Straw-Man Appeals to Faith

red blue pill21Three times now on Facebook in the last week or two, I have "unfollowed" a friend - someone I have known only because my faith walk as a Christian believer brought me into contact with them. One of them is somebody I have known for my entire believing life as a follower of Christ. The other two are a husband and wife whom I like personally, but I just simply could not disagree with more. I did not "unfriend" any of these three persons (see "God of relationships" below). I merely unfollowed them because the content of their posts was bothering me and it kept showing up on my timeline. They didn't bother me because I was convicted by something they said. Rather their posts bothered me because I was insulted by something they said. I used to try to enter into a debate with these friends, to say, "hey, wait a minute here.....you're going off half cocked and ignoring a whole lot of facts that are inconvenient to your narrative", but I've given up on these discussions because they don't work. Some of my friends, you see, have become leftists. They just don't know it yet.

I was moved by this issue to write my last post: An Honest Appraisal of Dana Loesch's NRA Ad. The trigger - so to speak - was a Christian friend's insistance that ALL CHRISTIANS must disavow the NRA as a hate organization and stop funding them. The way it was phrased, I couldn't be both a Christian and an NRA member - that NRA membership is unchristian, and that by being a member, I was betraying my Christian values. These same people have no problem with supporting other non-Christlike things, like abortion rights, for instance. In fact, just judging by the content of their most recent posts, some of them would probably argue that being vocally pro-life is unchristian.

In any case, these arguments they put up - usually as expressed through someone else's writing, rather than having an original thought of their own - are nearly all straw man arguments, and as such are logical fallacies.

Here is what Wikepedia says (in part) about the Straw Man logical fallacy:

straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent. One who engages in this fallacy is said to be "attacking a straw man".

The typical straw man argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent's proposition through the covert replacement of it with a different proposition (i.e., "stand up a straw man") and the subsequent refutation of that false argument ("knock down a straw man") instead of the opponent's proposition.

This technique has been used throughout history in polemical debate, particularly in arguments about highly charged emotional issues where a fiery "battle" and the defeat of an "enemy" may be more valued than critical thinking or an understanding of both sides of the issue.

Please notice the last half of that last sentence: "where a fiery "battle" and the defeat of an "enemy" may be more valued than critical thinking or an understanding of both sides of the issue".

With the above in mind, I want to deconstruct the most recent example of an article posted by a friend, which led me to unfollowing her.......

The article in question was written by John Pavlovitz, on his "Stuff that need to be said" blog, and is titled "Yes, I’m a Christian—But I’m Not With Them". Starting from the top.......

"My parents always said to be careful who you associate yourself with because you are known by the company you keep—that the people around you reflect on you and manufacture other’s perception of you from a distance. Sometimes that mistaken association will be so detrimental and embarrassing, that you will need to speak out and severe the connection."

One would hope that the author is mature enough to give people some leeway before "severing the connection" he has with them. I have a lot of relationships with a lot of different kinds of people - many of whom not only don't share my faith, they don't share my values either. But in each one of them, I see something valuable and I enjoy their friendships. Consequently, I have Christian friends, agnostic friends, Muslim friends, Jewish friends, gay friends, atheist friends, etc. Like Jesus himself, I don't demand that someone agree with my faith before I can view him as a human being deserving of some respect and compassion.......UNLESS they were to do something so egregious to me or someone that I love that I can no longer accord them that respect.

I often describe myself as a "liberative conservatarian", meaning that I am conservative in my personal social values, libertarian-leaning-conservative in my political values, and libertarian in regards to my relationships with others. So let's pick a topic to show what that means: LGBTQ issues.... As a personal conservative, I am a heterosexual who is personally not only not curious about, but is thoroughly put-off by even comtemplating the inclusion of the practices of those who "play for the other team" into my own life. Eew. But as a libertarian-leaning conservative, I think that gov't has bigger fish to fry than sexual attraction issues. It is already too big, trying to do too many things, at too high of a cost, for me to want govt even remotely involved in the sexual practices of consenting adults. As a libertarian, I want govt to adhere strictly to the Constitution, observing original intent whenever possible (it is almost always possible), and I want people to accept 100% of the responsibility for their actions. If they get AIDS from unsafe sex, then they should bear the burden of it. If they don't want the burden, then avoid the unsafe practices. It is called "adulting". Everyone should try it once in a while. But don't expect govt to step up and bail you out because you couldn't keep from poking your "outie" into an "innie" that nature didn't design for that purpose.

