December 13, 2018

That’s a Bad Idea (1)

Autumn Welcome. Photo by David Cornwell

This is a book about wisdom and its opposite.

• Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt

• • •

I am a big fan of Jonathan Haidt. We did a series of reflections on his book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion back in July, 2017. The Righteous Mind is one of the most important books I’ve read on how people think and reason morally, and why we tend to live in different “moral matrices” such as the political “left” and “right” in America.

Haidt (along with Richard Beck) have convinced me that when we take a stand for “truth” or “morality,” we are primarily revealing deep, fundamental visceral and emotional feelings and then using rational arguments to justify our “righteous” position. Furthermore, those who are on the more “liberal” end of the spectrum react intuitively to different things than those on the “conservative” end. Finally, this intuitive moral reasoning has social aspects which bind us together into tribe or teams and blind us to those who reason from different instinctive roots. As Haidt writes elsewhere, “Part of what we do when we make moral judgments is express allegiance to a team. But that can interfere with our ability to think critically. Acknowledging that the other side’s viewpoint has any merit is risky—your teammates may see you as a traitor.”

I found Haidt’s analysis enormously helpful in this polarized age in which we live. It helped me more fully understand where people are coming from when they express their values, and it is hoped that will continue to help me as I engage in conversation both with those who agree and disagree with me.

Jonathan Haidt has partnered with Greg Lukianoff to produce another book. This one is called The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.

This book is about ideas, particularly a few bad ideas, that are being widely disseminated throughout our culture. These bad ideas, according to the authors, appeal to our basic instincts in ways that cause us to develop bad mental habits and unhealthy social behaviors.

Greg is a First Amendment attorney who advocates for academic freedom and freedom of speech on campus as the head of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Much of the impetus for this book grew out of changes he witnessed on campus cultures across the U.S. Jon’s work on “consensual moral matrices” — the “echo chambers” we often find ourselves in where we only hear and act in ways that reinforce our group’s perspective and lead us to act in ways that can be unintelligible to outsiders — shows how some of these bad ideas have grown in influence.

Here is their overview of three such ideas:

This is a book about three Great Untruths that seem to have spread widely in recent years:

  1. The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
  2. The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.
  3. The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.

While many propositions are untrue, in order to be classified as a Great Untruth, an idea must meet three criteria:

  1. It contradicts ancient wisdom (ideas found widely in the wisdom literatures of many cultures).
  2. It contradicts modern psychological research on well-being.
  3. It harms the individuals and communities who embrace it.

The Coddling of the American Mind (p. 4)

Before the book came an article in The Atlantic that raised a lot of discussion and controversy. Critics of Lukianoff and Haidt accused them of being “grumpy old men” who were simply engaging in the perennial bashing of the younger generation by their elders. But they are careful to going beyond a surface critique of “political correctness,” instead identifying how a culture of “protective vindictiveness” has seriously limited speech on campuses and led to truly pathological thinking and behavior.

I encourage you to follow the link and read the article in The Atlantic as a way of entering into today’s discussion. Next time we’ll start discussing the “bad ideas” or “untruths” the authors say are infiltrating our lives and making us less prepared to live mature lives of wisdom.

Comments

  1. “Sticks and stones may break my bones , but words will never hurt me” was the common retort we learned , in a land and time far away, I think it was Grant’s second term. How far we have “progressed” in leaning to deal with life. Second graders in the 1950’s had more survival skills than Ivy league college students today.

    My first thought on reading this was 1984 and the newspeak that was established by the party to eliminate personal thought by restricting effective use of the English language. How close to the mark is what is happening in our society is that.

    Newspeak language words #1- blackwhite or whiteblack, that is what ever the party deems is correct order and blackwhite can become whiteblack in mid thought . #2 Ownlife was individualism and weird , not a goal or good idea #3 Bellyfeel what is now called gut feeling but if approved it was ok better than “facts” #4 Duckspeak ability to change sides immediately , enemy become friend, friend become enemy , change just happens with Duckspeak #5 Unperson, , person never existed like the 1960’s era Russian space guy who died but never officially existed.

    Language is so important to civilization and as Orwell did so well, who ever controls language effectively controls thought In the South in the early years the War Between the States was what the Civil War was called in the North. Russia calls WW 2 , the Great Patriotic War.

    Note now anti abortion became pro life and pro abortion became pro choice. Can you imagine on a college campus to give a speech using terms pro innocent baby killer or pro condemning women to a future with a child they do not want for personal reasons.

