The technique that democrats most often deploy to win elections is distraction. They would rather have you concerned about minute details and meaningless issues rather than have you think about the weighty and important matters.

If you want to truly debate conservatives, you have to start with your assumptions and beliefs. Without any sort of agreement on that level, there is no debate, there is only force of will. Once you have an agreement on the fundamental beliefs and assumptions, then you can build arguments that persuade with logic and reason, rather than political victories born out of temporary favor of the masses.

So let’s go back to the beginning, and visit the most important assumptions.

The conservative will likely take you to an argument about rights, what they are, what they are for, and what must be done about them. Rights come from God, so says our Declaration of Independence. The rights enumerated there (which are by no means exhaustive) are the rights to “life”, “liberty” and “the pursuit of happiness.” Our version of English misunderstands what sort of “happiness” is meant here. To the Founding Fathers, it was defined to be “material wealth”, so the third enumerated right is the right to “the pursuit of material wealth”, IE, property rights and capitalism.

What are rights? They are positive assertions that you have the ability, no, the duty, to do something. They are positive assertion that others around you must either refrain from certain actions or engage in certain actions.

I like to use the example of the English kings asserting their right to be king. “I am king”, they say, “and so render me your taxes, your troops, and your loyalty.” If no one pays taxes, no one sends troops, and no one renders their loyalty, what sort of king is he? He is nothing but a madman. Thus, the “right to be king” is really the duty of others to acknowledge him as king.

So it is with our rights. The right to free speech is the duty to allow speech, and to speak when necessary. The right to bear arms is the duty to allow others to bear arms, and to bear them yourself.

Notice that when we began our discussion of rights, I said that “rights come from God.” This troubles a lot of people, especially atheists (those who choose not to believe God) or agnostics (those who believe you can’t believe in God.)  To the rest of us, it is an assertion that the rights are not subject to legislation or reexamination. There is no discussion to be had on our rights. Just like the English king will not welcome debate about whether he is king (if you disagree, then off with your head!), we who assert our rights come from God are not willing to debate the rights or where they come from. Indeed, the very act of questioning our rights is a threat to them, especially if they are not immediately defended. We should be just as vigilant about our rights as the Catholic church was in defending itself during the reformation. Any attempt to change it will lead to bloodshed.

But why God? The reason is God is not to be questioned. God is not subject to opinion polls. If we disagree with God, we are wrong, and God is right. If we are on his side, he is on our side, but if we are not, he is not. God is objective and absolute. No one can claim to be beyond God’s reach, and no one can claim that there as a God superior or comparable to him.

When Israel was free from Egypt, the first commandment God gave them read as follows:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.

God first declares that he is the reason the Israelites are free to think about what commandments to obey. God isn’t claiming credit for the children of Israel’s existence, but their freedom.

And so his first commandment is “Make me your first God.” Don’t put anything ahead of me, and we’ll get along just fine.

In modern terms, the “god” that freed us may very well have been the God of Israel. Or it may have been our own ingenuity and never-say-die attitude. It could very well have been our ability to say, “Absolutely No” and then not waver in our commitment. If that is what earned our freedom, then it is worthy of being worshiped as a god, and we should never put anything else ahead of it. Indeed, I believe the God of Israel is a God of War, who has waged war, successfully, since time immemorial.

So it is with our rights. We were willing to fight and kill and die back then to get them recognized, so we should be willing to do the same.

But ask yourself this: If the bullets start flying, and you had a choice for a war buddy to watch your back, would you choose the zealous Christian who thinks God is behind everything, and is working for our win, and demands that we do certain things such as fight and die to protect each other, or would you choose the atheist who has convinced himself, logically, that there is just cause for war in the defense of fundamental rights?

I will tell you this: One of the most successful generals in the Civil War was the zealous Christian who fought for the South. His death marked a turning point in the war, a point from which the South could not recover. Whether the writing was on the wall or not, it is clear that when he died, a big portion of the Southern war effort died. Wars hang on belief and hope, after all. Once that is exhausted, then the war is truly lost.

So in the war over rights, which has never stopped being waged, we need the Christian zealots on our side. We need their hope and their belief. We need their bullets too.

6 Responses to “Distractions”

  1. Jason Gardner Says:

    The fool argues people, the average events, the wise ideas.

    The lowest level of political argument is the strawman and ad hominem attack. The third is more complex, getting sides to talk over each other.

    The strawman is easy to find. Simply take a person with a valid point, take their point out of context and make it extreme. Trump is always a good example. “We should enforce our immigration laws.” turns into “I want to exterminate all brown people.”

    Or alternately, “we need to preserve our culture and our land so that our people have a future” turns into “white supremacy wanting to genocide everybody.”

