In his third chapter entitled Media as Epistemology, Postman serves us a concise summary of his position relative to the topic of this chapter and the central theme of his entire book:
Some ways of truth-telling are better than others, and therefore have a healthier influence on the cultures that adopt them. Indeed, I hope to persuade you that the decline of a print-based epistemology and the accompanying rise of a television-based epistemology has had grave consequences for public life, that we are getting sillier by the minute. And that is why it is necessary for me to drive hard the point that the weight assigned to any form of truth-telling is a function of the influence of media of communication. ‘Seeing is believing’ has always had a preeminent status as an epistemological axiom, but ‘saying is believing,’ ‘reading is believing,’ ‘counting is believing,’ ‘deducing is believing,’ and ‘feeling is believing’ are others that have risen or fallen in importance as cultures have undergone media change. As a culture moves from orality to writing to printing to televising, its ideas of truth move with it. (page 24 [emphasis added])
Postman is obviously not a multiculturalist who posits all cultures being equivalent. He continues to clarify his position by showing how the underlying philosophy of discourse can have the impact that he claims it does:
…at no point do I care to claim that changes in media bring about changes in the structure of people’s minds or changes in their cognitive capacities….My argument is limited to saying that a major new medium changes the structure of discourse; it does so by encouraging certain uses of the intellect, by favoring certain definitions of intelligence and wisdom, and by demanding a certain kind of content – in a phrase, by creating new forms of truth-telling. I will say once again that I am no relativist in this matter, and that I believe the epistemology created by television not only is inferior to a print-based epistemology but is dangerous and absurdist. (page 27 [emphasis added])
We are now a culture whose information, ideas and epistemology are given form by television, not by the printed word. To be sure, there are still readers and there are many books published, but the uses of print and reading are not the same as they once were; not even in schools, the last institutions where print was thought to be invincible. They delude themselves who believe that television and print coexist, for coexistence implies parity. There is no parity here. Print is now merely a residual epistemology, and it will remain so, aided to some extent by the computer, and newspapers and magazines that are made to look like television screens. Like the fish who survive a toxic river and the boatmen who sail on it, there still dwell among us those whose sense of things is largely influenced by older and clearer waters. (page 28 [emphasis added])
Postman’s Core Thesis:
Obviously, my point of view is that the four-hundred-year imperial dominance of typography was of far greater benefit than deficit. Most of our modern ideas about the uses of the intellect were formed by the printed word, as were our ideas about education, knowledge, truth and information. I will try to demonstrate that as typography moves to the periphery of our culture and television takes its place at the center, the seriousness, clarity and, above all, value of public discourse dangerously declines. On what benefits may come from other directions, one must keep an open mind. (page 29)
Originally posted on the Townhall Interface blog September 20, 2006.
In his first chapter, Postman asserts that his arguments have their roots in philosophy and go deeper than the overt symptoms of our age:
We are all, as Huxley says someplace, Great Abbreviators, meaning that none of us has the wit to know the whole truth, the time to tell it if we believed we did, or an audience so gullible as to accept it. But you will find an argument here that presumes a clearer grasp of the matter than many that have come before. Its value, such as it is, resides in the directness of its perspective, which has its origins in observations made 2,300 years ago by Plato. It is an argument that fixes its attention on the forms of human conversation, and postulates that how we are obliged to conduct such conversations will have the strongest possible influence on what ideas we can conveniently express. And what ideas are convenient to express inevitably become the important content of a culture. (page 6)
Postman starts to apply the philosophy to the specific situation in which we find ourselves:
For on television, discourse is conducted largely through visual imagery, which is to say that television gives us a conversation in images, not words. The emergence of the image manager in the political arena and the concomitant decline of the speech writer attest to the fact that television demands a different kind of content from other media. You cannot do political philosophy on television. Its form works against the content. (page 7)
This idea – that there is a content called ‘the news of the day’ – was entirely created by the telegraph (and since amplified by newer media), which made it possible to move decontextualized information over vast spaces at incredible speed. The news of the day is a figment of our technological imagination. It is, quite precisely, a media event. We attend to fragments of events from all over the world because we have multiple media whose forms are well suited to fragmented conversation. Cultures without speed-of-light media…do not have news of the day. Without a medium to create its form, the news of the day does not exist. (page 8)
Yes, you read right, the telegraph. Postman tracks back the start of the problem all the way back to telegraph technology. He is not anti-technology, but looks to evaluate the side effects of the development and use of technology, which side effects are all too often overlooked if noted at all. The evidence he provides in the course of his dissertation is convincing. One plain statement of his thesis:
To say it, then, as plainly as I can, this book is an inquiry into and a lamentation about the most significant American cultural fact of the second half of the twentieth century: the decline of the Age of Typography and the ascendancy of the Age of Television. This changeover has dramatically and irreversibly shifted the content and meaning of public discourse, since two media so vastly different cannot accommodate the same ideas. As the influence of print wanes, the content of politics, religion, education, and anything else that comprises public business must change and be recast in terms that are most suitable to television." (page 8)
And therein lies the problem, as he develops with more detail in the remainder of the book. We shall see that the impact on politics, religion, and education has been a "dumbing down" of a once intellectual culture and people. Others have noted this phenomenon, but Postman provides a plausible and reasonable cause, with evidence to back it up.
