Archive for April, 2019

Liberals’ chief disability

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

All modern liberals (actually, illiberals) share a common disability: They are unable to be constrained by the wisdom of those who preceded them. They believe that, as a rule, new ideas are superior old ones and that the new ideas they personally embrace are so obviously superior that no debate is possible and no defense is necessary. The superiority of these new ideas, of course, confers on the liberals who advocate them the right to exercise power and influence.

Nowhere is this disconnect between old ideas and new more glaring than among liberals whose claim to legitimacy derives from a foundational document comprised entirely of old ideas. This disability is most conspicuous among liberal politicians and liberal Christians (leaving aside J. Gresham Machen’s well-argued assertion that Christianity and Liberalism are two entirely different religions, rendering “liberal Christian” something of an oxymoron).

Undermining the Foundations

Ultimately, all American politicians derive their power from the Constitution. It created our nation, defines its governmental structures, specifies the constraints under which the government must operate, and provides the framework for sharing power with the various United States. Liberal politicians chafe under the structure and limits imposed by the Constitution’s old ideas. They look for ways to circumvent them so they can institute a new form of virtually unlimited government – which would, coincidentally, enable them to compel the evolution of a new social order.

Christians’ foundational document is, of course, the Bible. Lacking the power of politicians, liberal Christians and their leaders nonetheless have significant impact. Sometimes they influence government (elections, legislation, and court cases) directly. More often, they shape the church’s messages to Christians and to society. Like liberal politicians, they suffer under the yoke of the Bible’s ancient ideas. They seek to create a new faith and a new church that generally mirrors the social vision of liberal politicians.

Sharing a common disregard for their respective foundational documents they employ similar means of getting around them. Here are three of them:

The One Ring Strategy

In the Lord of the Rings, there is One Ring that has power to rule all the other magic rings (all originally meant for good). It can twist the intended purposes of the other rings and use them for evil ends. The inscription inside this ring reads

One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them.

Liberals often identify a single provision of the Constitution or a single verse in the Bible that serves a similar purpose – their One Text. The chosen text is certainly authoritative in its context, but liberals claim that the One Text is superior to its context, more authoritative than the document as a whole. The rest of the document becomes subservient to the One Text and must be interpreted only through its lens. By elevating the One Text in this way, they impose a method of interpretation that rules and overrides the original meaning of the entire document.

For example, liberal politicians (and Supreme Court Justices) often argue that Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution is the One Text. It begins “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States….[my emphasis]” This One Text is said to overrule, among other provisions, the last section of the Bill of Rights: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” (It’s hard to imagine why, if the Framers wanted a One Text and intended “general Welfare” to mean “virtually everything that happens in the United States”, they didn’t write a Constitution that said so. It certainly would have been less work for them and much less reading for anyone curious about what it says.)

For liberal Christians, the One Text is usually found in 1 John 4 (v. 8 or 16), “God is love”. They claim that the One Text overrules countless commands to be obedient – this despite the fact that, for example, Jesus himself himself gave several in John 14:18-14. It also overrules all commands to be holy such as Hebrews 12:14 and 1 Peter 1:14-16. The liberal – and unbiblical – understanding of love is that loving someone consists mainly of wanting them to feel happy. So the One Text rules because calling someone to obedience or holiness may make them unhappy. Even churches and pastors who would not ordinarily consider themselves liberal in the political sense often exhibit this misguided behavior. 

[Note: Although the 1984 NIV is my go-to Bible, online links are to the ESV, not the readily-available 2011 NIV, for reasons given here.]

The Living Document Strategy

Liberals’ contempt for old ideas requires them to find a way to placate both fans and critics who believe that foundational documents matter. Both liberal politicians and liberal Christians often resort to the same dodge; they claim that the document from which they derive their legitimacy is a “living” document.

The argument starts with the assertion that the original document with its old ideas could not have anticipated the modern world. It follows that a “living” document with its old ideas entitles modern people liberals to derive the new ideas necessary to cope with this new, unexpected world. That the new ideas are often in direct opposition to the old ones is not surprising. After all, the whole purpose is meant to reverse an old idea that gets in the way of a liberal objective.

The long-range purpose, however, is much more grand than mere piecemeal, as-needed reversal of old ideas. The goal is to strip the foundational document of all authority, leaving everything in the hands of whoever is in charge today. Nearly all liberals believe they are or soon will be in charge. They believe that history is a force in itself, that it is marching onward toward some ideal condition, and that it will steamroll anyone who gets in its way. Since they are “on the right side of history,” the power and influence they exercise today in service of that inevitable future must be free of ideas from the old, dead past.

For example, liberal politicians and judges determined that when the 4th and 14th Amendments were written (in the 18th and 19th centuries respectively), no one had anticipated the small but politically-charged demand for abortion on demand that would appear in the 20th Century. So it was necessary for liberals to infuse the old document with new, “living” ideas to bring it up to date and enable the novel result in Roe v. Wade.

Liberal Christians often claim that “sexual orientation” was unknown to either Moses and Paul when they recorded God’s condemnation of homosexual practice. To overcome this difficulty, the One Text noted above is sometimes applied to bring the Bible’s old ideas in line with this new idea. This is necessary because the One Text assures us that God wants everyone to be happy doing what they’re doing.

Another application of this strategy applies only to the Bible. According to this argument, the Bible was written by men who were just reflecting the prejudices of their time. in this view, the obvious fact that God knew about sexual orientation is irrelevant, as proven by the One Text.

Just Do It

The previous strategies are mostly employed by thinking liberals, both politicians and Christians, who fear their respective foundational documents may be important to the people they want to control or influence (or in the case of the Supreme Court, when it is necessary to find some sort of Constitutional justification for what they have decided is the Right Thing To Do).

But not all liberals think about such things. It is much quicker to just ignore the old ideas and forge ahead with whatever plan they have concocted to implement whatever new ideas they find appealing. This can be a very successful approach if the people they are trying to control or influence are ignorant of the foundational documents that are being corrupted – or for that matter, if the target audience doesn’t think much either.

Other Opponents of Old Ideas

There is another group that is showing signs of becoming similarly disabled. While there are no true documents to constrain them, some (perhaps many) scientists operate as though the foundations of their own enterprise – the scientific method and the necessity of reproducible results – no longer matter. This usually happens when the traditional practice of science produces alarming results that threaten their political objectives.

And there are the many celebrities who share the liberal contempt for old ideas. But the celebrity industry has no foundational principles at all and no inherent claim to wisdom, so their opinions are significant only in a culture enamored of entertainment and fame. Such a culture demands no real basis for claiming power and influence and most celebrities offer none.

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