    Ad hominem is easier still. “We need to get better trade deals” turns into a commentator calling him a Cheeto-faced baboon. No talk of the intricacies of international trade, just straight to attack.

    The third political argument is more subtle. Take the minimum wage debate. The left generally wants minimum wage, the right generally not. However, what both sides are (or so I think) actually saying is “work should be financially rewarding for those who do it. There is dignity in work that should be rewarded fairly.”

    Now the MEANS to realize that goal are different between the two but the idea, I imagine, is the same. The only argument is how to get there. Much like two engineers arguing over whether an FPGA or DSP is the better tool to implement a safety system.

    What happens is that those who pull the strings (hint: not you) focus on the disagreement in the WAY to improve workers lives to the point that both sides think that the other side doesn’t want to make life for the average guy better. Then, naturally, the other side can be thought of as wrong or stupid, even though they both want the same thing!

    Think about it. You’re a free market guy. I would hope that you are free market because you think that will make life for the average guy better. I would hope that if free markets made life worse then you’d dump free markets. In other words, free markets are simply a tool to achieve your goal, not a goal in an of itself.

    Now earnest “enemies” of the free market (not Marxist, post-modernist types who are running on resentment) are in almost every case not anti-free market. They, in my experience, just don’t like some of the residual inefficiencies and side effects of the free market.

    They, of course, have a point. In fact, both the right and left are correct. The free market does seem to make life better in some cases but in some cases it certainly has negative externalities. (Pollution, prescription drug abuse, corruption, corporate influence, turning everyone into corporate zombies, etc.)

    So, my advice is overlook the means and listen to the message. Does this person want what I want and we simply disagree on how to best achieve what we both want? Then let’s work it out. Spend extra time listening. It might turn out that an unlikely source has valuable insight.

    Of course, the reason this happens is to keep the right and the left at loggerheads, so that the people don’t coalesce and actually start arguing for their own interests.

    God forbid that ever happens.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      Great advice.

      If we can find a common outcome we both agree we want, then we can find a way to achieve that outcome.

      IE, I’m very much pro-free markets. But President Trump’s proposal to impose a tariff on steel and aluminum doesn’t phase me. Why? Because I know why he’s doing it: To bring back steel and aluminum jobs. You showed me that although, theoretically, workers can figure out how to live in the 21st Century doing 21st Century things, while the backwards countries can do the 20th Century things, realistically, it’s extremely difficult for many of these people, many of them beyond their 40s, to find a new job, and so they really don’t have any hope of surviving in the economy.

      But also, I don’t have a choice of Tariffs. I vote for a president, and he comes in a package deal. Am I willing to compromise on tariffs in exchange for historic tax cuts and unprecedented reduction of regulations? Absolutely!

      Trump and I both agree on outcomes: We want America to be Great Again, not just for a few, but for everyone. He has a plan to accomplish that, and it’s a lot better than mine.

  2. Jason Gardner Says:

    “The rights enumerated there (which are by no means exhaustive) are the rights to “life”, “liberty” and “the pursuit of happiness.” Our version of English misunderstands what sort of “happiness” is meant here. To the Founding Fathers, it was defined to be “material wealth”, so the third enumerated right is the right to “the pursuit of material wealth”, IE, property rights and capitalism.”

    No. Straight no. Noooooooooooooooo.

    That’s not correct at all. I’m actually quite surprised you say this. The bible and Christian tradition are quite clear:

    “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” I’ll just leave it at that.

    The reason the phrase “pursuit of happiness” is used is no accident. This is because the struggle is important. Not the result. The pursuit is actually the means to the end, not the result.

    An example. Lottery winners who don’t have a good psychological / spiritual foundation are some of the saddest stories ever told. There was a kid in England who won some crazy amount of money and within 3 years had managed to blow it all while at the same time doing enough cocaine to literally lose his nose. (It’s gross, don’t google it.) He ended up in prison as a final reward.

    Not an uncommon story.

    So why isn’t this guy happy? I mean, he has material wealth, he should be happy, no?

    The reason is that happiness comes from the struggle, not wealth.

    If you need more examples just google “trust fund baby” and see the human train wreck that unfolds. Unearned wealth, or ill gotten wealth, is certainly a huge contributor to the spiritually vapid lives they leave.

    If you still don’t understand then read about the lives of the various Saudi princes. This is about as low as it gets as far as humanity.

    All of us start off as children, useless needy and afraid. As we grow up we push our boundaries and increase our utility. Hopefully, by the time we are grown we are useful, resourceful and confident. If we fail in this process (and pretty much everyone fails in some aspect) we construct walls around ourselves and make ourselves captives in prisons that, coincidentally, we constructed ourselves out of nothing at all.

    When we went hiking in big bend my wife and I saw your youngest daughter on the Santa Elena trail. She had started the trail with other members of your family and decided to quit. I told her that she should finish the trail to which she responded that she can’t. After a few “yes you can” / “no I can’t” exchanges she decided I was more stubborn so she started walking.

