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The Tone of Truth

tone-of-truth

It is so interesting to listen to the difference in tone between the two sides of an argument. While the scientists (many of whom are Christians) quoted in the article below are, as my father, Stan Wiedeman put it: “nuanced, gracious and thoughtful,” in their disapproval of the Creation Museum…

Paleontologists brought to tears, laughter by Creation Museum – Phys.org

…the main defenders of creationism seem to come across vitriolic, overly generalizing, and fear-mongering.Here is a headline from the Answers in Genesis (the brain trust behind the Creation Museum) website:

Intolerant Atheists Viciously Attack Christian School – Answers in Genesis

The above article is a response to a photo that has been making the rounds on Facebook the past few weeks which shows a non-science based and silly looking quiz about creationism given to a 4th grader in a science class. For background details on the photo & quiz, check out this Snopes article:

Remains to Be Seen – Snopes

What is disturbing to me is how these so called defenders of “truth” (AiG) are using the rhetoric and tactics of “the enemy” while these supposedly “wrongheaded” evolutionists are conducting themselves with the demeanor of someone who has truth on their side.

Here are some examples of the reactions of science professors on their visit to the Creation Museum from the Phys.org article:

Jerry Lipps:

“It’s sort of a monument to scientific illiteracy, isn’t it?”

“Like Sunday school with statues… this is a special brand of religion here. I don’t think even most mainstream Christians would believe in this interpretation of Earth’s history.”

Lisa Park:

“I think it’s very bad science and even worse theology — and the theology is far more offensive to me.”

“I think there’s a lot of focus on fear, and I don’t think that’s a very Christian message… I find it a malicious manipulation of the public.”

Phil Jardine:

“I feel very sorry for teachers when the children who come here start guessing if what they’re being taught is wrong.”

Arnie Miller:

“I think in some cases, people were surprised by the physical quality of the exhibits, but needless to say, they were unhappy with things that are inaccurately portrayed.”

“And there was a feeling of unhappiness, too, about the extent to which mainstream scientists and evolutionists are demonized — that if you don’t accept the Answers in Genesis vision of the history of Earth and life, you’re contributing to the ills of society and of the church.”

Daryl Domning:

“This bothers me as a scientist and as a Christian, because it’s just as much a distortion and misrepresentation of Christianity as it is of science.”

“It’s not your old-time religion by any means.”

Not once did any of these scientists term this a “threat” or say anything inspiring images of war or a struggle against an aggressive Christian or anti-science agenda. They never once described the people with whom they disagreed – and who are quite overtly spending millions of dollars to spread their message – as attacking their beliefs and values. That concept didn’t even enter into the equation. They expressed disagreement over the facts, a sorrow over their lack of belief, and most importantly they expressed an empathy for the people it effects. Were they outraged? Were they in a panic? Were they wringing their hands in worry? No, of course not. They were calm and thoughtful.

By contrast, the Answers in Genesis (AiG) article begins right off with the urgent “Oh no! We’re under attack!” line…

“Christian education is under attack in America as never before.”

Then, it goes into an argument about how “The Obama Administration” is denying political asylum to a German Christian family who wants to live in the U.S. so they can home-school their child (it is illegal to home school in Germany). Never mind the fact that there are over 52 million other Christians in Germany who feel no need to escape apparent “religious persecution” in their country, the argument on which this particular family is resting their political asylum case. This isn’t a Christian education issue, it is an illegal immigration issue. Germany is not persecuting Christians. Therefore these people don’t qualify for political asylum under the laws set forth by the United States. The fact that “The Obama Administration” is properly enforcing those laws is not an attack on Christian education.

Next, the article goes on to paint “atheists” as in some kind of war with Christians:

 “Over the past few years, we have seen atheists becoming more aggressive and intolerant towards Christians. They are attempting to impose their belief system (yes, their religion) on the culture.”

Never mind the fact that one of the core tenants of the Christian belief system (yes, their religion) is to impose it upon the culture. But apparently it is only “aggressive” and “intolerant” when atheists supposedly do it, according to AiG. They also find it necessary to try and relate this “atheist aggression” to the results of the last presidential election. Never mind the fact that the winner of that election is a professing Christian – a fact which continues to severely bother an atheist community that feels they are already unfairly under-represented in government.

Ken Ham & Mark Looy of AiG go on to state that their theme for the next two years is “Standing our Ground, Rescuing our Kids.” This seems to be an obvious play to the Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” laws which bring to mind violent the emotions of the Trayvon Martin killing and opposition to violence (apparently, Christian kids are in some kind of dire peril). They rile about “anti-God people” hating and “indoctrinating” children into “atheism.” They even flat out state this platitude:

“The atheists want your children.”

Yes. They actually said that. My jaw dropped. It read like something out of a dime novel.

I also learned (from reading the quiz and the Answers in Genesis website) that they are instructing children to be disrespectful smart-asses and respond to anyone’s claim that the earth is millions or billions of years old with, “Were you there?”

“Were you there?” Wow. Apparently, if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, it doesn’t just not make a sound – it didn’t fall! With their logic most crimes could never be solved, the Civil War didn’t happen, and Jesus never walked the earth. It is so disheartening that these so-called Christians are teaching young Christian children to be rude – and with such seriously flawed logic to boot!

What is most interesting to me, however, with this entire AiG article is that they name the school which the original poster of the Creationism Quiz photograph and the parents of the child who took the quiz graciously refused to name out of respect for the school’s privacy. This allowed Snopes and everyone else to confirm that this school is where this “hated” quiz came from. Why would AiG call them out them? Perhaps the shameless fundraising plug for the school at the end of the article has something to do with it.

