Tom Gilson

Distorted, Misinformed, Tendentious: Yet What Can We Learn From It Anyway?

Huffington Post is reliably anti-conservative Christian, but they’ve outdone themselves with a blog post this week written by John Pavlovitz: “White, Conservative, Christian Friends — I Wish You Really Were Pro-Life.” It’s distorted, it’s misinformed, it’s tendentious — and yet there are things to learn from it. Read it and then return here for some thoughts.

1. Christianity must communicate an apologetic of ethicality, not just truth.

The charge being made here is that Christianity (“white, conservative” Christianity, that is) is morally bankrupt. It has nothing to do with whether Christianity is true (or more than merely “white,” for that matter, which of course it is). Pavlovitz doesn’t display any noticeable regard for truth in the charges he delivers. He’s seeking instead to undermine us as a social group through moral ridicule. We have to answer that.

2. We’re on solid ground for those answers.

The charges he has made are answerable. Actually, what he’s written is so misinformed, distorted, and caricatured,it’s pretty easy to answer them, for those who know. I’m not going to go into that in any detail now, though, because of (4).

3. He thinks he can get away with this kind of nonsense. He’s probably right. But not because he’s right.

A writer can get away with publishing nonsense if the audience doesn’t know any better. Plenty of HuffPo readers will be eager to think he’s spoken truth. But here’s the dangerous fact that goes with that: it isn’t just dyed-in-the-wool progressives who may think (foolishly) that he’s speaking sensibly. A lot of young people – high school and college students, for example – are likely to impressed with the sheer weight of the barrage he unleashes here. That includes even many churched youth. If they’ve never heard a solid answer to these kinds of questions, either in church or at home, what else are they going to think?

Those answers exist. So if they think he makes sense, the fault isn’t entirely his. It’s their parents’ and churches’ responsibility, too.

4. Along with misinformation, there is also the argumentum ad fragenblitzen.

The argumentum ad fragenblitzen takes advantage of the fact that it’s easy to raise a quick challenge that appears thoughtful, whereas an answer that’s actually thoughtful takes time. A one-sentence challenge might take pages to answer well. The best way to respond to fragenblitzen is to call it out for what is, and then to ask them to develop their questions by adducing some kind of evidence and reasoning. Absent that it’s nothing better than a pretense at dialogue.

Let me expand this by providing an example. Pavlovitz writes,

Because if that life you say you so treasure, one day converts to Islam, you label it dangerous, you see it as a threat, you applaud suggestions of its expulsion, you deny it open worship.

That might look like a challenge against Christianity, and in view of (3) it actually might serve as one, for those who don’t know there are answers, or don’t have enough background or information to think matters through. But Pavlovitz certainly does nothing to help them with that. This challenge displays absolutely no thinking on his part. For example:

  • Who are the “you” he’s addressing?
  • What proportion of “white, conservative Christianity” do those persons represent?
  • What proportion of its leaders?
  • In what way do those persons label Islam dangerous, and do they do so with as little nuance as he suggests?
  • What does he do with the thoughtful consideration many Christians have applied to the potential dangers of Islamic converts?
  • What does he do with the fact that some persons converting to Islam have also converted to a more violent approach to life?
  • Who applauds suggestions of Muslims’ expulsion, and why?
  • Who denies Islam open worship?
  • Which Christians and which Christian leaders say that?
  • Really???
  • What does he do with Christians who do medical mission work in Islamic parts of the world?
  • How does he fit that into that tiny little framework of thought he’s erected?

Now, I could have mounted a defense against this one-sentence charge of Pavlovitz’s, but there’s actually nothing there to defend against, since he hasn’t really said anything.

5. There’s a whole lot of stereotyping going on here.

Need I draw this point out? I think that bullet list should suffice. Pavlovitz probably say he doesn’t believe in stereotyping, but wow, has he done it here! I wonder whether any of his progressive friends will call him out for it. Pavlovitz is completely vulnerable on that count.

Christianity has its ethical strengths and also its weaknesses. He got both the strengths and the weaknesses wrong, and he stereotyped the whole thing anyway.

His progressive friends may not be calling him out for it. But I am.

Image Credit(s): YouTube.

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1 thought on “Distorted, Misinformed, Tendentious: Yet What Can We Learn From It Anyway?

  1. That isn’t an article about whether one is pro life. It’s first a screed against those who are Trump supporters. It’s a second screed against those who are pro-life and who are conservatives. And it’s dishonest in the extreme. It’s based on straw man, after straw man, after straw man. It’s a fairly obvious and mundane piece of liberal propaganda and virtue signaling. I’m sure it plays well with the Huffington Post crowd but it falls far short of anything worth taking the time to read. (Even though I did.)

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