The following observation should be of particular interest to the Christian (Postman gives no evidence of himself being a biblical Christian). The Second Commandment forbidding graven images has much greater application than to simple and overt idolatry if his thesis is correct. [Emphasis is the author’s.]
In studying the Bible as a young man, I found intimations of the idea that forms of media favor particular kinds of content and therefore are capable of taking command of a culture. I refer specifically to the Decalogue, the Second Commandment of which prohibits the Israelites from making concrete images of anything. ‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water beneath the earth.’ I wondered then, as so many others have, as to why the God of these people would have included instructions on how they were to symbolize, or not symbolize, their experience. It is a strange injunction to include as part of an ethical system unless its author assumed a connection between forms of human communication and the quality of a culture. We may hazard a guess that a people who are being asked to embrace an abstract, universal deity would be rendered unfit to do so by the habit of drawing pictures or making statues or depicting their ideas in any concrete, iconographic forms. The God of the Jews was to exist in the Word and through the Word, an unprecedented conception requiring the highest order of abstract thinking. Iconography thus became blasphemy so that a new kind of God could enter a culture. (page 9)
This observation likewise has much to say to 21st century Christians who seek to use the media of the surrounding culture to reach that culture for Christ. When the cultural milieu is awash in a communication medium that is antithetical to the message to be conveyed, the adoption of that communication medium is to be avoided if we are to be true to the message.
Originally posted on Townhall Interface blog on November 10, 2006. Even scarier now than then.
In my last post I made the assertion that “The second enemy is the liberal leftist, socialist, dare I say, communist worldview that permeates Western civilization in both Europe and the U.S.” (Technically, communism and socialism are distinguishable, but their policies, goals, and underlying philosophy are so often indistinguishable that for the purposes of this essay they will be considered the same thing.) I want to provide the evidence for this claim in perhaps a more unique way than might have been expected. I will assume only that the reader is somewhat conversant with the problems seen and talked about in American culture, i.e., our current culture wars.
In 1953, W. Cleon Skousen wrote The Naked Communist. In that book he listed 45 Communist goals and noted that anyone willing to do his or her homework, i.e., read the reports of Congressional hearings together with available books by ex-Communists “will find all of these Communist objectives described in detail.” We now have the advantage of slightly over a half a century’s time to see how much progress has been made in achieving these goals, and in so doing, draw our conclusions about the nature of this internal enemy. I will not present the entire list in this post, but you may find it here. Please remember, these were drawn up in the 1950’s. Some goals I’ve listed are just particularly obvious historically speaking. Others are particularly relevant to my last post, and the issues of this last election (I have kept the original numbering for the readers reference):
Their Goals – The Data
3. Develop the illusion that total disarmament by the United States would be a demonstration of moral strength.
4. Permit free trade between all nations regardless of Communist affiliation and regardless of whether or not items could be used for war.
6. Provide American aid to all nations regardless of Communist domination.
7. Grant recognition of Red China. Admission of Red China to the UN.
11. Promote the U.N. as the only hope for mankind. If its charter is rewritten, demand that it be set up as a one-world government with its own independent armed forces. (Some Communist leaders believe the world can be taken over as easily by the UN as by Moscow. Sometimes these two centers compete with each other as they are now doing in the Congo.)