More importantly, and this speaks to the utter ridiculousness of Pavlovitz's opening paragraph, God the Father is a God of relationships. He so desires relationships with us that He sent His ONLY SON to the cross so that we could be redeemed and be in relationship with Him. He did that specifically for those who needed redemption - which is all of us. Is Pavlovitz modeling this when he suggests that he must sever the connection he has with someone with whom he disagrees because that relationship has become detrimental and embarrassing due to that disagreement? Exactly who did Jesus spend more time with......the sinners or the pharisees? Brennan Manning says in his book "The Ragamuffin Gospel" that "[a] ragamuffin knows he is only a beggar at the door of God's mercy". If He didn't love us so much, we would ALL be an embarrassment to God. Maybe Pavlovitz has forgotten that.

"I’m not with the Christians who shilled for this President, who sold their souls and leveraged their pulpits for political capital, who continue to defend his every vile deed, every reckless Tweet, every gross abuse of power—despite him not bearing the slightest discernible resemblance to Jesus. 

I believe this President and his Administration are fully devoid of Christlikeness."

You know.... I voted for Trump. At no time and in no place did I ever accuse him of "Christlikeness". We've never had a president like that - including Obama's messianic complex. In fact, I routinely referred to Trump as a rodeo clown, during both the primary and general campaigns. But I voted for Trump in the general election for a number of reasons, exactly none of which had anything to do with "shilling for this President", or "selling my soul", or any other kind of hyperventilating hyperbole. My reasons were these: ANYBODY but Hillary, SCOTUS nominees, ANYBODY but party elites from either side, and did I mention ANYBODY but Hillary and SCOTUS nominees? Dennis Prager had a very good way of explaining his support of Trump in this video interview with David Rubin of The Rubin Report, from about 10:50 in the video to 11:55 or so:

In that video, Prager and his analogy speak exactly for why I voted for Trump. It was very much a case of "Lions behind this door" versus "MIGHT be Lions behind this door". A Trump vote was the only rational choice for me, even if I found him somewhat personally distasteful. In fact, If I wanted to rise to the level of Pavlovitz's intellectual dishonesty, I could JUST as easily say that any Christian who voted for Hillary Clinton had sold their soul to the devil.......except that I don't believe I ought to demonize my fellow believers that way. I might disagree with them, but I just think they're wrong, that's all. I don't condemn them or try to demonize their motives. Pavlovitz apparently has no such compunctions.

"I’m not with the Christians who believe healthcare is a luxury saved only for the rich and the well; those who claim to be followers of Jesus, the healer—while throwing the poor and elderly and ill, to the wolves of circumstance or sickness.

I believe all people who are physically, emotionally, and mentally ill, deserve every chance to get well—and by more than just thoughts and prayers."

Lord.....where to begin? First of all, it goes without saying that prior to the ACA, exactly NOBODY had no healthcare. I personally worked in the ER of a big trauma center hospital back in the 1980s, WELL before the ACA, and I can tell you that nobody went without. In fact, if there was a problem, it was that people who lacked health insurance - mostly illegal immigrants at that time - used the ER as their regular MD's office. Everyone else, including other minorities, either had health insurance, or they had a state-provided medical assistance plan like Medicare/Medicaid. Everybody got the treatment they needed.

