Real Idiocy

There were interesting observations contained in the Q&A feature in back-to-back issues of WORLD Magazine recently. In the May 30 issue J. Budziszewski, a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin, author and “nationally known Christian social conservative”, was discussing evolution with Marvin Olasky. Olasky commented, “Lots of Christians don’t want secular friends and colleagues to think of them as idiots.” Budziszewski replied, “If you want to be protected against being considered an idiot you have to stop worrying about whether you’re considered an idiot. Come out of hiding. Stop avoiding the issues. Go on the offensive. Talk back. Demand that the other side present its reasons. Examine its logic. Don’t allow the opponent to define idiocy as not accepting the conventional opinions. Real idiocy is fear of following the evidence to its conclusions.”

Then, in the June 13 issue, Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was talking to Olasky about his purge of theological liberals from the faculty at the seminary when Olasky asked him, “How do you view the wider culture war now?” Mohler replied, “A lot of people have backed off of it. The problem is the issues are still there and, if anything, the issues are more stark. The culture war isn’t over because there was some kind of truce. If it’s over, it is because the secular left is in control of even more of the culture.” Mohler acknowledged, when asked what lessons could be learned from those losses, that some Christians did not handle themselves well, behave appropriately or articulate effectively when engaging in the culture war, but he ended by saying this: “[I]n terms of standing for what we believe to be true–not just because we believe it to be true but because as Christians we believe that is what leads to human flourishing–we have no option to back off on those.” Despite the fact that he has seen some back off, then, both Mohler and Budziszewski believe that Christians need to be involved in the culture war and in defending the biblical position on a whole host of issues that come up in our world.

If you look back over the past few decades it is not difficult to see the gradual yet persistent efforts that have brought us to where we are today. I suppose you could go back half a century, really, and look at the removal from prayer and Bible reading from public schools, the ruling that abortion is a right and a choice to be made by a woman, but I am thinking more recent, since those rulings were not gradual or subtle. I am thinking about the embrace of relativism and the notion that each person can decide what is true for him/herself. I am thinking about political correctness. I am thinking about the gradual mainstreaming of homosexuality, from print ads to television shows. Back in 2000 Alan Keyes stressed, during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, the importance of the “marriage-based two-parent family.” Now, just fifteen years later, there is little such talk, and when there is the terms have been completely redefined. There was no need for Keyes to clarify that by marriage he meant a union of one man and one woman. There was no need for Keyes to stress that he meant a mother and a father when he talked about a two parent family. Now, in 2015, marriage, parent and family have all been hijacked and mean–at least in the vernacular of the mainstream–something completely other than they meant at the turn of the millennium.

Political correctness has certainly caused the timidity to which Budziszewski refers. Rather than be labeled bigoted, extreme, intolerant or closed-minded many who would hold to traditional values and oppose the redefinitions of marriage, parent and family have chosen to remain quiet. True, there are still some who have not learned the lessons to which Mohler refers (and many of them get paid handsomely to spout their positions on television and radio for shock value). The reality, though, is that very few of us individually, and even fewer collectively, have done what Budziszewski challenges us to do. Rarely do we go on the offensive in an articulate, considerate and effective way. Franklin Graham had an opinion piece in last weekend’s edition of USA Today explaining why the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association had stopped banking with WellsFargo and moved all of its accounts to BB&T. Graham has opportunities the rest of us would not have, but he used his opportunity to explain that while he believes all Christians should be friendly toward homosexuals, it would violate the beliefs of Graham and the BGEA to allow WellsFargo to profit from their business and then use that profit to promote a homosexual agenda. Graham is to be commended to articulating their position. Most of the time those who seek to take a stand for their convictions these days wind up facing legal charges, like the bakeries, photographers and print shops that have refused to make cakes or print shirts promoting homosexual messages or to photograph gay weddings. The truth is, if we do as Budziszewski says, and force the other side to present its reasons, and we really examine their logic, what we will find is that the reasons seldom have any merit other than that is what they want to do, what makes them feel good and what they think is right. Their logic will hold no water at all, since if the logic they use for their positions were applied to those positions which counter theirs they would also have to support the freedom of holding those positions. (Oops…there go the lawsuits!)

I would love to find the entirety of the following quote, but I cannot. I heard Erwin Lutzer share it in a sermon and a Google search produces only his sermon as a result. So while it is not complete, it makes the point. Lutzer did not say who penned this, either, saying only “someone wrote these words.” Whoever that someone is, here is how he defined political correctness:

If you can believe that there are no absolutes and believe that absolutely; if you can teach young minds that there are no objective truths, and yet you teach this truth objectively; if you can close your mind to the ideas of those who you consider to be close-minded; if you can refuse to tolerate anyone you choose to label intolerant; if you consider it immoral to stand against immorality; if you can make the judgment that judgmentalism is wrong and you can further make the judgment that others who judge things to be wrong are just too judgmental; if you can force others to conform to your idea of diversity…

That is the end of what Lutzer shared, ending with, “well, it goes on.” Whatever comes afterwards, though, the point is clear. Political correctness is self-contradictory, plain and simple. Mohler says too many of us have retreated from the front lines of the culture war, but we must, as he also says, stand for what is right and what is true. On that we do not have a choice if we truly claim to be followers of God. Budziszewski says we need to quit worrying about being thought an idiot by the liberal bullies and instead demand that they produce something more than name-calling to defend their positions, and he is right. Real idiocy is all around us. It’s time we start calling it what it is and take a stand for what’s true.

