Tuesday, February 04, 2020

The Best Rhetoric

Treachery, O Ahaziah!”

Treason! Treason!”

Twice in the space of three chapters in 2 Kings we find very bad people complaining about the conduct of those around them. “Treachery!” exclaims King Joram of Israel, as God’s anointed fulfills his destiny by shooting him between the shoulderblades. “Treason!” shrieks Athaliah, as she confronts a seven-year old boy she accidentally overlooked during her murderous rampage through the king’s nursery.

It’s always a bit of a lark when wicked people whinge about being hard done by.

So Hard Done By

Joram is unhappy because he says he’s been deceived. Mirmah! he shouts. “Deceit!” Somebody has misrepresented the situation to me. I came out here thinking the guy in this chariot was my faithful servant, and now he’s trying to stab me in the back.

Athaliah is unhappy because the rightful king is standing in the temple facing a usurper, and all the priests and temple guard have rallied behind him. “Conspiracy!” she splutters. Everybody has gathered against me.

The common thread is twofold: the misplaced sense of injustice, and the appeal to a moral code both rulers had entirely abandoned.

The Language of the Righteous

Joram the son of Ahab “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” He was under the judgment of God, his family line destined to be entirely wiped out for the sins his father had instigated and in which he had willingly continued.

Athaliah, a foreigner, destroyed the royal family of Judah and worshiped Baal. Whether she knew it or not, she came closest of anyone to wiping out the Messianic line of descent and subverting God’s plan of salvation. A half-Sidonian Israelite Baal-worshiper with the temerity to usurp the throne of another nation, Athaliah was a walking conspiracy herself, committing treason against the king’s house, against God, and against God’s people.

Neither monarch had any legitimate claim to be treated the slightest bit differently than they were, and yet they had no problem using the language of righteous men and women, appealing to the known and universally accepted moral precepts of the very God they had so brazenly rejected.

Moral Inversion

This sort of inversion is very common today. When Christians quietly push back against wickedness in high places, they are commonly called “fascists”. Most of these so-called fascists are simply looking to be left alone by intrusive governments, an activist judiciary, and terminal leftist overreach. In most cases, they base their arguments for religious freedom not on the Law of Moses or the theocratic portions of the Old Testament, but on the Constitution of the United States of America.

The interesting thing is that despite the fact that human beings may be grossly immoral people in many ways, they have no difficulty in appealing to a common morality when the shoe is on the other foot. The rhetoric of the Left becomes so much more powerful when the goals to which they aspire can be framed in moral terms rather than merely pragmatic ones.

Nobody says, “I want to forcibly take fifty percent (or sixty, seventy or ninety percent) of what you’ve got.” Instead, they say, “I should have my fair share.” It’s a moral issue, not merely a math question.

It’s All In How You Phrase It

Nobody says, “You’re running the show for your own profit, and now we’d like to run it for ours for a change.” That sounds too much like a plain old power grab. Rather, they speak about “equality” and “justice”.

Nobody announces they’d like 3% of the population to make decisions for the other 97%, or 0.5% of bent males to win every women’s track event from now to the end of time. That would be too transparently undemocratic. So we hear about “inclusiveness” instead. People are being left out, overlooked, tragically marginalized. It’s a morality-based argument to do something very immoral indeed.

Even Hillary Clinton can’t just come out and say, “I was a terrible candidate and not enough people voted for me.” It might be true, but it doesn’t get her where she wants to go. No, the Russians stole the election. A grave injustice has been done to the political process.

Morality, Not Mathematics

As much as we may think of our society as almost entirely secularized and post-moral, it really isn’t. It may be upside-down country, in which the would-be overlords play victims and the tyrants claim to be tyrannized, but their ability to convince others has nothing to do with the overwhelming rationality or logical force of their arguments. The very best and most compelling rhetoric is powered by its appeal to universal moral imperatives.

The only really convincing arguments are ... moral arguments. Human beings are constituted to react most powerfully when faced with issues of right and wrong.

Apparently it has always been this way. That tells us something, doesn’t it.

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Original image by aphrodite-in-nyc from new york city [CC BY 2.0]

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