Wednesday, May 8, 2019

To Argue, or not to Argue? Is that the question?

The other day I was asked how effective I was at changing the minds of the people I call RepubliChristians.  How well I perform at convincing them that they are wrong about things and that I am right.  I'd like to explore that a bit, because I believe the question was asked in Good Faith, and propriety in argumentation is a very important thing me.

In my rural public high school I was blessed to have the privilege of participating in debate class. Two debating disciplines were available to students: Cross-Examination Debate (Policy Debate) and Lincoln-Douglas Debate (Values Debate).  The year I won my Class 2A Lincoln-Douglas Debate State Championship the question was "Resolved: the intervention of one nation in the domestic affairs of another nation is morally justified." [As an aside, this was 17 years before Russia interfered in the United State's 2016 domestic elections, but when I read the Mueller Report today, it covers ground that I've already put a significant amount of intellectual work into] Students participating in L/D debate construct two cases addressing the question utilizing concepts from Philosophy, one case supporting the resolution, one case opposed.  Then, at competitions after a coin-flip to determine who takes which side, we argue those cases one-on-one against another debater before a judge.

That experience changed my life.  It taught me how to construct an argument: What do I value? What criteria do I apply for Judgement? What evidence do I offer to support my position?  It taught me to think critically, to look at both sides of an issue and ask Good Faith questions.  It taught me to covet precision in my speech.

Making a Good Argument is a feat of skill - and so is something that can be learned.  A good argument is logically consistent, unambiguous, and supported by evidence.  But a good argument is only persuasive to participants who will engage with it in Good Faith.

It is my personal view that RepubliChristians do not operate on Good Faith - they are religio-political ideologues who presuppose the answers to big questions being asked of our society.  They are the 4 out of 5 white evangelicals who are followers of President Donald Trump, himself the counter-archetype of one who makes Good Arguments.  President Trump perpetually makes claims that are logically inconsistent, vastly ambiguous, and don't even attempt to be supported by evidence.  Critically, this means that when he says something he actually says nothing.  Because what he says is *nothing*, his followers can take him to mean *anything*.  This is a situation that cannot be refuted with Good Arguments, because the only response to nonsense is to call it such and those who will accept nonsense as reason will not be swayed by rational arguments.

And so I stand on my social media soapbox and scream into that black nothingness the truth of reality as I see it.  Not to convince the RepubliChristians to change their views, but to call out to Faceless Non-Voters of our society and alert them that RepubliChristians exist, they *do* vote ... and they are driving national policy towards racist, hateful, misogynistic ends that are very much real, because that's what they think the right thing is to do and they have Bible verses to "prove" it.

I understand that voicing the utterance "White Evangelical Christians are an existential threat to our liberal democracy" is pretty much the flip side to the GOP's "Hurr durr durr Democrat Party Communists hate America!!" argument.  I don't like having to say it.  But it is consistent with what I see, and I believe I would be derelict in my duty as a citizen to sit in silence and let the RepubliChristians run this country unchallenged.  The stakes for my neighbors is too high.