Friday, October 04, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Parroting the Narrative

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is apologizing again, this time for being caught dressing as a blackface Aladdin at a 2001 party, thereby managing to potentially offend two different segments of his voting base simultaneously. Or so say his detractors.

Tom: IC, would our Canadian readers be expected to give him a pass if he’d cross-dressed as Jasmine rather than Aladdin?

Immanuel Can: Plausibly. Dressing so as to “appropriate” a culture or to mock another “race” (to use their words) is greeted with howls of dismay; but there’s an automatic approval of men who dress as women, so that might work for him.

Not Fit to Govern

Tom: Well, that’s exactly what I’d like to discuss with you today: the all-but-universal public acceptance of the social justice narrative. Trudeau’s critics sound like parrots.

Now, bear in mind that I am no supporter of Justin Trudeau, but I was watching the leaders of the various Canadian opposition parties holding forth on the Prime Minister’s faux pas, and their scripted expressions of outrage came across to me as absolutely nauseating and thoroughly fake. Of all the things that Canadians have put up with over the last four years or so, to suggest that a twenty-year old game of politically incorrect dress-up is the big scandal that makes our current Prime Minister “not fit to govern” is ludicrous. If Mr. Trudeau is unfit, it is for many more significant reasons, and these are what people should be discussing.

But from what I’m seeing, the outrage is mostly manufactured and is restricted mostly to politicians and members of the media. I have not talked about this to a single real human being who was deeply offended by the Prime Minister’s gaffe. The vast majority of people I work with would still vote for him, and those who wouldn’t were never going to anyway.

IC: That’s the interesting thing, isn’t it? We live in a culture that talks more about tolerance than at any time in history, and is continually practicing less of it.

Preachers of Tolerance

Tom: Where were all these photos of Mr. Trudeau in blackface when he was running for his job in 2015? Surely this is not the first time members of the Canadian media have seen them ... unless they only do their due diligence on politicians whose positions they dislike. And if these pictures did not disqualify Mr. Trudeau four years ago when the Left was dying to have anyone but Stephen Harper as Prime Minister, why are they so awful now?

Anyway, here’s what I’m wondering: how would you like to have the standard that is being applied to Justin Trudeau applied to you? You do something — nothing illegal, of course — two decades ago, and today people are pulling up pictures from the internet and telling you that you’re not fit to do your job and never were. And yet something equally dodgy could be picked at random out of almost any of our pasts.

IC: It seems a case of “live by the sword, die by the sword.” When you position yourself as the captain of political correctness and virtue-signaling, then you set yourself up for this kind of treatment. That doesn’t make it right, but it does make it predictable.

No, none of us can stand up to standard like that. We all have to be allowed to make mistakes and recover from them. But nowadays, that’s just not a luxury that’s being afforded.

The Measure of a Man

Tom: What interests me about all this, IC, is that everyone from the Green Party on the far Left to the so-called Conservatives somewhere in the mushy middle has now effectively agreed to evaluate a person’s character, social contributions and life’s work on the basis of whether they have always conducted themselves by the entirely arbitrary standards of the current moment. That’s appalling.

It has gotten so bad that even Christians are now throwing out the works of Jonathan Edwards because he owned slaves. The man lived in the early 1700s. Everybody owned slaves then. You cannot define an entire person by his lowest act, otherwise you would not read the epistles of Peter, who denied Christ and waffled on legalism, and you certainly would toss the Psalms, because — ugh! — Bathsheba.

IC: I wonder if we haven’t lost touch with our own early mistakes. We make many, as we go through the processes of life; and the great thing about being a Christian is that none is unforgivable.

Tom: Right. Furthermore, what people did, said and believed twenty years ago is rarely what they would do today. We all learn as we go. And what they did three hundred-plus years ago, when their entire society accepted the same norms as they did, is even less relevant to the long-term value of what they wrote or did.

IC: Paul’s life was like that … he started out being violent, blasphemous, complicit in murder, and the leading persecutor of the early church. But how ought we to weigh up his life now?

Tom: Exactly. We need to look at where a person is today in their thinking and behavior, not where they were in high school.

Turning Apologies into Lectures

Now, that said, Mr. Trudeau continues to promote the same diversity and tolerance propaganda he’s always pushed. In fact, he’s even turned his apologies into opportunities to lecture others. So I can’t bring myself to get too worked up about defending him, given that he appears to have learned nothing from the experience of being judged by his own standards.

