What Do I Actually Believe? Part 1 of 3

A Facebook friend recently posted a link to this article by blogger Tiffany Willis, editor-in-chief of the website liberalamerica.org.

I have seldom seen such a collection of ad hominem attacks and straw-man arguments crammed into a single rant. Misrepresenting the views of others in this manner simply to argue for your own view is fallacious and divisive. It leads to arguments rather than positive dialog. If Americans actually want to get along, we need to understand what others actually believe, rather than caricatures and misrepresentations.

As a libertarian-leaning, evangelical conservative, I’d like to go through each point of this rant to explain how what I actually believe is quite different from the caricature Willis paints of conservative views. While the views I express are mine alone, they are reasonably representative of what most of my conservative friends believe. Not every conservative will agree with every point, however. I hope that this will lead to better understanding of what many conservatives actually believe, and can lead to productive dialog rather than ignorant rants.

Ms. Willis lists 28 reasons why she’s done talking to most of her conservative friends and family members. Her list is more than I care to address in a single chunk, so here are the first 10, along with some of her comments, and my responses:

1. You support revisionist history.

When I was in a high school history class, I’ll never forget one thing our teacher taught us: what you read in history books isn’t always accurate. The example she used was history books in the Soviet Union, now known as Russia. She informed us, to my shock and horror, that the Soviets pretty much included what they liked in the history books and left out everything else. As a result, she said, there were generations of Russian students who were misinformed.

Oh we were dismayed, my classmates and I! Those poor little Russian kids who were being taught false history. But wait….you guys on the right are trying to do the same thing right here in the Good Old U.S.A.

I certainly do not support revisionist history. The evils of slavery, the treatment of Native Americans, and the civil rights movement all should be covered in history classes. However, so should the role of historyChristianity in the formation of the United States and the fact that it was mostly Democrats who supported slavery and opposed civil rights for Blacks. Revisionist history is a two-way street. Considering that the public education system in the United States is primarily run by far-left-leaning organizations such as the NEA would support that history is being revised to support liberal ideology far more than to support conservative ideology. The best way to teach history is to go back to source documents, then present both sides of the issues, rather than simply indoctrinating students with revisionist malarkey.

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

Yet the Bible only mentions homosexuality six times. Six. Times. 6. This many:

SixFingers

So why is this one of the biggest issues on your agenda? Why are you putting so much energy and hate into an issue that clearly wasn’t one of God’s major concerns?

As Christians who are pro-family, why would you deny people the right to the sanctity of marriage? If marriage strengthens families, why would you not want everyone to have this, even if you disagree with their choice of mate?

YOU (we) have destroyed the sanctity of marriage. There is no possible way that gay marriage can do more harm to marriage than heterosexuals have done. Yet we seldom hear a sermon bemoaning the divorce rate or people living together before marriage. Why is that? Because the pews would be empty.

First, the number of times the Bible mentions something is irrelevant. The Bible’s teaching on the subject is very clear: practicing homosexuality is sin.

Second, the main reason gay marriage is so high on the list of discussion topics for conservative Christians is because it’s so high on the list of discussion topics for others. The issue is being forced on Christians, so Christians are responding.

Third, disagreeing with homosexuality and calling it sin is not “hate.” The term “hate” is so misused today that it has become almost meaningless. Disagreement and opposition do not equal hate. I want people to understand that homosexuality is sin because I want them to turn from sin and be saved. I don’t want people to go to Hell. Wanting people to come to know Jesus is not hate. True, some professing Christians hate gays. However, doing so is completely inconsistent with clear Biblical teaching.

Fourth, it is precisely the sanctity of marriage we are defending. Marriage is between one man and one woman, not because we say it is, but because that’s how God clearly defined it. Biblically speaking, gay marriage doesn’t exist. Calling a gay relationship a marriage doesn’t make it a marriage, any more than calling a cat a dog makes it a dog.

Fifth, I mostly agree with her last point: Divorce and adultery have destroyed the sanctity of marriage. It is precisely because most of the church has compromised on divorce and adultery that homosexuality and other perversions are being accepted by people who profess to be Christian. It is the abandonment of Biblical values that is eroding morality in American culture.

