Poor Analysis—False Equivalence—Bad Outcome

Poor Analysis—False Equivalence—Bad Outcome October 26, 2019

I’m all for tolerance and civility.  Amen brothers.  However, I’m also for logic, nuance, and context.  I’m for being aware of our moment.  I would hope any writers for Christianity Today are for the same.  If so, we don’t find it here.  Here are false equivalencies and poor analysis.

I get the need to appear above the fray and to sort of project that, “Hey, I’m the teacher or parent here—I’m the neutral observer who just happened upon a dispute.  I will now break it up and set forth my judgment–let’s all play nice, okay,” vibe.  I get that.

However, if we want to weigh in here, regarding these events and times—we are neither the teacher nor parent.  No one, given the gravity of these events, our time, is above this fray.  If anyone thinks they are, they are a victim of hubris or hopelessly self-unaware.  Either recognize that or get out of the conversation.  You are not helping.

Here is the poor analysis:

“What is transpiring today is the clash of two completely different worldviews—an accelerated culture of secularism facing off against an aging culture of Christendom.”

While true in a very general way, it fails to capture what is happening in regard to the point of their essay.  What is transpiring today is actually the result of a white, Christian nationalist, fundamentalist movement, that ingratiated themselves into the Republican Party to gain political power.  This started with Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority back in 1979 and continued, even if under different movements and leaders, up to the present day.

Was this a reaction to secularism?  Yes (partly), and a misguided one since it mimics secularism (pure will, power), but such hardly explains our current moment in the political world.  In reality, what is happening is probably one of the greatest capitulations to the secular, in our lifetimes.

The fact fundamentalists and evangelicals talked about the importance of honesty, character, integrity, and ethics in political leaders for decades, but then threw all that out the window to support Trump, is hardly the result of secularism.  It is, however, a surrender to the secular, in its purest, amoral, Machiavellian aspect.

What we see happening presently, is the result of a fundamentalist Christianity, a truncated and immature view of the Christian narrative, and the world, which far too many evangelicals also bought into when it came to the political (also it helped being discipled by Fox News).  We need to quit blaming others and take a look in the mirror.

Here is the false equivalency:

After noting the obvious fact that, “…[Trump] has riled up some right-wing conservative evangelicals who have adopted such tone and rhetoric that dismisses, discredits, and demonizes the other side…”

We are then told that the other side, the left, whatever one wants to call it, is guilty of the same.  And here is the example given:

“However, the same is true for many on the left. Elizabeth Warren mocking response to a question posed to her at the most recent Equality Town Hall was telling. She pretty much dismisses anyone—particularly a man who would hold a traditional view of marriage.”

First of all, even if the response was mocking, my goodness, is that what we are going to hold up as an example of, “demonizing?”  Second, the response is more satiric with a wink, than mocking, which was a mercy quite frankly.  The one who asked the question mistakenly wandered into an adult conversation with an adult candidate.  Given the naivety of the question, he was fortunate she was so reserved and didn’t embarrass him further.

She didn’t ask for the question.  She was being polite.  She could have responded much more forcefully.  The point we, rather, should take from her response, is if the world, and much of the Christian world, has moved on, then make your argument rather than ask questions so easily dismissed.  But I digress.  The point is that her response hardly rises to the level of the acidic poison pouring forth regularly from the other side.

It is the Trump side that needs to be lectured about civility and tolerance.  What lapses or failures are evident on the other side, pale in comparison.  Do they need to do better?  Sure.  But to lay them alongside what we’ve seen from Trump and his followers as somehow comparable, is frankly ridiculous.  Come on.  Be serious.  If you want to be taken seriously, then you have to make a serious comparison.

Compare Warren’s response (I’m not a supporter by-the-way) to this, this, this, and this.  To assert Warren’s response is an equal example of what we find in these examples, or in general, from Trump and company—is laughable.  It only further reveals how seemingly out of tune evangelicals are, how tone deaf they are to our current crisis—a crisis they helped (81%) create!  Trump and his supporters have turned the idea of civility and tolerance on its head.  Knowing they could not win with rational, or ethical arguments and policies, they have made insult, bullying, and the low road their only path.

Evangelical Christianity is whistling past the graveyard at this point.  These so-called moderate voices think they are somehow helping by staying above the fray.  I will put the lie to such fantasies.  Imagine it’s the 1960s and we are in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement.  Or imagine one is a Christian in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s.  Those who came out and tried to mediate as neutral observers, tried to stay above the fray, tried to tell us both sides were the same (“good people on both sides”), that both needed to tone it down, who did they end up helping?  The oppressors, those whose incivility and intolerance are intrinsic to their very movement, philosophy, and existence.

History, rightly so, has not been kind to those voices.  I have the feeling history will see these current voices in the same light.  In their very commendable attempt to promote civility and tolerance, they miss the gravity of our current moment with their false equivalencies and poor analysis of the moment.  In seeking to promote the good, they invariably end up helping those who have decided they will do the very opposite.

These writers have forgotten the words of Elie Wiesel:

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

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  • “It is, however, a surrender to the secular, in its purest, amoral, Machiavellian aspect.”

    Allow me a moment of reflection here. Secular and secular-ism is very large, and deep. It goes back to the Greek philosophers, extensively informed our nation’s founding, and extends across the world today to countless people and communities. Most of these people and their ideas and institutions are good, some with enduring and positive legacies. And one can make the case- as good at least as whatever claims itself as not secular. So in the interests of criticizing a unfair false equivalence, a broad brush is applied to smear the common bogey-man in a wan attempt to gain some common ground with the author you criticize. But in so doing, you fall into a similar trap of smug hyperbole, not to say hypocrisy. The secular segment of society, as perhaps exemplified by our foreign service, is leading the charge against Trump, for one thing.

  • Richard Aahs

    In my view, it is capital C, proper noun ‘Christianity’ that is already a ‘side’. And in that it is a ‘side’, to
    evangelize, it then creates it’s opposition.
    Though it is not often acknowledged, Christianity has always been a political organization, yes and even a business as in our economic world, organizations must have a revenue steam.
    Christianity is a codified, static Belief System, to evangelize is an attempt to ‘sell’ a flawed product, in this case, a flawed view of humanity’s relationship to the Divine.

    Mr. Trump is blatantly and openly doing, exposing what is and has been happening behind the curtain for centuries. Christianity has always ‘played’ the parent, teacher, we know best what is good for all. In fact that attitude has driven the ‘foreign policy’ of Western Christianity for centuries and is still a major factor today.

  • onlein

    Christianity has brought forward the message of Christ. Imperfectly yes, but the current bunch of conservative Christians has reached a new level of imperfection, following an anti-Christ figure with such fervor. And half of the Roman Catholics now prefer Trump’s way to Christ’s way as recently brought forward by Pope Francis, including his encyclical, Laudato si’.
    Such a deal. We do need some sense of morality, of looking out for the common good, including the plight and the needs of the poor. Christianity should be of some help to us in this effort. Otherwise it is not Christian.