindedness and intellect and knowledge, there is one to suggest that Republicans have the better of these qualities.

Most damning, perhaps, to the fancy liberal self-conception: Republicans score higher in susceptibility to persuasion. They are willing to change their minds more often.

The Republican coalition tends toward the center: educated enough, smart enough, informed enough.
What's even rarer is the sort of introspection necessary to consider such thoughts. Nevertheless, Emmett Rensin does so in a article of April 21 entitled "The smug style in American liberalism". In it, he chides the self-appointed liberal intelligentsia for their increasingly blatant disregard for any idea that is not fashionable. They do not argue, they do not debate, they do not care for facts, only 'knowing'. As in, "Everybody knows that [insert the latest inversion of language and logic from the Ministry of Truth]."

I really would like you to read the whole thing, but you probably won't. It's long, and it's tedious, and as I said, it's introspective. This results in a piece where quoted or sarcastically ascribed statements are interspersed with the author's own sober points, and it is up to the reader to do the work of sorting them out. But toward the end he does cast much of that style aside in favor of being candid:
...what I am trying to tell you is that the smug style has fundamentally undermined even the aspiration, that it has made American liberalism into the worst version of itself.
It is impossible, in the long run, to cleave the desire to help people from the duty to respect them. It becomes all at once too easy to decide you know best, to never hear, much less ignore, protest to the contrary.
At present, many of those most in need of the sort of help liberals believe they can provide despise liberalism, and are despised in turn. Is it surprising that with each decade, the "help" on offer drifts even further from the help these people need?
Even if the two could be separated, would it be worth it? What kind of political movement is predicated on openly disdaining the very people it is advocating for?
The smug style, at bottom, is a failure of empathy. Further: It is a failure to believe that empathy has any value at all. It is the notion that anybody worthy of liberal time and attention and respect must capitulate, immediately, to the Good Facts.
If you're a Liberal yourself, you may not read that far simply because you may see far too much of yourself in this essay.

Rensin goes on to suggest that Liberals should...
...wonder what it might be like to have little left but one's values; to wake up one day to find your whole moral order destroyed; to look around and see the representatives of a new order call you a stupid, hypocritical hick without bothering, even, to wonder how your corner of your poor state found itself so alienated from them in the first place. To work with people who do not share their values or their tastes, who do not live where they live or like what they like or know their Good Facts or their jokes.
Perhaps there's some irony in the fact that this will happen. It has already gone long past the point where Liberals can pretend with any degree of veracity whatsoever that they are open-minded or base their opinions on logic and reason. The only people who haven't known this up to now are the Liberals themselves; and this article marks the end of that era where Liberals could be considered to be unknowingly hypocritical.

Blame South Park for the title of this essay.
How easy it would be to apply the "smug style" to the Liberals themselves. Take the most recent of social issues: gender-separated bathrooms. Liberals know that the issue is not one of hatred toward transgendered persons. Intellectually, that is, they know it. They know that there are no "junk inspectors" to determine who can and can't go into a restroom today, and that someone who passes as a woman simply uses the ladies' room without comment. They know that only 0.3% (zero-point-three-percent, in a generous estimation) of Americans are transgendered, and they know (because they have been told outright) that the Conservative position is to provide reasonable accommodation for that 0.3% while simultaneously providing for the safety and well being of the 50% who are women at risk of rape by people (non-transgenders, mind you), who would abuse access to female restrooms. They know that a woman is raped every two minutes even with the cultural restriction barring men from ladies' rooms. They know that their ideology has been historically opposed to those who would prey on women (and still is, nominally). They know that currently proposed laws are merely an (arguably flawed) attempt to put some objective standards in place to safeguard half of the population. They know that no political solution can possibly satisfy every individual. And yet they completely ignore all of that. Instead, they pretend that it's an issue of hate and bigotry. They argue against their own self-interest to grant rapists and murderers and thieves unfettered access to that half of the population that is least able to physically defend themselves against attack. They no longer even pretend to offer logic or reason, preferring to go straight to their comfort zone: throwing unwarranted insults. They do this knowingly and deliberately. How easy it would be to claim, with air-tight justification, that they either hate women entirely, or they're just fucking stupid.

They do this on many issues. They claim support for science while simultaneously displaying a completely lack of conception over what it actually is by claiming that "the science is settled". They argue that "stupid" Conservatives vote against their best interests and that they're greedy. They don't want to blame all Muslims for the actions of a few, but they're fine with blaming all policemen for the actions of a few. They want "safe zones" where their own opinions are exempt from criticism, yet all other opinions are vilified. They require photo IDs to attend a campaign speech but not to vote. They claim that they are both more intelligent than Conservatives and too stupid to get that ID. And the list goes on and on and on...

How easy it would be to apply the "smug style" to the Liberals themselves.
How far over the line it must be for the Liberals themselves to notice.