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

There is nothing you do that makes me more disgusted with you than your abuse and misuse of 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:10

You are deliberately taking the scripture — ONE VERSE! — out of context when you use them to justify your own hatred of poor people. And again, you’re showing your ignorance.

First – there are many passages that talk about working and laziness, not just one. The book of Proverbs is loaded with them. The argument that 2 Thessalonians 3:10 is only referring to Christians who stopped working in anticipation of Christ’s return is not supported by the text. Don’t take my word for it; look it up for yourself in context.

Second – the passages of scripture that discuss helping the poor and disabled are always directed at the church or individuals – NEVER the secular government. Using the Bible out-of-context to try to support government entitlement programs is a misrepresentation of God’s Word. In the United States, Christians have always led the way when it comes to helping the poor. There are numerous Christian-based food pantries, food lines, education centers, hospitals, and support groups for the needy. I’m only aware of a handful from atheists and other religions.

Third, nobody I know, conservative or otherwise, is opposed to helping the truly needy. The issue is identifying who is truly needy, and how to help them. Many liberals seem to think most people are needy, and believe the best way to help them is for the government to give them stuff. Conservative tend to believe that we need to help the most needy – the elderly, the disabled, and orphans, for example. There are others who are physically able to work, but don’t have jobs. The government should support the truly needy, with the assistance of the private sector. The government needs to work with the private sector to grow the economy in order to provide jobs to the able-bodied, not long-term handouts. Give the unemployed temporary assistance until they can get jobs, absolutely! But also, help the private sector – especially small businesses – create well-paying jobs. Private-sector jobs are by far the best way to end poverty!

Last, statistics show that there have always been far more Christian charities helping the hungry than non-Christian charities. Don’t insult me by telling me I don’t care about feeding the hungry. You don’t know what you’re talking about. My Eagle Scout service project was to organize a food drive to restock a small food pantry. My church supports a food pantry around the corner from the church building. When I was unemployed, people from my church brought us food. Claiming that conservative Christians don’t care about the hungry is ignorant.

worldvision

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

I had lunch with some conservatives a while back, and the topic of freedom of religion came up. They expressed concern at the “war on Christianity.” I cited a recent event that had occurred in which protesters interrupted the U.S. Senate’s first Hindu-led prayer. The response from my fellow diners? “Good.” I don’t know how educated people can be so ignorant. Seriously. You can’t even see your own contradictions.

While I would agree that there are some conservatives that only value freedom of religion for Christianity, most of us support freedom for all religions.

firstamendmentPlease don’t misunderstand – I am certainly not arguing that all religions are equally true. Jesus said, ““I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” I believe that the only true religion is a relationship with God through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All other religions, philosophies, and worldviews lead to Hell. What I am saying is that while I believe most religion is in error, I will defend a person’s right to believe what they wish under the Constitution of the United States. Religious freedom is a sort of two-way street. If the government can impede the free exercise of religions I find abhorrent, there is nothing to prevent government from impeding the free exercise of Biblical Christianity. In the United States, if someone wants to be Muslim, or Mormon, or worship a sacred rock, or claim they worship nothing at all, it should be their right to worship, either publicly or privately, as they see fit, as long as those beliefs and practices don’t harm someone else.

And, seriously, I don’t understand how an educated person like Willis can’t see her own contradictions, either.

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

Over and over and over, we see right wing nutjobs in the news saying they’re doing this horrible thing or that horrible thing because God told them to…But conservatives believe these nuts. Here is what I think: not only should sensible conservatives not believe these nuts, you need to start speaking out against them. These are the false prophets that the Bible warns us about, in my humble opinion. Most of you lack the courage to take a stand against these idiots even when you know they’re nuts.

First, religious “nutjobs” are certainly not all conservatives. How many crazies do things to protect their “Mother Earth?” Recently, when Craig Stephen Hicks gunned down 3 Muslims in a dispute over a parking spot, the liberal media was quick to condemn him as a religious conservative nutjob – until it was revealed that he’s actually a liberal militant atheist. Suddenly, the liberal media isn’t talking about the incident at all.

While I do believe God speaks to His followers through the Holy Spirit, Christians are instructed to “test the spirits” to determine if it is actually God speaking, or a demonic voice. The voice of God will never contradict the clear teaching of Scripture.