Now, that is NOT to say that the system wasn't inefficient and overpriced. It is NOT to say that we aren't a litigious society that doesn't sue everybody at the drop of a hat, driving up malpractice insurance rates, etc., etc. There are systemic problems that needed addressing, but they would have been much more efficiently and inexpensively addressed by simply making "loser pays" for all medical malpractice cases. There are two factors that have driven up the cost of care. One is the cost to physicians and doctors.....even to nurses.....for malpractice insurance, and the other is the cost of new technology. A good friend of mine just had a bunion shaved off one of her toes the other day, and she just got "the bill". She nearly fainted. The total cost billed to her insurance company was $73,000.00. Her insurance actually paid out $52,000.00.........to shave off a bunion from her big toe. Part of the surgery involved screwing a very small stainless steel plate approximately 1"x1" to her toe bones to hold it all together while it healed. The cost of that little steel plate, by itself and not yet implanted, was $6,000.00!!! I guarantee you that I could have had my machinist son manufacture the same part from scratch as a one-off part on his Haas 6-axis CNC machine, from the same kind of steel, for maybe $100.00 at most. Do a whole production run of them, and the price is down to $1 each. This is utterly ridiculous and indefensible.

But beyond that, the facts are inconvenient to the narrative. For every previously uninsured person who got insurance under the ACA, at least one other person lost their insurance because of the ACA. For the millions who got insurance, there are millions more who lost it. My wife and I are a case in point. Prior to passage of the ACA, I was in the Texas high risk pool at a monthly premium of around $500, and my wife had a PPO plan for $230/month. Total premium - $730/month. We both lost our insurance. Texas terminated its high risk pool because of the ACA law, and my wife's plan was terminated by the provider as non-ACA-compliant. We got on a BCBS PPO for 2014.  The out of pocket premium was in the high $700 range/month, with the subsidy taken into account, but that only lasted a year before BCBS pulled out of the Texas PPO market due to it being a financial loser for them. Then we got on a similar Cigna PPO policy for 2015, with a slightly higher price but also higher subsidy. After a year, Cigna pulled out of Texas for the same reason, and we got a Humana plan for the next year - 2016. The cost to us of this policy was $739/month. However, I had retired at the end of 2015, and as the residual income from our business began to decline through the first months of 2016, our taxable income fell below the minimum necessary to qualify for the ACA subsidy. In June of 2016, the gov't threw us off the subsidy, and the out of pocket premium jumped from $739/month to $1800/month. It was completely unsustainable, and that june of 2016 was the last month we had health insurance. We have paid 100% of the cost of our medical care out of our pockets since then. But - and here's the huge injustice - because we could neither receive the subsidy any longer, nor could we afford the $1800/month, we now have to pay a fine each year!!!! And to add insult to injury, we just got a letter a couple of weeks ago from the IRS saying that we are going to have to repay to the IRS the subsidy we received over the first 6 months of 2016 - a total amount of $6,366.00. Being retired, I'm not sure where I'm going to get that money.

And MY story isn't an isolated incident. There are millions of people in my age cohort who are facing the exact same dilemna. The party of abortion and theft of wealth did not know what to do with self employed people who set aside money for their retirement. The ACA website STILL TO THIS DAY does not know how to handle the accounts of self employed people, or people who are retired. There are MILLIONS of Americans, who did everything right to manage their lives so that they would not be a burden to society on their retirement, who have been royally screwed by the democrats. These democrats don't want to fix their busted-ass bill themselves because they are too invested in the legacy of their Christ, Obama, to let go of it, and they don't want republicans to replace their busted-ass bill with one that actually works, for the same crapulent reason. For their part, republicans have moved - once again - to exempt themselves from their own bill, leaving the rest of us out in the cold. So, while Pavlovitz is reflexively excoriating people like me with the bullshit accusation that we wish to "throw the poor and elderly to the wolves", people like me understandably bemoan the fact that people like him are voting to (A) take away what we had, and (B) leave us out in the cold going forward. EXACTLY WHO THE FUCK WILL SPEAK FOR PEOPLE LIKE ME!!!! Not that I'm just a little bit chapped in the ass behind that kind of idiotic pronouncement. Pavlovitz is a blind man. People who make that kind of charge against us without being willing to discuss the injustices to BOTH sides of the argument, are both unspeakably cruel, and wilfully blind.

"I’m not with the Christians who police the bodies and bathrooms and bedrooms of strangers, who distort the Bible in order to justify their fear of people for who and how they love; the ones who’ve turned gender identity and sexual orientation into a weapon of damnation—who would tell adults who they can fall in love with and marry and raise children with.