This tactic seems very familiar. It reminds me of a very common political fundraising tactic:

  1. Scare the crap out of people.
  2. Ask them open their wallets.

In Terry Goodkind‘s “Wizard’s First Rule” the evil sorcerer Darken Rahl is on a quest to conquer the Midlands and subjugate its people to his own selfish and wicked ends. He manipulates the people of the Midlands into believing his agents to be their allies and turns them against the heroes who are the Midland’s defenders: Kahlen Amnel, The Mother Confessor, and Richard Cypher, The Seeker of Truth.

On these tactics, Richard’s grandfather and mentor, the Wizard Zeddicus Zu’l Zorrander, explains to Richard why the evil Darken Rahl seems to have an advantage over them:

“Wizard’s First Rule: people are stupid… People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.

“Because of the Wizard’s First Rule, the old wizards created Confessors, and Seekers, as a means of helping find the truth, when the truth is important enough. Darken Rahl knows the Wizard’s Rules. He is using the first one. People need an enemy to feel a sense of purpose. It’s easy to lead people when they have a sense of purpose. Sense of purpose is more important by far than the truth. In fact, truth has no bearing in this. Darken Rahl is providing them with an enemy, other than himself, a sense of purpose. People are stupid; they want to believe, so they do.”

Whenever someone is using fearsome, embellished, emotion-based arguments and platitudes to manipulate how or what you think, no matter how noble their motives may seem on the surface I would counsel much caution and skepticism. These are tactics that are employed by the *enemies* of truth, not the defenders of it. ‘Truth’ already has an advantage because ‘truth’ it is real. ‘Truth’ is rational and and it is logical. ‘Truth’ conforms to the laws of the universe and is observable and discoverable. Defenders of truth do not need to employ the type of rhetoric or scare tactics that rely on the “stupidity” of people. Truth is for the intelligent, the thoughtful, and the wise. Intelligent, thoughtful, and wise people are not swayed by fear-mongering, embellished, emotion-based rhetoric. But stupid people are.

Often times, both sides of an argument will have advocates who use these kind of loathsome tactics. So, that in itself cannot be a litmus test for deciding whom to believe. Sometimes, the answer lies in the middle. Other times, what you are hearing is simply the result of stupid people making stupid arguments for something they believe but don’t really understand. One thing is clear, however: For the side without truth on its side, this type of rhetoric is pretty much the best, and often only, weapon in their arsenal. You are going to be hard pressed to find “nuanced, gracious and thoughtful” rhetoric from those who are preaching an ideology that doesn’t have a logical leg to stand on.

So, when you are reading arguments, whether they be about if vaccines are safe, if GMO food is poisonous, or what the causes and consequences of climate change might be… or whatever argument you are observing or partaking in, here are three quick tips:

  1. Thoroughly research advocates for both sides of the argument and pay close attention to their overall tone. Don’t confuse content with tone. The content itself might be scary “You mean this bridge is unstable and might collapse if I drive across it?”)… But the syntax and the tone will reveal the true fear-mongers (“You mean rich and powerful people are trying to prevent me from using this bridge because they want to steal my freedoms and control my thoughts?”)
  2. Don’t use the tactics of “the enemy” by playing upon people hopes and fears to manipulate them into believing you.
  3. Don’t be one of the stupid ones. Learn to separate truth from fiction by recognizing your motivations for believing the things you do. Do you believe this because maybe deep down you fear it may be true? Do you believe this because maybe deep down you want it to be true? If you answered yes, then its time to suspend your trust in your own intuitions and take a step back and re-examine the issue.

Epilogue…

 

My quest for truth has led me to become a follower of Jesus Christ. It is embarrassing to me that so many so-called “Christians” are full of irrational rage and are more interested in stirring up fear and excitement, calling their fellow Christians to arms rather than trying to be thoughtful, loving, and make peace.

It may interest you to know that the Bible has some things to say about these things as well:

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
(1 Peter 3:13-17, ESV)

Does that sound like what AiG is doing?

These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.
(Zechariah 8:16-17, ESV)

Interesting how the call to speak truth is accompanied by a call to make for peace.

The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.
(Proverbs 14:15, ESV)

How many Christians simply believe whatever they are told by a “Christian authority” without doing due diligence to investigate its merits?

For I, the Lord your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I am the one who helps you.”
(Isaiah 41:31, ESV)

Who is the one who helps me? AiG? My parents? Oh, wait, according to this, it is the Lord my God.

…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
(2 Timothy 1:7, ESV)

The Bible has a pretty consistent message about not fearing ‘evil.’ So, why then are these so-called Christians at AiG trying so set upon stirring up fear among Christians?

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,
(Psalm 103:17, ESV)

So, apparently if you walk in God’s truth and remain faithful to him (this is what is meant by “those who fear him”) he will extend his blessings not only to you, but also your children. If someone is preaching fear over “coming for your children” and trying to rile you up against the atheist threat, then that person either does not believe the promises of the Bible are true or that person simply does not believe that God is sovereign, loving, wants what is best for us and our children, and is ultimately the one in control. And if someone doesn’t believe that, how are they a follower of Christ again? Should a Christian really be buying into what they are rampaging about?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
(Philippians 4:8, ESV)

Good advice…

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called Sons of God.”
~ The words of Jesus (Matthew 5:9, ESV)

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