I agree with Willis on this point: the Bible clearly warns of false prophets. However, Willis seems to have no clue what makes a person a “false prophet.” I believe that anyone teaching anything that contradicts the clear teaching of westborothe Bible is a false prophet. This would include all non-Christian religious teachers, as well as “Christian” teachers that deny any part of the Bible as anything other than the inspired Word of God. I also agree with Willis of this point: “Most of you lack the courage to take a stand against these idiots even when you know they’re nuts.” Far too many people, from all ideologies, refuse to speak out against evil. The liberal media was quick to denounce Hicks for murdering Muslims, until they found out he’s a liberal atheist. Many Christians won’t take a stand against other Christians, and those that do are usually severely criticized for being “divisive.” For example, most conservatives vehemently oppose the likes of Westboro Baptist Church and Pastor Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, AZ. However, many are also slow to publicly condemn them, and when they do, the liberal media tends to ignore it.

Most conservative Christians do not claim they do things because they heard voices telling them to do so. We base our beliefs on the written Bible. It’s the liberals who tend to base their beliefs on whatever passing fancy is in vogue at the time, on the “voices” of popular opinion.

6. You question my faith.

“Christian Left is an oxymoron.”

Oh my, I’ve heard that so much from the right, and believe it or not, I often hear it from my “friends.” First of all, your questioning of my faith genuinely means very little to me. What it does is destroy my opinion of you; I now view you as self-righteous hypocrites… Keep questioning my faith, though, my people, because you can be sure I’m questioning yours. One thing I won’t do, however, is accuse you of not being a believer as you do me. What I will suggest to you is that my faith may be stronger than yours. I’ve educated myself, dared to question all things, and STILL believe. Most of you are too afraid to even learn. It may, after all, test your faith.

Do I question people’s faith? Sure, I do. I know that it doesn’t matter how much faith a person has, if that faith is placed in anything other than Jesus Christ. I know that people will burn in Hell for eternity, unless they place their way_truth_lifefaith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said that no one comes to God except through Him (John 14:6). The Bible says we will know people’s faith by their fruit. If a person truly has a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, their words and actions will begin to mirror the teaching of Scripture. If a person’s words and actions continue to contradict the clear teaching of the Bible, it is completely appropriate to question their salvation.

I find it interesting that Willis denounces people who question her faith as self-righteous hypocrites, yet then states, “Keep questioning my faith, though, my people, because you can be sure I’m questioning yours.” Doesn’t that make her a self-righteous hypocrite as well?

Willis then states that her faith is stronger than a conservative’s faith because she’s educated herself and questioned her beliefs. She claims conservatives are “afraid to even learn.” This is nothing more than a baseless ad hominem attack. I have news for Willis: Conservative evangelical Christians are just as willing to study and learn as she is; we question our beliefs, and grow as we learn. It is because I questioned my beliefs that I became a follower of Jesus Christ in the first place. It is because I studied the Bible that I came to believe it is the inspired Word of God. It is because I continue to examine myself daily that I continue to grow in my relationship with God and in my understanding and beliefs. Those of you who have been following this blog since I began it three years ago have probably noticed changes in the types of things I write about, and subtle shifts in ideology. That’s due to growth.

For Willis to claim that only liberals question themselves, educate themselves, and grow in faith is nonsense. For her to accuse conservatives of hypocrisy for questioning her faith, while she questions the faith of conservatives, is self-righteous hypocrisy. The fact that we find your beliefs to be false doesn’t mean we’re uneducated or afraid to learn. It means we have different beliefs and have come to different conclusions.

So, yes, I question her faith. I question everyone’s faith. Not everyone who claims to be a Christian will enter Heaven. Unfortunately, many will hear Jesus say, “I never knew you.” I even question my own beliefs on a regular basis. I no longer question my belief in Jesus as Savior, because I’ve had it confirmed repeatedly. But, I do question my beliefs on specific issues, and regularly adjust my thinking to conform more closely with Biblical teaching.

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

After the Sandy Hook massacre, and following other similar tragedies, I asked many of you if you loved your guns more than you do children. I made the statement of “I’d give up my gun forever if it would bring back even one of those children.” I asked you if you’d do the same. You admitted that you would not.

