We must not refuse to stand with majorities when they are right, any more than we may stand with majorities when they are wrong, simply because they are majorities.
Dear friends and supporters:
Ever hear of a premortem? That’s a term devised by Daniel Kahneman in his absorbing book Thinking, Fast and Slow. It refers to his recommendation that at the inception of any new project or venture, in the flush of excitement and enthusiasm at potential success, it’s helpful for one or two people to dampen the enthusiasm by saying something like: “Let’s fast forward 3 to 5 years. This project about which we are so presently excited has failed. Why did it fail?”
Kahneman isn’t recommending killjoys, but suggesting that enthusiasm over the potential success of a project among its proponents will likely overlook potential problems that could contribute to its failure. In such projects, a premortem could be much more valuable than (prevent, maybe) a postmortem. A contrarian viewpoint could avert defeat.
Similarly, with respect to the Christian faith, John M. Frame has advised that when a shiny new movement comes along, we should always first ask ourselves, “What’s wrong with it?” And there’s always something wrong with it. Frame counsels not leaping onto the bandwagon under the pressure of the excitement of a new movement’s Halcyon early days.
Each is, in his own way, is valuing contrarians, minority thinkers who resist the majority report.
But the value of contrarianism at a specific juncture must be distinguished from a contrarian spirit or personality, which elevates contrarianism to an unvarying life principle. These “lifestyle contrarians” seem to relish opposing any popular opinion, not because it’s wrong, but because it’s popular.
A graphic example on recent display has been opposition to widespread opposition to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and sympathy, and in some cases support, for Putin himself. It appears the world’s leading Putin apologists live in (1) Russia and in (2) the conceptual enclaves of American conservatism, including conservative Christians. The logic of the latter seems to be: almost all nations of the West, the major media, and Leftists in general are condemning Putin; therefore, what he’s doing must be right, or at least excusable, and this widespread opposition to the war reflects a Leftist agenda (“If Chuck Todd, Nancy Pelosi, the New York Times, Sean Hannity and the rest of the establishment are opposing Putin, he must be on the right side”). The fact that Putin has a long and well-documented history of murder, assassination, theft, deceit, and repression (see here, here, and here) seems not to have deterred the lifestyle contrarians. (See the documentation in “How Christians Enabled Putin.”)
But the fact that the vast majority of the West, including Leftists, opposes Putin doesn’t invalidate that opposition, any more than the fact that their support for same-sex “marriage” is validated by its overwhelming popularity. The question is, always, what is right?
Of all political viewpoints, one would assume conservatism the most resistant to relativism, the widely popular, though self-refuting, idea that truth and ethics are not universally valid but only within a particular historical and cultural context.
By contrast, conservatives believe in absolute standards. If Christian, that standard is God’s revelation, particularly in the Bible and creation. If non-Christian, that standard might be Platonic or Enlightenment ideals: a universal, if vaguely derived, sense of right and wrong.
But if we’re making moral judgments about a war on the basis of who supports and who opposes it, we’re thinking no longer as Christians, but as relativists. When we reason, “Any invasion that the Leftists oppose must be wrong (or suspicious),” we’re playing the relativist game.
This relativism is one casualty of political tribalism: we’re unabashed members of our political tribe, and basically everything our tribe says and does is right, and everything another tribe says and does is wrong. This is pagan reasoning, not Christian reasoning. A prime example was the dueling verdicts on the Trump presidency. For the NeverTrumpers, nothing Trump could do was right. For the AlwaysTrumpers, everything Trump did was right. Both are wrong. But this is the tribalism scourging modern politics.
It’s unnecessary to read some ulterior motive into the widespread (including the Left’s) opposition to Putin’s invasion. Because of God’s common grace, most individuals, including Leftists, tend to recoil at unprovoked invasion, murder, bombing civilians, wrecking hospitals, and assaulting pregnant women. The fact that Leftists also hypocritically support abortion (for example) does nothing to negate this truth. That’s what makes them hypocrites — they in general are opposed to wanton killing, and are willing to support it only to protect their precious Sexual Revolution. This makes their opposition to murder hypocrisy; it doesn’t make it wrong.
Popular opposition to many of the evils inflicted by Russia on Ukraine is not due to any superior spiritual condition, of course, but simply to the imago Dei: the image of God in man. That image can, of course, be perverted and effaced, but most individuals find war of any kind abhorrent, or at least tragic, and justified under only narrow moral conditions. This is the biblical view.