IC: No, I think he’s learned very little. And I suspect the Left will let him off, actually. But can you imagine if a Right-leaning politician — or even a Christian one — were to make even one such mistake? That would, for certain, be the end of his or her career.

Tom: Well, consider how the Conservatives handled Patrick Brown, the former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader, at the height of the #MeToo movement. The moment allegations of questionable past sexual conduct were made about him, he became toxic and his own caucus threw him under the bus without substantiating the first word of what had been alleged. His campaign team and office staff all walked out; they were only too quick to turn on their own guy. Now, it may be that Brown was guilty and the accusations were substantially accurate, but the point is, Brown’s staff didn’t know that at the time they turned on him. They just lined up to virtue signal.

The Left never does that to their own. In the nineties, they backed Bill Clinton despite all kinds of credible evidence against him. And nothing has changed. That double standard, then and now, makes me suspect the furor is not really about what is genuinely offensive at all; it’s about who is allowed to define that for us. It’s about exercising power over others.

Not a Good Look

IC: Okay, Tom, what’s the Christian position on all this?

Tom: Well, I certainly don’t think you’ll ever get a consensus among believers. Most Christians would probably say character matters in a politician, but few expect to find much of it, and those who think they have finally done so are usually disappointed.

But my takeaway is this: foaming with outrage is not a good look for a believer, whether the flapping is phony or real, “for with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” I can well understand Leftists piling on — it’s what they do. I can even understand Conservatives doing their customary huffing and puffing — they’re trying to stay politically relevant by mimicking the Liberals policy-for-policy and reaction-for-reaction. The Canadian electorate is so far to the Left they feel they have no other choice.

But Christians are well advised to steer clear of holding other people’s pasts against them or passing public, verbal judgment on actions against which there is no law now, and against which there was no law back in 2001. What goes around comes around, as they say. Would you want your employment status to hinge on statements you made or things you did in a moment of poor judgment two decades ago? I sure wouldn’t.

Where We Came From

IC: I think there’s also a great heaping of self-righteousness obvious in the zeal with which the Left goes after its enemies. It’s not merely that they hate what their enemies represent, but that they are keen to misrepresent their enemies by way of exaggeration, and then there’s a kind of glee in pouring out vilification on them. It’s not just a “You’re so bad” thing; it’s an “Aren’t I virtuous ’cuz I hate your guts so much” kind of thing.

That’s not a disposition a Christian should ever have. We are the forgiven, not the perfect. A lack of humility and a delight in judgment suggests we’ve forgotten where we came from and what our own deep nature is still capable of being. That attitude is not just ugly, but completely self-deluded as well.

Tom: You mention the Left, and I agree, but more and more I’m noticing a tendency among dyed-in-the-wool conservatives to pile on the target of a perceived grievance as well. It’s almost like the mentality is “Maybe they’ll eat me last if I agree with them enthusiastically enough.” In this case, Christian conservatives at least need to be reminded that God did not give us a spirit of fear.

IC: The Left has created the monster, and the mass media have raised it to full size. But now, the Right is beginning to mimic the voice and tactics of their opposition. Facts, balance and honesty are devalued, and emotions, exaggeration, and outrage are carrying public opinion, they feel; so the Right is now getting into the game too.

A Sane and Consistent Standard

Tom: Hey, maybe I’m being unfair to conservatives and they simply don’t want to be perceived as condoning sin. Fair enough. But in that case, it would be wise to consider that disclaiming people is not some kind of Christian virtue. Due process is important, as well as maintaining a sane and consistent standard about what sort of things are or ought to be genuinely offensive to people across the board, not just to an easily-scandalized and manipulative minority. Often the media is in a flap about some supposed outrageously offensive act or statement, and when I find out what actually happened, my reaction is a big “So what?”

Let the facts come out first, bearing in mind that our standards of right and wrong are not the same as the world’s, and especially not the same as those of the political Left.

IC: Not only that, but let the reaction be proportional to the truth. Nobody made us judges of the world. We are to judge ourselves and, by the grace of God, to judge our fellow Christians’ actions. But we are not called to manipulate the public sphere toward our perception of “godliness”. That’s a delusion. God judges outsiders; we don’t.

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