This is an absolutely ridiculous claim. First of all, it’s an example of the fallacy of the false dilemma. The argument is framed as either A) you love guns, or B) you love children. In reality, this isn’t an either/or issue. Supporting gun rights has nothing to do with loving children. There are some very good arguments that support the position that armed-teachersarming teachers would actually prevent tragedies such as Sandy Hook.

This argument is also little more than an appeal to emotions. Willis gives no facts to support her position; rather, she appeals to the emotions of her readers: “It’s for the children.” How can anyone oppose children?

Lastly, the question, “if giving up guns could bring back even one of the Sandy Hook children, would you do it,” is purely hypothetical. It’s also an example of a complex question fallacy. If the person answers yes, they support gun restrictions. If they answer no, they hate children. In reality, there is no way to bring back a dead child. The question is not based in reality. It’s a carefully constructed fallacious question for which there is no correct answer. It’s a lot like asking, “Do you still hate your mother.” Answer yes, you admit you once hated your mother. Answer no, you admit you still hate your mother. It leaves no room for the fact that you never hated your mother. The question Willis asks leaves no option for the perfectly rational belief that widespread gun ownership actually prevents gun violence. Passing laws making it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to own guns will do nothing to keep criminals from getting guns illegally, since criminals generally don’t follow laws in the first place.

8. You get excited about people dying.

You really, really like to see death. And not just to terrorists. You love the death penalty. You love war. You love seeing kids like Trayvon Martin being shot. They deserve it, you say. But his murderer has shown — again and again — since his acquittal that he is a dangerous person.

Wow. How do I even respond to such a stupid, ignorant, hateful statement?

Willis is incredibly hypocritical for calling conservatives out for supporting the death penalty and war, while she herself supports abortion, which has killed far more people than all of the wars and death penalty executions combined.

Conservatives hate death just as much as liberals do. We hate wars, murder, and abortion. The main difference between liberals and conservatives on the issues of war and the death penalty is that we see them as sometimes being necessary evils. War is, unfortunately, sometimes necessary to stop evil people from doing evil. Imagine what might have happened differently if military action had been taken against Hitler in 1935, when Hitler ignored the Versailles Treaty and ordered Germany to re-arm? Or, if the United States had gotten involved in World War II against Germany in 1939, rather than waiting until after the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor? Would ISIS be a serious threat today in the Middle East and elsewhere if Obama had kept American troops in Iraq instead of pulling them when he did?

The Bible teaches that humans were created in the image of God. All human life is sacred. Death is the penalty for sin, and we all have sinned. We all die. The only questions are when we will die, where we will die, how we will die, and where we go afterward. As a Christian, I oppose abortion, war, and murder. Although I hate war, I understand that it is sometimes necessary in a fallen world. Although I hate death, I see the death penalty as just punishment for committing murder. We don’t like the death penalty, but see it as regrettably necessary for justice.

No, we don’t like seeing kids like Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown being shot. However, we also don’t immediately assume they were the victims because of their ethnicity. We don’t immediately jump to the conclusion the shootings were racially motivated. We wait to see what the facts turn out to be, and if the facts warrant it, fully support the prosecution and conviction of the assailants in a court of law. In the cases of both Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, the conflicting evidence made determining innocence or guilt extremely difficult. I personally believe that both Martin and George Zimmerman made mistakes that led to Martin’s death. I agree with Willis in that Zimmerman has since been shown to be a danger to society, and in retrospect, there is good reason to believe he was probably the aggressor. However, the evidence wasn’t strong enough to warrant a conviction at the time. In the case of Michael Brown and officer Darren Wilson, again, both parties made serious mistakes that led to Brown’s death. Brown was a thug who had just robbed a store and attacked a police officer. Wilson was an incompetent officer who allowed himself to be put in a dangerous situation, and then panicked.

The claim that conservatives “get excited about people dying” is a baseless ad hominem attack. It is a complete misrepresentation of conservative beliefs. It is a hateful smear, and reprehensible.

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

Approximately 47 million people receive food stamps, and most of them are children or the elderly, in addition to people who are employed. The numbers, from a 2012 USDA report:

  • 45 percent of SNAP recipients are under 18 years of age

  • Nine percent are age 60 or older

  • More than 40 percent live in households with earnings

Again, this is a baseless ad hominem attack. Willis makes a claim, and offers no evidence whatsoever that it is true. Her entire argument on this point is to quote statistics about food stamp recipients.