This is also the best explanation for opposition to this war almost everywhere except in Russia, where the media is strictly controlled, and in certain conservative American enclaves, that suffer from lifestyle contrarianism.
The Deepest Deep Stater
Nor can it be argued by any sensible person that the widespread opposition to Putin is due to the fact that he’s attacking the “deep state” (apparently the state is deeper in Ukraine than in the Kremlin). There’s no deeper deep stater than Vladimir Putin, who is perhaps the world’s leading statist, with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and China’s Xi Jinping his only rivals.
Joe Biden is not a rival, despite the fact that he’s an obvious statist politician. Unlike the trio of dictators above, Biden will be out of office in 2029 at the latest, and likely 2025. The trio of dictators doesn’t suffer Biden’s trifling constraints: a check-on-authority constitution, an independent judiciary, and a free press.
As a statist, Biden is dangerous, but he’s small potatoes.
This is a book about what revolution is, how it came about, how it is transpiring right before our eyes, and what Christians can do to arrest and overcome it. This book presupposes the necessity of Christian society, not just Christian families and churches, foundational though they are. It addresses topics as diverse as the culture war, the separation of church and state, the altered meaning of liberalism, the true objectives of progressivism, the human types that make statism necessary, and the blight of political soteriology.
Get the e-book here.
And don’t be manipulated into sympathy for Vlad the Impaler (Brian Mattson’s moniker) by considering his opposition to homosexuality. If that were the single criterion, you should consider converting to Islam. No religion in the last century has been more anti-homosexual than Islam. Modern Christianity has soft-soaped the Bible. Islam (a false religion) has not. As Joseph Paul Forgas writes:
Those who sincerely oppose the creeping authoritarianism of left-wing revolutionaries, neo-Marxists, critical race theorists, and gender ideologues in our institutions (and I count myself among them) must not allow themselves to be seduced by reactionary authoritarians from the far-Right. We cannot make common cause with genocidal dictators like Putin just because he shares our opposition to political correctness and institutional capture.
Know this: liberty requires virtue, and liberty is a virtue. (See my 2013 article, “Virtue Demands Liberty (or, No, Putin Isn’t ‘One of Us’”).
A homosexuality-opposing dictator that enslaves his own citizens and firebombs maternity wards is not a virtuous man.
The fact that Leftists are evil doesn’t make Vlad a saint.
Pro-Putin Christians and conservatives are simply an obvious public example of lifestyle contrarianism.
It can also be detected in Christians that, in an age that devalues women to economic utility, oppose all women’s working outside their home. It can be observed by separatist churches in our syncretistically ecumenical age whose contrarian response is to limit their fellowship to “us few, and the few faithful others.” It can be noted in some Christian resistance to material blessings as God’s gifts since our era equates material prosperity with across-the-board success. There are innumerable other examples.
Lifestyle contrarianism makes for contentious individuals who, if Christian, correctly fight sin, but wrongly identify as sin any view that happens to be popular at the time. In the end, the defining principle of their life is contrarianism, not righteousness.
We must stand solidly for righteousness and against sin, no matter how many others stand for or against righteousness, or for or against sin. We must not refuse to stand with majorities when they are right, any more than we may stand with majorities when they are wrong, simply because they are majorities. Every issue must stand or fall on its own merit.
We must count truth, not noses.
It was such a great blessing finally to visit our son Richard in Vancouver, B. C. after so long and attend his ordination to the diaconate (ACNA) last Wednesday evening. He is a faithful man of God, and it’s hard to believe he’s nearly 40 years old. And his dear wife Samantha is such a help to him.
We visited the renowned Regent University bookstore on the campus of the University of British Columbia, from which Richard holds a PhD in philosophy. We also quickly visited the college classroom where he teaches, Corpus Christi College, on the very edge of UBC, as well as the nearby Spanish Banks.
Many speaking engagement and books are impending. I hope to update you next week.
Thank you deeply for your prayers and donations. You keep me on the firing line.
Founder & President, Center for Cultural Leadership
Brian Mattson on Putinized Conservatives
For two excellent analyses of the Christian and conservative response to the Russian invasion, see my colleague Brian Mattson’s articles “History Doesn't Only Rhyme” and “You Won't Be On Those Committees.”
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