    The end of the trail was a gigantic rock face that went into the Rio Grande. Sure enough, she made it near the end of the trail. She turned to me and said with joy “I made it!” I, of course, responded “No you didn’t. Touch the wall. Finish every step of trail.” She obliged and then I congratulated her on finishing the whole trail.

    So she had constructed a false prison (“I can’t do this trail.”) and decided to sit in said prison. I pushed her to leave her prison and she did. She was free. I showed her how easy it was to knock down that wall, because it never existed in the first place.

    If she were to repeat this process, she would soon learn that she is the kind of person who can finish any job she sets her mind. No prison can contain her. She has freedom.

    Christians used to know this. The path of the righteous was a severe path of self improvement. Knocking down prison walls left and right. The result of this was freedom. Work hard, have faith in your future, mind your people and good things will follow.

    And thus the protestant work ethic was born. Now, as it turns out, the result of this is often wealth. However, it is far, far, far, far, far, far, more important to be “free” than wealthy. Thus the message of the bible. Forget money, concentrate on knocking down your internal prison walls.

    Or simply put, forget the result of the hard work and concentrate on the hard work. The point of your daughter’s hike was not to see the end of the trail but to prove to herself that she was the kind of person who saw things out. If I carried her in she would have seen the end of the trail but learned the opposite lesson. That she is weak and her self constructed prison walls are real. Terrible.

    This is a great lesson that is true whether you believe in the divinity of Christ or not. It’s just true. It has been known since people could read and people discover this message daily, as they have for thousands of years.

    This current and degraded modern version of Christianity, sadly, resembles more of a Papua New Guinean cargo cult. Sadly all the ornaments are there but the meat is missing. People know it’s wrong but they don’t have the ability to understand.


    The worst part of this is that the right in this country (nominally Christians/conservatives) are debased and perverted by their rejection of discomfort and love of money. They worship money, the lowest possible thing to worship. Truly sad but goes a long way in explaining why our culture is so off track.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      I don’t see where we disagree.

      It is the right to pursue happiness, not the right to happiness, after all. We have a right, nay, a duty to pursue wealth and prosperity. It’s practically a commandment of God. In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus tells us that those who double their assets (which are not theirs to begin with) get rewarded in heaven with even more. Those who bury their assets (which are not theirs to begin with), lose what little they had.

      Are we to love our assets? Of course not. They are not even ours, but we have a temporary stewardship over it. If we love God, however, we will treat his assets, which he has given us temporary stewardship over, with respect and try to multiply it in our short time on earth.

      In the LDS church, the prophets have declared that retirement isn’t an option. No matter how much money you have, how much money you make, you will continue working every day of your life until you die. It is the work that is important, not the wealth. The “pursuit of happiness”, not the happiness. We are to look forward to work, not to getting paid.

      Your notes about the prison walls being knocked down — yes, that is the true message of Christianity. So you’ve been born a slave, you’re in an abusive relationship, you’re hunted or you’re in prison? Doesn’t matter, you can change, you can overcome. You can find happiness, if you’re willing to accept the fact that nothing is impossible through Jesus, and work for it. Every obstacle we place in front of ourselves is purely illusory, a temporary setback, and we’re supposed to overcome it and realize how little it really mattered in the end.

  3. Jason Gardner Says:

    I agree. That is (or should be) the true message.

    In Texas there is an overabundance of Joel Olsteen wanna-bes, who preach “prosperity” Christianity. All reward, no effort.

    Their idea of theology is that God wants them to have money. A very debased and confused ideology. Encourages followers to just sit around and wait for God to bless them.


    I’m willing to guess God doesn’t get out the ol’ blessing bag too often with them…

    Highly annoying and very detrimental to the cause of Christianity.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      To be honest, I haven’t looked too deeply into Prosperity Theology.

      There’s a similar vein I catch in Mormonism (though it’s rejected by nearly everyone) that says that if you keep the commandments, you’ll get rich. We’ve even gone in the reverse: If you keep the commandments, you shouldn’t expect to get rich.

      Recently, I’ve seen a shift in popular mormon theology: “Being rich is having everything you need, and then some.” Thus, if you have more food than you can eat, you’re rich. Recently, the Brethren have come down hard on welfare in the church, explaining that it is intended only to sustain life, not lifestyle. We’re learning, again, what it means to be poor as we reach out into the community and see true poverty (and the obvious causes of it — sloth, entitlement programs, and the utter mismanagement of opportunities assets.)

      Anyway, I don’t know what the culture is like down there in Texas. I know Joel Osteen has like 0 influence over me. He comes off as fake and shallow and frankly, I’m surprised anyone would call him a sincere Christian.

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