Make America Think Again: On Cultural and Christian Mindlessness
There are many things that could be said about this campaign season, and there are many competent people saying them. But there is one essential similarity between both “liberals” and “conservatives” this election which I think has gone unnoticed. It is this essential similarity which reveals the root of our current political plight — and therefore, the potential solution. That similarity is mindlessness.
Of course, the rabid mindlessness of the left began to flaunt itself as early as last year in the contrived campus protests, the racist Black-Lives-Matter movement, and the emotion-ridden hysteria of trigger warnings, micro-aggressions, and safe spaces. Many heroic voices have actively fought against the emotional insanity of these “precious little snowflakes” (hat-tip to Ben Shapiro, Steven Crowder, and Milo Yinnaupolis). But while criticizing the irrational insanity of the left, which began at simmer stage decades ago, and has now boiled over into full-blown bat-sh*t crazy, we failed to see a similar phenomenon bubbling up in our own “camp”. There’s no denying it now, though. The pure emotionalism and irrationality of Trump supporters demonstrates that this mind-eating malaria which seems to be in the air isn’t exclusive to the left.
I know there are many republicans who wish to deny this claim. “People on the right are the rational ones,” they assure themselves. Not any more. I could point you to the utter lack of principle or consistency in Trump’s campaign to demonstrate that his supporters care about neither. I could point you to Trump’s own claims that his supporters wouldn’t leave him even if he shot someone in the middle of the street. I could point you to the thousands of comments — on TV, on the radio, in the newspaper, and online — by self-professed Trump supporters admitting that they’re just “angry” and want to see something done. But I think the most eloquent demonstration of my claim is that cringe-worthy clip of Trump’s supporters in their absolutely mindless interaction with Senator Ted Cruz — who, assuming the absolute best of these moronic men, attempted to reason with them in an honest conversation. But just as the psychotic triggered snowflakes of the left screech all the louder in the face of calm, reasoned, debate, Trump’s supporters prove themselves impervious, not just to reason, but to any sort of rational communication. As Cruz respectfully attempts to engage them, the main instigator, with his cheap shades and smug smirk, seems to be capable of nothing but rude interruptions, name calling, and mindlessly vomiting out the stale slogans of his flappy-haired overlord. As I watched that clip — and remembered the clip of “Trigglypuff” from last week — I realized that Americans, both liberal and conservative, really have, in the most literal way, lost their minds.
That’s the unifying theme of this election cycle: the contagious allergic reaction which the masses on both “sides” have to truth, rationality, and sanity. Gone is civil disagreement. Gone is objective discussion about issues. Gone is principled and well-reasoned arguments for one policy or another. And gone with all of that is any fundamental distinction between the allegedly opposing sides. The crying passion of both is: In with emotions, out with thinking! In with rage, out with discourse! In with mindless assertions, out with evidence and facts! In with my dictator of choice, out with rights and liberty! Out with the Constitution.
The few who are left who’ve not yet lost their minds stare aghast at this spectacle and rightly conclude that this must be some sort of divine judgment. It is to these (and particularly to my Christian brothers and sisters in this group) that I wish to address the rest of this article. This is a divine judgment, but we needn’t invoke God to explain it. God’s judgment typically fits the crime — in measure and in manner. The most ironic judgment of all is in allowing actions to reap their just consequences, which means that if we examine the nature of the judgment, we will likely find the nature of the crime. The judgment, as has been established, is rampant, hysterical, emotional mindlessness. What then is the crime, for which we ought to repent? Would it not be natural to assume that it is the pragmatic mindlessness we have culturally entertained for decades, if not centuries?
“Not us!” protests the conservatives, “We’re the ones who have fought hard against the relativism and postmodernism of the left!” Have you? Sure, the predominantly Christian base — which provides the closest thing there is to a “conservative worldview” — has fought to say that our principles are based on absolutes and objectivity, but have they meant it? What is the Christian conservative’s “absolute” which counters the left’s relativism, and what has been the objective ground for that absolute? The absolute: God. The ground: faith. In other words, the predominant conservative response to the arbitrary assertions and emotional arguments of the left has been to arbitrarily assert God, and then to back up that assertion with our own feelings. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a Christian, and I certainly believe God to be the ultimate absolute (metaphysically). But I don’t think He is honored when we arbitrarily assert Him as some mindless opinion, and then treat Him like a fairytale that we believe in because of some feeling we get. In other words, my sole reason for believing in God — and everything I believe about Him — is grounded, not in subjective emotions and wishes, but in the objective rationality of the Christian worldview. To allow an ounce of subjectivity or emotionalism in on the issue of God is to open wide the floodgates to all manner of irrationality that we see around us today.
Fighting Mindlessness With Mindlessness
This is the guilt of today’s conservative: that while protesting the irrational subjectivity of the left, we have offered as an alternative our own religious subjectivity. We have fought mindlessness with mindlessness, and then we wonder why, after decades of entrenching ourselves deeper and deeper into such emotionally grounded worldviews on both sides, we look up to see nothing but emotionally grounded chaos around us. It’s time to see that we are reaping the irrational fruit which our anti-intellectualism has sewn. If you’re still not convinced that the “Trump phenomenon” is, in large part, the logical consequence of anti-intellectual conservatism — which, in worldview terms, is essentially anti-intellectual Christianity — then ask yourself this: If it’s ok to base your belief in God on emotions, then why isn’t it ok to base your vote for a president on the same? If you believe in God because of a burning in your heart, then how can you condemn the man who believes in Trump because of the anger in his? Or the trigglypuff who believes in Sanders because of the envy in hers? If you are going to allow emotional subjectivity on the most central issue (i.e. God), then by what right do you condemn anyone who does the same on non-central issues?
“But I’m not a Trump supporter!” the presuppositional seminarian protests, “I agree that we should exercise careful thought and wisdom in the political process.” All this demonstrates is that people, particularly seminarians, are capable of being inconsistent. Why should we
“exercise careful thought and wisdom” in the political process, but not in the theological process (i.e., not about God)? If the center of our worldview must be arbitrarily asserted (or “presupposed”), why in the world shouldn’t everything else be just as arbitrary? “But everyone’s starting point is equally arbitrary,” he replies in defense — as if this levels the playing field. In fact, all this does is demonstrate that he is just as much a relativist as the pot-smoking, micro-aggressed, feminist hipster who defends her beliefs with the same refrain. Now, how are you going to fight her relativism with more relativism?
The answer is: you can’t. You can’t fight subjective, emotional, arbitrary cultures with subjective, emotional, arbitrary “religion”. The only way to fight it — indeed, the only way forward — is by reason. Not “enlightenment reason”, or “autonomous reason” — whatever that’s supposed to mean — but plain old, God-given, reason. The challenge now for conservatives (and particularly Christian conservatives) is to rediscover the proper, objective, non-arbitrary grounding for their worldview — and for everything in it; and then to fight like hell to spread it. If we don’t — if we cowardly pretend to ourselves that our mindlessness isn’t such a big deal — then we will ultimately have no leg to stand on in the coming war of violently subjective opinions. The world is quickly descending into the chaos of utter irrationality. If there is to be a return to reason, we must lead the way.
Originally published at www.thechristianegoist.com on May 5, 2016.
Click here to subscribe to For the New Christian Intellectual.