15. Capture one or both of the political parties in the United States.
16. Use technical decisions of the courts to weaken basic American institutions by claiming their activities violate civil rights.
17. Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of teachers’ associations. Put the party line in textbooks.
18. Gain control of all student newspapers.
19. Use student riots to foment public protests against programs or organizations which are under Communist attack.
20. Infiltrate the press. Get control of book review assignments, editorial writing, policy-making positions.
21. Gain control of key positions in radio, TV and motion pictures.
22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to “eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.”
23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”
24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press.
25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio and TV.
26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.”
27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social” religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity which does not need a “religious crutch.”
28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on the ground that it violates the principle of “separation of church and state.”
29. Discredit the American Constitution by calling it inadequate, old-fashioned, out of step with modern needs, a hindrance to cooperation between nations on a world-wide basis.
30. Discredit the American founding fathers. Present them as selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the “common man.”
31. Belittle all forms of American culture and discourage the teaching of American history on the ground that it was only a minor part of “the big picture.” Give more emphasis to Russian history since the Communists took over.
39. Dominate the psychiatric profession and use mental health laws as a means of gaining coercive control over those who oppose Communist goals.
40. Discredit the family as an institution. Encourage promiscuity and easy divorce.
41. Emphasize the need to raise children away from the negative influence of parents. Attribute prejudices, mental blocks and retarding of children to suppressive influence of parents.
42. Create the impression that violence and insurrection are legitimate aspects of the American tradition; that students and special-interest groups should rise up and use “united force” to solve economic, political or social problems.
So, you tell me. How successfully has the Communist/Socialist agenda been implemented? Has the defeat of the Soviet Union hindered it in any way? Although not communist/socialist in name, the only rational conclusion in light of this evidence is that the left (perhaps we should capitalize that, as in The Left) in this country is, indeed, controlled by the Marxist-Leninist worldview of communism. No other worldview has adopted these kind of goals and implemented them so successfully. This is why many call what is going on a “cultural war.” The conflict is real and it is here in this country, taking place in the streets of our cities, the pulpits of our churches, and the halls of our government. The struggle is real and the stakes are high, our very freedoms we love and cherish.
How to respond? Let me provide these thoughts from Martin Luther: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” [Update: this alleged Luther quote does not appear to be verified as a quote from Luther, although it certainly sounds like something he would say. Nevertheless, the concept it expresses is still true.]
For additional reading, I would recommend the book by Dr. Fred Schwarz entitled You Can Trust the Communists (to be Communists). The HazZzMat blog also seems to be plugged in here. [Update: this blogsite has not had recent posts and appears to be inactive.] There are undoubtedly other resources that I’ve not yet located. Feel free to add them to the comments section.
Originally posted on the Townhall Interface blog on September 12, 2006.
Rarely will one find a work that may be described as both a seminal work and a watershed, but IMHO, Neil Postman’s 1986 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, (ISBN 0140094385) achieves this dual distinction. The significance of the work is apparent in the subtitle: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. In this age in which a significant portion of the American population seems to hold an anti-intellectualism that is characterized by the inability to hold a rational debate without sliding into ad hominem attacks and subjective argumentation (although calling it argumentation is not really an accurate description of what they tend to do), this book goes a long way in explaining how this lamentable situation has developed. Michael Savage proclaims that “liberalism is a mental disorder,” and Hugh Hewitt frequently refers to the “Fever Swamp.” Both are apt descriptions of the mental processes of many of our fellow Americans on the liberal left end of the spectrum, despite how nice they may be otherwise. I propose publishing here some of the key points of Mr. Postman’s thesis, developing further the relevance for today in hopes of understanding how we got here and perhaps how to oppose if not reverse this pernicious trend.
Postman’s Forward places before us a contrast between the equally chilling prophecies of two of the twentieth century’s earlier writers. George Orwell wrote in his novel, 1984, of a totalitarian society that burned books, of a Big Brother who militantly deprived the people of their autonomy, maturity and history. On the other hand, Aldous Huxley’s vision in his Brave New World foresees the day when “people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.” To quote Postman more extensively on this contrast,
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.