As I stated in point #2 above, many needy people are truly needy. Very few conservatives are opposed to helping the disabled, the elderly, or orphans. We also recognize that many able-bodied, hard-working Americans need temporary assistance while looking for work. What we are opposed to is institutionalized long-term handouts to people who can and should be working.

While the statistics Willis quotes are true, they don’t really support her claim that conservatives assume anything.

Food-Stamps-YearlyIn fact, what most conservatives believe is that liberalism is one of the primary causes of poverty in America. An important statistic Willis leaves out of her discussion is the fact that the number of SNAP recipients has nearly doubled under the Obama administration. Conservatives generally do not oppose SNAP or other assistance programs; rather, we oppose the liberal economic policies that have made more widespread assistance a necessity. The decline in unemployment is not due to more people having jobs; it is due to people giving up on finding work. Annual median household income has dropped every year under Obama, according to the US Census Bureau, to a level not seen since 1995, and workforce participation rates have dropped to their lowest levels since the late 1970s. Conservatives, including myself, believe that liberal policies are the reason for these statistics.

Workforce ParticipationI believe that liberal politicians have an economic policy that is designed to deliberately force more middle-class citizens into poverty, while blaming the Republicans. As more people become impoverished, liberals then give them handouts, and take credit for helping the very people their policies hurt in the first place. The end result is more people voting for Democratic candidates, because they have been duped into believing liberal politicians actually care about them. I do NOT believe that everyday liberal citizens believe this is right. I don’t even think they have any idea how liberal economic policies actually work, and if they did, they’d be appalled. And, honestly, I don’t think the Republicans are much better.

I was unemployed for the end of 2012 and most of 2013. Although I was grateful for the government assistance I received during my unemployment, I would much rather have had a job. I blame the Obama administration’s economic policies for making it so difficult to find another job. After 10 months of unemployment, I was forced to take a position in a different industry and occupation than I had previously worked, with a 39% drop in income from my previous job. Again, I blame liberal economic policies for stifling small business growth, which has decreased the number of available jobs, and dropped hourly wages.

Along with most conservatives, I fully support long-term government assistance for the truly needy, as well as temporary assistance for able-bodied workers who can’t find a job. We oppose policies that make it more difficult for small businesses to grow and create more jobs, as well as policies that encourage multi-generational poverty and government dependence for people who can work, but won’t. We do NOT assume all people on assistance are lazy parasites – but, some are, and they need to be encouraged to work their way out of poverty, not given handouts to gain votes.

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

… I didn’t want a free ride. I was eager to pay for my own insurance. Obamacare opened that door for me and millions of other hard-working Americans and disallows insurance companies from rejecting millions of Americans who were previously rejected. But without even knowing fully what the Affordable Care Act is, you chose the path of ignorance. You didn’t care.

Again, this is a complete misrepresentation of what most conservatives believe. We believe health insurance should be made affordable for all Americans. We also believe Obamacare is an asinine way to accomplish this.

While Obamacare has made health insurance more affordable for the poor and self-employed, costs have skyrocketed for the working middle-class. Mine have gone up significantly. The plan I was on last year was eliminated by my employed, and I was forced onto a plan with much higher deductibles and premiums.

Most conservatives understand that Obamacare has little to do with health insurance, but rather is a scheme to redistribute wealth from the middle and upper classes to the poor.

Two of the main forces driving up medical costs are malpractice insurance and drug costs. Many conservatives, including myself, believe the way to make health care more affordable to everyone, including the poor, would be to limit malpractice lawsuits, and limit patents to drug companies. Obamacare does neither of these, and in fact has driven both costs up even further. Eliminating frivolous malpractice lawsuits and multi-million-dollar payouts would drive down malpractice insurance costs, and limiting drug patents would open drug manufacturing up to competition, driving down costs.

As for opposing Obamacare before we even knew what is was, it was Nancy Pelosi who famously declared, “we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it.”

It isn’t that conservatives aren’t concerned about the uninsured – we are. We just believe Obamacare is a stupid way of dealing with the issue.

 

Items 11-20 and 21-28 of Willis’ list will be addressed in future blogs.

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