I believe LGBTQ people are made fully in the image of God and deserve every happiness and right this world has to give them."

First of of, I'm not afraid of LGBTQ, and that is just the first part of Pavlovitz's straw man. Adam and Eve were made in the image of God. That doesn't mean that disobeying Him and eating the apple was OK.......because THAT is where this all starts. Charles Manson was also made in the image of God, as were Adolf Hitler, Tojo, Caligula, and Osama Bin Laden. That's NO excuse for what they did. Now, before you all go blow up my twitter feed, please read a little further. I am NOT equating LGBT sex and relationships with the crimes of Manson, et al. What I AM saying is that the Bible says some very clear and inescapable things about this. One can choose to ignore it, argue with it, disbelieve it, whatever........but it says what it says; and we are compelled to either believe it, or disbelieve it. But if one who calls himself a Christian chooses to disbelieve the relevant scriptures by means of one of many such rubrics as, "it was written by fallible men, who sometimes got it wrong", then in order to be intellectually consistent and honest, you have to confess that maybe none of it is true. And if that is the case, can you actually call yourself a Christian? I'm asking in all seriousness. To be a Buddhist, you have to believe the teachings of Buddha, and follow them in your life. You have to believe everything that Buddha said about himself. The same is true for any religion. Islam. Zoroastrianism. Bahai. Sikhism. Judaism. If you don't believe in its tenets, then how can you call yourself a practitioner? This is as true for Christianity as it is for any of the world's other religions - including the religion of atheism. (This tends to irritate my atheist friends, but I always point out that they can't disprove the existence of God anymore than I can prove he does. Hey, if I didn't like them, I wouldn't tease them.)

THEREFORE.......

There is only ONE way to reconcile this with scripture, and that is to say:

  1. I believe it, and follow it in my own life.
  2. However, we live in a secular state, which may have been founded on certain judeo-christian principles, but which also requires gov't to stay out of religious issues entirely. The 1st amendment says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". In his famous letter to the Danbury Baptists, what Jefferson meant when he spoke of the "separation of church and state" (words which are nowhere in the Constitution, by the way) was that while he personally agreed with them, the federal gov't could have no part in deciding the issue. "I feel your pain, but sorry, I can't help you."
  3. Therefore, the ONLY role that gov't can play in this is to affirm the right of gay people to marry, while still preserving the right of a Christian baker to refuse to bake a cake to celebrate something which he views as inherently sinful. It's morally the same thing as gov't saying that it will not restrict a woman's right to have an abortion, if she can pay for it, but it will likewise not force someone else to pay for it who has conscientious objections to the same.

 I'm not going to spend any more time on this. Here is a list of the other accusations he makes, each just as easily refuted as these first ones:

  • Islam versus "christian extremism". (Hey, they have a 1st Amendment right to practice it, as long as they don't mutilate their daughters' clitorises, or try to force Sharia law on all of us......but I guess I'm an extremist for mentioning the word "clitoris"......)
  • Abortion rights. (Again, for now it's the law of the land; but that is a separate issue from whether or not God will redeem someone who has not repented of their sins.)
  • White privilege. (I don't believe in it, under the principle that all attempts at Kafka-Trapping are intellectually bankrupt bullshit.)
  • Right to prenatal care the same as the right to keep and bear arms. (Yeah....because it's right there in the Constitution....)
  • Donald Trump’s Presidency. (Hey..... love him, hate him, indifferent to him, whatever....)
  • How can you be Pro-Life, pro Death Penalty, but against Birth Control. (What? This seems like a non-sequitor to me.)
  • I’m not with Christians who believe they have the Bible figured out enough to condemn anyone else. (I don't know a single Christian like that. However, I DO know a lot of Christians who know what discernment is, and who listen to the voice of Holy Spirit.)
  • I’m not with the Christians who believe they get to tell strangers they’re going to hell. (I've never yet met such a Christian.)

What this article is, very plainly, is just another example of someone's virtue-signaling.

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