No reason to ban books because so few want to read them? So much information we are reduced to passivity and egoism (narcissism?!)? Truth drowned in a sea of irrelevance? A trivial culture preoccupied with feelings? Does any of this ring as true to you as it does to me as a description of 21st century American culture? Let us compare Mr. Postman’s analysis to our current situation and culture and judge how accurate a prophet he truly was.
Originally posted on the Townhall Interface blog on November 6, 2006. See Part 1 for introductory comments.
Setting the Stage, Act 2
In Part 1, we saw how liberals will attempt to shut down criticism of their positions by quoting Jesus’ admonition to not judge. We also saw that they could only do so by ignoring both the context of the passage and several other relevant verses that require a different understanding of the original verse. Here in Part 2, we will see the same strategies being attempted again with the same invalid and even more disastrous results.
Resist Not Evil?
As this was more of a side point, there is less to quote from our liberal commentor on this topic. However, what is said is clear enough and is, indeed, representative of one of the major tenets in the philosophy of liberalism.
As for the war/peace; I am aware that war is part of the human condition. Does that make it right? There is a good reason that Jesus said for us to resist not evil. Because it is in our attempts at resisting evil that we begin to emulate evil. And then we lose our souls.
Your soul is more valuable than your life, and you should behave thusly. It is better to submit to God’s will, to trust in God, than it is live a long life. Better die than to kill.
Jesus did, indeed, tell us to "resist not evil," (Matthew 5:39) but was He saying we are not to resist all evil? Context is again the key, in this case, just the rest of the verse would be sufficient, but here’s the whole thing:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. (Matthew 5:38-42)
What evil was Jesus saying we should not resist as defined by the context? Let’s see: someone slapping you on the cheek, someone suing you for your clothing on your back, someone forcing extra effort on your part without pay and for their benefit, and someone asking a loan from you. Did anyone see there anything about someone wanting, not to slap your cheek, but to separate your cheek from the rest of your body? Jesus is clearly talking about personal revenge, not self defense, or even national defense.
This brief essay came to my attention back in 2006 and I’ve found and reposted it here. The recent deal with Iran demonstrates rather conclusively that the liberal left has the mindset of sheep, and unfortunately, they have been voted into leadership by the other sheep of this nation. (Emphases added.)
By LTC (RET) Dave Grossman, author of "On Killing."
Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always,even death itself. The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?
– William J. Bennett – in a lecture to the United States Naval Academy November 24, 1997
One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me:
"Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident." This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per 100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt one another. Some estimates say that two million Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record rate of violent crime. But there are almost 300 million Americans, which means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime is considerably less than one in a hundred on any given year. Furthermore, since many violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, the actual number of violent citizens is considerably less than two million.
Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.
I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin’s egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful. For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.
"Then there are the wolves," the old war veteran said, "and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy." Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.
"Then there are sheepdogs," he went on, "and I’m a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf."
If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.
Let me expand on this old soldier’s excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial, that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids’ schools.
But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid’s school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep’s only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their child is just too hard, and so they chose the path of denial.
The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, can not and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheep dog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.
Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn’t tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, "Baa."
Until the wolf shows up. Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.
The students, the victims, at Columbine High School were big, tough high school students, and under ordinary circumstances they would not have had the time of day for a police officer. They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to say to a cop. When the school was under attack, however, and SWAT teams were clearing the rooms and hallways, the officers had to physically peel those clinging, sobbing kids off of them. This is how the little lambs feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at the door.
Look at what happened after September 11, 2001 when the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel? Remember how many times you heard the word hero?
Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed right along with the young ones.
Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, "Thank God I wasn’t on one of those planes." The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, "Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference." When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.
There is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, but he does have one real advantage. Only one. And that is that he is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population. There was research conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory crimes of violence: assaults, murders and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority said that they specifically targeted victims by body language: slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself.
Some people may be destined to be sheep and others might be genetically primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose which one they want to be, and I’m proud to say that more and more Americans are choosing to become sheepdogs.
Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the hijacking. When he learned of the other three passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd dropped his phone and uttered the words, "Let’s roll," which authorities believe was a signal to the other passengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers – athletes, business people and parents. — from sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.
There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men. – Edmund Burke
Here is the point I like to emphasize, especially to the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak to each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn’t have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision.
If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior’s path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.
For example, many officers carry their weapons in church.? They are well concealed in ankle holsters, shoulder holsters or inside-the-belt holsters tucked into the small of their backs.? Anytime you go to some form of religious service, there is a very good chance that a police officer in your congregation is carrying. You will never know if there is such an individual in your place of worship, until the wolf appears to massacre you and your loved ones.
I was training a group of police officers in Texas, and during the break, one officer asked his friend if he carried his weapon in church. The other cop replied, "I will never be caught without my gun in church." I asked why he felt so strongly about this, and he told me about a cop he knew who was at a church massacre in Ft. Worth, Texas in 1999. In that incident, a mentally deranged individual came into the church and opened fire, gunning down fourteen people. He said that officer believed he could have saved every life that day if he had been carrying his gun. His own son was shot, and all he could do was throw himself on the boy’s body and wait to die. That cop looked me in the eye and said, "Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?"
Some individuals would be horrified if they knew this police officer was carrying a weapon in church. They might call him paranoid and would probably scorn him. Yet these same individuals would be enraged and would call for "heads to roll" if they found out that the airbags in their cars were defective, or that the fire extinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids’ school did not work. They can accept the fact that fires and traffic accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards against them.
Their only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, "Do you have and idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones attacked and killed, and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?"
It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.
Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: you didn’t bring your gun, you didn’t train. Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by your fear helplessness and horror at your moment of truth.
Gavin de Becker puts it like this in Fear Less, his superb post-9/11 book, which should be required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with our current world situation:
…denial can be seductive, but it has an insidious side effect. For all the peace of mind deniers think they get by saying it isn’t so, the fall they take when faced with new violence is all the more unsettling.
Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level.
And so the warrior must strive to confront denial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himself for the day when evil comes. If you are warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be "on" 24/7, for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself…
This business of being a sheep or a sheep dog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-sand-sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth.
The following was originally posted on the Townhall Interface blog on November 4, 2006. Fighting for our Lives was another Townhall blog run by SPQR and so these links are no longer available since that platform has been taken down. However, the arguments I give below are still valid and are particularly apropos for these times when many issues on which conservatives stand are attacked with this alleged biblical argument which really only reveals the ignorance of those using said argument. We see these arguments in everything from the homosexual agenda to attacks on the second amendment rights. Prepare yourself by learning to think clearly and know your Bible so you can respond appropriately to progressive drivel.
Setting the Stage
A recent post over at Fighting for our Lives entitled “Discipline and Integrity” initiated an interesting discussion thread that includes, among others, two very good extended replies by SPQR here and here to the primary liberal responding to this post. Two issues, however, remain inadequately addressed and they both have to do with the interpretation of Biblical verses alleged to support the liberal’s viewpoint. They are common objections to the conservative worldview and require a more detailed evaluation.
In common with most of liberal theology, this liberal’s quotation of the Bible violates at least two of the standard rules of interpretation. First and foremost, only selected Scriptures are emphasized, ignoring verses that would call for different and sometimes opposite explanations of the data. When giving his final words to the Ephesian elders, Paul says, “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” (Acts 20:26-27; note, I use the KJV because it is public domain and most people will have access to it. It is an excellent translation and the meaning can be understood in the overwhelming majority of cases. Feel free to look up the verses in your own favorite translation, although I would caution you to use a good literal translation and not a paraphrase for serious Bible study.) Anyone handling the Word of God must give careful attention to use “all the counsel of God” and not just pick and choose what fits the a priori desired results. This is a common failing of liberal theology, and I will show how it is evident in the arguments below.
Secondly, the context of a passage must be understood to achieve the correct understanding of the author’s intent. This includes such processes as noting what kind of literature the passage is, because, for example, poetry will contain more figurative language than will historical narrative. Again, I will show how the verses used by this liberal have been taken out of context and misinterpreted or extrapolated to incorrect conclusions.
