Friday, March 23, 2007

How do you think?

A friend forwarded me the following link, and somehow I found a chunk of time to sit down and watch it.

The fellow is Evan Sayet, a man who has several job titles but in this venue is best described as a political commentator. The title of his talk is "How Modern Liberals Think." And after watching it, I think he may have something. But it's just one chunk of a larger edifice.

My friends have tried to describe the different ways in which liberals and conservatives think. Rush Limbaugh makes a point of saying that he knows how liberals think; I have yet to feel competent enough to say anything close that. I have had long talks with at least one good friend who is liberal (and quite pointedly reminds me that this is not the same as leftist), and it would take us literally hours to find common ground from which we could move forward on any discussion. Why?

Sayet's thesis is summarized as follows (and I hope he allows me to regurgitate it for myself or I will never get it), as written on his blog:

[F]act, reason, evidence, logic, morality, decency and justice play no part in how Modern Liberals "think." These concepts are seen by the left as inherently bigoted, so fatally flawed by one's prejudices as to make rational, moral and intellectual thought nothing less than an act of evil. ...

[Victor David Hansen has defined modern liberalism as] "All cultures (must be seen as) equally good and equally valid" and to which I add only that, then, all behaviors stemming from these cultures must, too, be recognized as equally good and equally valid.

Since all cultures and behaviors are to be thought equally good and equally valid, the Modern Liberal believes that the outcomes of all behaviors must, too, be equally good. When in the real world different behaviors lead to different outcomes, the Modern Liberal simply must believe that some sort of injustice (likely due to bigotry and oppression) has been done.

The goal of the Modern Liberal, then, isn't to apply fact, reason, logic, evidence, morality, decency and justice in an effort to find the best of all possible explanations and policies but rather to manipulate these things in order to uphold their preordained conclusion that all things are the same.

I think he's on to something here. (He gives a lot of credit to Alan Bloom's book The Closing of the American Mind and with good reason.) His reason as to why liberals think this way is just as important as how they think, and he covers it in the video above fairly early on. It goes back to looking at the entire history of the world with a broad brush and saying, "No one is perfect. No society is perfect. So that means the United States of America isn't perfect and we shouldn't say we are or even that we're any better than anyone else." The fact that we are light-years and eons away from the evil practices of the past merit no mention of progress or success, but simply as facts to demonstrate how far we are from perfect. That is an explanation of the mindset based on history. It's good, but it doesn't seem quite right to me.

(An aside: I thought it was odd when schools stopped giving medals for first, second, and third places at school competitions. "We don't want to hurt anyone's feelings," I was told. "We just want to make sure children have a healthy self-esteem." I thought it was an aberration, but I see that it's simply an offshoot of this mentality.)

So what is a better explanation for how this way of thinking developed? I have a guess, and pending further data and research it seems like a good hypothesis for now: I don't want to be told that I am bad, that I am evil, that I have--and here's the big, bad word--sinned. I don't want to be told that I'm not good enough for heaven, that there is a God out there who is measuring me and has decided I am not good enough to make it. So I will set up an elaborate system to protect me from that nasty realization. If no person, culture, or system is worse than any other, then I cannot be judged for sin.

Where did this mindset come? I cannot say this for certain (again, at this point it is only a hypothesis), but as I have talked to people and analyzed myself it seems that very few people make lifestyle, paradigm, or worldview decisions based on outside events. (Some do, but I cannot confirm that the number of people who do it is large. I can't say that I do, even though I do try to be rational.) Most people make decisions from the inside, in their gut, or their heart, or whatever you want to call it. It seems quite reasonable that Satan would turn my guilt of the wrong I've done and try to show it as a good; he would love to take the good news of Jesus and turn it on its ear by telling me--whispering into that gut, that heart, that internal decision maker--that churches are only focused on judgment, on pointing out to me how I am just as good as those hypocrites in church are. In fact, he whispers, that judgmental way of thinking is really the source of all the world's problems. We should stop judging people and just get along.

And so he's taken that argument and turned it into a lifestyle, a culture, a world-wide creed.

Do I blame the world's ills on Satan? No. But he seems quite willing to take advantage of any situation he can.

Praise God that he was able to save us--I certainly couldn't save myself.

Addendum: In discussing this point with the spouse, another thought came up that should be attached to this:

Many liberals have enshrined a type of fairness doctrine as a result of this desire to have everyone considered the same, regardless of situations, beliefs, culture, etc. This is usually manifested in a show of concern for the poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed. And it is an admirable show of concern for others.

But I believe what actually ends up being created is not a fairness doctrine but a perversion of fairness. Why? Because one aspect of fairness is judgment. Oh, liberals don't like to judge themselves, but they love to judge others for not creating their desired utopian society. And the judgment is never equal.

One example: Liberal fairness doctrine says that if a poor man steals bread, we shouldn't hold it against him. He's trying to keep himself alive and has no money to pay the baker. At the same time, the bakery where the man stole bread is accursed for being profitable and forcing the beggar to steal. But that has a built-in assumption about the position of the baker. The beggar gets an excess amount of grace; the baker gets none.

Only when I put myself in the position of both the beggar and the baker can I find justice for both.

There's more than we can discuss here, but here's my goal in thinking about this: How do I share Jesus' great gift with a liberal and get past the liberal mind to the heart?