And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
It’s truly a fearsome thing, watching Romans 1 unfold in real-time. There is, unfortunately, no lack of minds in the West becoming rabid in this way–devolving into terror and delusion as they attack anything that approaches them. As Paul details in that first chapter of his epistle, it all begins with the deliberate denial of the most basic and essential truths–knowledge of God and of right & wrong.
We’re all becoming accustomed to these kinds of denials, surrounded as we are by people claiming that burning down cities isn’t violent, that men are actually women, and so forth. Those of us who confront such errors in writing have naturally alluded to the climax of George Orwell’s 1984–when the thought police torture Winston until he not only confesses but believes that 2 + 2 = 5. It is, after all, a profoundly true demonstration of what’s at stake in the denial of simple truths–one that I’ve used myself.
But it seems that the rabid-minded among us are getting sick of the allusion. James Lindasy recently threw some chum in the water with a meme poking fun at the woke–calling 2+2=4 a “perspective in white Western mathematics that marginalizes other values.” As I result, I’ve been subjected to seeing collections of unironic contentions that Orwell’s equation is not nearly so certain as we once thought. “Ackchually, 2 + 2 can equal 5 for very large values of 2.” “Ackchually, 2 + 2 can equal 5 when ‘2’ is a variable.” “Ackchually 2 + 2 can equal 5 when it’s useful.”
I doubt I’m the only one who’s had “I don’t want to live on this planet anymore” moments after reading some of these. But the fact is, we have no alternative planet at present, so we have to deal with the mess on our own.
I have, of course, seen people dealing with it by argument–trying to convince the rabid that 2 + 2 really does equal 4. It’s gone about as well as you can expect. To be sure, I’m all about argument in certain contexts. Nevertheless, there are limits to its usefulness when it comes to the deliberate denial of matters of self-evidence. I’ve already seen people claim that only people with PhD’s in mathematics can truly understand the deeper nuances of 2 + 2 = 4. Good luck arguing math with someone who thinks like that.
The key limitation of argument is this: one can only argue with a rational mind. One cannot, say, argue with his car until it agrees to do what he wants. Unless you’re dealing with an Autobot, a car has no rational mind. But you can no more argue with the rabid-minded than you can with a car because rabid minds are no longer rational. These people are not genuinely confused about the value of 2, 4, or 5. They are, rather, deliberately lying to themselves and others about it.
They lie about this for the same reason anyone lies to anyone about anything: they believe they have something to gain by doing so and lack any respect for themselves or their victim. And if they will not hesitate to lie even to themselves, neither will they hesitate to lie to anyone else. This makes argument a useless endeavor with the rabid-minded. There’s little incentive to argue when one believes he can simply lie any argument away–a small feat indeed for people who actually think they can lie reality away.
So the solution is not to argue with them–it’s to treat them as liars.
Now there is a vocational divergence here because how you treat a liar depends on your relationship with them. In your personal vocations–as father or brother or friend–you may have a certain responsibility to at least try and lead them out of their lies. In some cases that means you have a responsibility to discipline them–train them to restrain their worst impulses, as parents do for their little children. In other cases, the best you can do is to slowly learn their motivations and mechanisms for lying and look for ways to undermine them. But in all cases, you’ll want to make sure you never bend the knee to their lies. To humor a liar is simply to enable him.
In your public vocations, however–as a citizen, employer, officer, and so forth–treating a liar as a liar requires nothing more than utter contempt. You remove them from any position of trust because they cannot be trusted. You disregard what they have to say because it cannot be trusted. You avoid them whenever possible and help others to do the same because they cannot be trusted. You don’t hesitate to openly express your contempt when the need arises. And when institutions prop up those liars, you treat them with the same manner of contempt (more on this one in another post.) Most importantly, you respect yourself enough that you never allow anyone to guilt you into pretending the contemptible are anything other than contemptible–as with personal vocations, you must never bend your knee to the lies.
“But wait,” one might interject (as I recently observed on Facebook.) “That sounds dangerously like cancel culture!” Yes; yes it does. Likewise, when somebody is shooting at you, returning fire sounds dangerously like a gunfight, but war is sometimes our vocation. What conservatives have blatantly failed to understand is that we have been dragged into an existential struggle. When someone attacks you and yours like that, your responsibility as a citizen of civilization is to strike back in kind in order to protect what you’ve been entrusted with.
“But we cannot do evil simply because evil was done to us!” True. But civility is a social contract–not a moral absolute. Keeping up your end of a contract which the other party has broken has nothing to do with honor, with morality, with principle, or with being the bigger man. It’s merely a matter of being timid. You don’t want to experience the discomfort of conflict, and so you pretend true conflict doesn’t exist. In other words, you join in on the Lie. Oh, you may not pretend that 2 + 2 = 5 the way those people do, but you do pretend that there is a nuanced conversation to be had on the subject in which men of good character may disagree. This does nothing but enable the lie–it is aiding and abetting the Enemy.
To be sure, arguments can be useful even on a point like this to bolster timid people who acknowledge that 2 + 2 = 4 but have been unbalanced by the brazen assertions of falsehood and have become too afraid to speak up. But far more valuable is the willingness to stand up and to not only assert the truth, but also to call out the liars as what they are.
Conservatives have spent far too long treating the rabid-minded with courtesy, as though they were having a gentlemen’s disagreement. It is nothing of the kind. “Two plus two equals 5” is not a disagreement, but a lie–the goal of which is to recruit others to embrace the Lie little by little. After all, if Satan can make you believe that 2+2 may not always be 4, he can make you believe anything he wants.
This is not a debate. This is an assault on civilization. Treat it as such.