Sacrificing the Truth

The September 21, 2013 issue of WORLD Magazine includes the second part of an excellent interview with John Piper who, earlier this year, stepped down after 33 years of being the preaching pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. One of the things I admire greatly about Piper is how clearly he delivers his message and how unwavering he is in doing so; he does not beat around the bush or hedge his position or sound wishy-washy. When he is convinced of the biblical perspective on any issue he presents it and holds to it without apology. Whether you are familiar with Piper or not, his comments about the future of America are poignant and relevant. Some of what he says I have stated in this space before, but his words are worth repeating.

When asked what he thinks the United States will be like in ten or twenty years Piper responds that he is not optimistic, though he also believes that God could “move like a tornado through this land” and cause a spiritual coming-to-our-senses. More specifically, Piper says America needs to admit, “‘We’ve been insane.’ It’s insane to kill babies. it’s insane to define marriage as two men having long-term sex with each other.”

If we do not come to that realization, Piper says, we will have serious consequences facing our nation. “We are going to wake up after this marriage fiasco in 10, 15, or 20 years, and the fruit of it will be absolutely devastating for children, for all the legal implications we haven’t thought of, for thousands of people who tried their best to manage their undesired same-sex orientation and didn’t get any help from the leaders of their land. Who knows what will follow in terms of polygamy and other kinds of sex once you have said a woman who wants a baby not to exist has the right to make it not exist, and you have the right to call ‘marriage’ whatever you want to call it. Then there are no philosophical roadblocks to taking lives at lots of other times and calling lots of other things marriage.”

Piper is right on target here; as I have stated before, the legalization of abortion and the legalization of same sex marriage are but initial steps onto an extremely slippery slope. Where does that slope end? We do not know. As a nation we have begun removing the guard rails that were there to protect us from plunging over a cliff into a chasm of chaos and lawlessness. We do not know how far the fall will be, how many times we may “bounce” on the way down, how many bones will be broken or whether or not we will still be alive when we hit the bottom. And if we do survive the plunge, we have no idea if we will be able to climb out of that chasm.

Christians need to realize that silence in the face of this guard rail removal is both cowardly and dangerous. The reality is, the issues of abortion and marriage are not just “religious issues.” How one defines these things must not be dependent on which church one attends (if any). These are matters of national survival. Taking a stand for the truth is not going to be popular, but we must remain undaunted. In response to being questioned about so-called political correctness Piper said, “Political correctness means there is a way to talk that will prove least offensive to the cultural elite, or whoever you happen to be talking to with the authority and power to shut you down. … Therefore I abominate political correctness. I abominate calculating your words so that you get acceptance by sacrificing the truth.”

Pass the pasta

You ready for this? In February, Quebec’s Office québécois de la langue française (Quebec Board of the French Language) ordered a Montreal restaurant owner Massimo Lecas to rewrite the menu of his restaurant Buonanotte because it included the word pasta as well as several other Italian words. In fact, the OQLF fined Lecas several thousand dollars for what CTV called “a menu liberally sprinkled with Italian words as section headings and titles for food.” Now, I for one rather expect an Italian restaurant to have a menu that includes Italian words, so what was the big deal? Apparently the OQLF was concerned that the word pasta might be offensive to French speakers (Quebec being Canada’s French-speaking province).

Laissez-moi tranquille!

(According to dictionary.reverso.net that is how you say “give me a break!” in French).

I realize I do not live in Quebec, and perhaps I should not concern myself with their laws, but the suggestion that someone going to an Italian restaurant might be offended by use of Italian words on the menu, even in a French-speaking province, is absurd…especially since, according to CTV, “every item on the menu was described in French.” Are there really people thin-skinned enough to stroll into a restaurant and get offended because they see the word pasta instead of pâtes? I surely hope not.

Now, this idiocy, which has been labeled “pastagate” and has produced an international tollé (uproar), has actually led to the resignation of the head of the OQLF, even though the fines were apparently well within the law as written. Not surprisingly, Quebec’s French Language Minister Diane De Courcy commented, “These episodes had an undesired effect on the businesses, the Office personnel, the public, and Quebec in general.” Ya think? The fact that Quebec even has a French Language Minister would tend to have an undesired effect on business I would think. Particularly given some of the positions the OQLF has taken on the importance of the French language. In 2012, for example, the OQLF made it clear that it was not happy with the increasingly common use of the bilingual, yet legal, greeting from store clerks of “Bonjour, hello.” At that time Louise Marchand, the OQLF head who has just resigned, “said she was upset that only 57 percent of Francophones asked for service in French if a clerk said anything in English, saying ‘It’s important for citizens to take the language issue seriously'” (CTV).

This is an extreme and, frankly, silly example of political correctness gone wrong in a big way, but the reality is that this is the destination of every path that limits speech based solely on the basis of the possibility that it might offend someone. Imagine, if you will, an America where restaurants can only use English; no Italian or Spanish or French allowed. English, by the way, does not even have its own words for many ethnic foods. Forget Taco Bell. It will have to be renamed “An often crisply fried tortilla folded over and filled, as with seasoned chopped meat, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese Bell.” Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it? The marketing folks would have a blast recreating the brand with that wording. (And thanks to dictionary.com for that definition of taco).

So here is my recommendation…for my Canadian friends, my American friends…my friends all over the world: if you’re easily offended by the use of another language, get over it–especially when the use of said language is entirely appropriate within the context.

I should add here, though, that I am a firm believer in the importance of a national language. I believe that English should be the “official” language of the United States; I believe all government business should be conducted in English; I believe all public school classes should be taught in English; I believe all U.S. citizens should be able to speak English. But that is an entirely different issue.

Alright, I’m done now. I need to go eat dinner. Hopefully we’re having pasta….