As an aside, these two errors are related as will also be apparent here. Taking an idea out of context generally involves ignoring the portion of the context that contradicts the desired conclusion, thus leaving out data critical to a correct understanding. As my favorite logician was wont to say, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” (Sherlock Holmes, A Scandal in Bohemia (1892))
In her own words, the first issue is that of judging others. Conflating the appropriate portions of her comments, she says,
People to not have a ‘right’ to judge others. As Christ said, you should remove the log from your own eye before you start worrying about the splinter in your neighbors…. Why did Jesus say not to judge? It’s not just random; most of the things Jesus says make great sense. For one, when we judge, we elevate ourselves to God’s permission. Humility is a moral virtue; we should avoid the moral hazards of deciding it is our job to do God’s duty.
Jesus did command his followers not to judge. ‘Judge not lest ye be judged.’ He said that he without sin is the one who should throw stones.
I think there is an important difference between making decisions and having thought and judgement. Judgement in this case is determining that someone else has fallen short of the glory of God. You can make other decisions without resorting to the sin (yes it is a sin) of Judgement.
The above is primarily based on Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” But, unfortunately for our liberal, Jesus didn’t stop there, and here we see the simultaneous violation of both of the aforementioned hermeneutical principles. As a result, she arrives at a definition of judgment that is unbiblical. Jesus goes on to say in verses 2-5,
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
In context, the emphasis is on judging hypocritically while guilty of the same thing. Paul says it a little more bluntly in Romans:
Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. (Rom 2:1)
Going back to Jesus’ words, the key is verse 5, where he says, “then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye,” clearly indicating the responsibility to take the mote out of your brother’s eye after one’s own sin has been dealt with. Paul again confirms this interpretation in Galatians:
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (Gal 6:1)
And again, if you want Jesus’ words: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24) Here He specifically commands judgment be made, but righteous judgment.
Righteousness will require conformity to God’s standards, which, in turn, assumes you know what those standards are, objectively.
Again, Paul says in 1 Corinthians: “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?” (1 Cor 6:2-3) It would be difficult to obey Paul’s injunction if the liberal interpretation of Matthew 7:1 were true.
Judgment in the attitude of meekness, knowing and turning from one’s own faults as a prerequisite, is the principle. For our purposes, the point is that judging in some form is biblically necessary and required. Also coming to this conclusion are a multitude of commentators on this passage. For example, in the classic A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, we find under their discussion of Matthew 7:1 the following:
To ‘judge’ here does not exactly mean to pronounce condemnatory judgment, nor does it refer to simple judging at all, whether favorable or the reverse. The context makes it clear that the thing here condemned is that disposition to look unfavorably on the character and actions of others, which leads invariably to the pronouncing of rash, unjust, and unlovely judgments upon them. No doubt it is the judgments so pronounced which are here spoken of; but what our Lord aims at is the spirit out of which they spring. Provided we eschew this unlovely spirit, we are not only warranted to sit in judgment upon a brother’s character and actions, but in the exercise of a necessary discrimination are often constrained to do so for our own guidance. It is the violation of the law of love involved in the exercise of a censorious disposition which alone is here condemned. And the argument against it – ‘that ye be not judged’ – confirms this: ‘that your own character and actions be not pronounced upon with the like severity’; that is, at the great day.
The second verse in this category that has been taken out of context contains the words Jesus spoke to the crowd seeking to stone the woman caught in adultery, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) Read the whole story in verses 3-11. Is Jesus establishing a new criterion for judgment applicable to all situations? The context clearly indicates that he is, in fact, dealing with exactly the situation we’ve described above. These men were not interested in righteousness, but in trapping Jesus. Their hypocrisy is clear when one considers that the Old Testament law they sought to invoke requires both the adulteress and the adulterer to be put to death (Leviticus 20:10). So where’s the guy? Is he perhaps standing there with a stone in his hand? This is a concrete example of Matthew 7:1 being applied, not a prohibition against judging.
The bottomline is that people do, indeed, have a right to judge others when done properly. But the devil is in the details, as they say. It requires the effort to acquire the knowledge necessary to make such judgments, because they are not to be made on the basis of whim or feelings, but on the objective Word of God, so that, as the author of Hebrews puts it: “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb 5:14)
To be continued…