    The article and interview were right on but it is too late . One of the cornerstones of learning and education is under grave threat. Higher education , colleges, were created to have an area of freedom and testing of competing ideas, thoughts and speech. Emotion has replaced reason debate in most arenas.

    I may be committing crimespeak using thoughts from old speak ,

    • senecagriggs says:

      There’s a gulag waiting for you John Barry. You are guilty of wrong-think.
      _______

      Here’s more wrong think. Twitter has banned it as hate speech

      https://www.christiandailyreporter.com/instagram-hate-speech.html

    • It seems to me that you are opposed to new voices and language for expressing those voices and their experiences being added to the old ones that had held sway for so long. You say, “Higher education , colleges, were created to have an area of freedom and testing of competing ideas, thoughts and speech,” and yet for so long, and until very recently, many classes of people and their ideas, thoughts and speech were excluded from those educational institutions, and thereby prohibited from competing with the ideas, thoughts and speech that directed the discourse and controlled the discussion. Well now the new voices and experiences are fully engaged in the discourse, in education, religion, politics and everything else, and they aren’t going away; if that’s what you mean when you say “it is too late”, then you’re right. You’re just going to have to live with it.

      • Burro (Mule) says:

        What happens, then,when the “new voices” critique the very epistemology by which such voices could be evaluated? Peer review has been hijacked by ‘a concern for social justice’. Thus, epistemology becomes an exercise in the raw application of power, police or otherwise. Then you whine that “white supremacy”, or “bigotry”, or “nationalism” is on the rise.

        You have to at least agree on the rules. If the criteria is let the one who can show the most psychic wounds gets the megaphone, a psychological paper bag test, forgive me, but I’ma gonna turn down my hearing aid.

        They won’t go away, but they can be disengaged from.

        • “What happens, then,when the “new voices” critique the very epistemology by which such voices could be evaluated?”

          Evaluated… or silenced?

          “Enlightenment rationalism”, I have learned, slowly and reluctantly, is NOT neutral.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > Peer review has been hijacked by ‘a concern for social justice’.

          Has it? Peer review seems alive an well, there are almost inumerable peer reviewed journals I can subscribe to.

          > You have to at least agree on the rules.

          At the base of much of this is, finally escaped from the jar spell, the reality that we have never had anything like agreement on those rules; the rules have been imposed by force.

          We can argue and disagree about them, that is not the end of the world, however appalling it appears to some.

          • Finn, did you hear about this?

            https://quillette.com/2018/10/01/the-grievance-studies-scandal-five-academics-respond/

            Peer review is a good idea; it’s supposed to keep an echo chamber from developing. It doesn’t always, though.

            Dana

            • Adam Tauno Williams says:

              Yes, I’ve seen the article, and others.

              Nobody ever suggested that Peer Review was the be all and end all of intellectual critique; it is simply one tool.

              That this article, and the “scandal” is out there in the zeitgeist and people are responding to it I take as the system functioning in the expected, positive, fashion. Moods of this sort are in no way unknown the intellectual community – some take roots for a long time: take eugenics or phrenology as examples. They are nonsense, and eventually the systems ejects them. Fever is a healthy immunological response. Takes time, its uneven and messy. But I don’t see a crisis; the system has always contained foolishness and nonsense, and it always will.

              Those suggesting we tear the system down are the systemic threat. And I believe their disingenuous motives are apparent.

              • Systems and structures are necessary; they give us the freedom to move within them. Again, the fairness and justice of them depend on the human hearts of the people involved in monitoring and maintaining them.

                Dana

    • What you thought was free discussion, in educational settings and outside them, wasn’t really free, because many voices and perspectives were being excluded from it, most of the time by social coercion. Much of the discussion that went on before violated the third criteria for determining Great Untruths: “It harms the individuals and communities who embrace it.” That’s what the traditional discussions did to many classes of excluded voices and perspectives. It is unrealistic to expect those classes to accept discussions in which such untruths are used as if they are normal and okay; they’re not.

      • And who gets to decide what those “untruths” are? An opinion like yours leads to the death of free speech and just another class of excluded people.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          But I”M THE CENSOR ON TOP DEFINING WHAT IS HATE SPEECH AND WHAT IS FREE SPEECH, AND THAT’S WHAT’S TRULY IMPORTANT!

          “Before that can happen, make sure WE are the ones who define what is legal and what is not.”
          — Elron Hubbard

        • The death of free speech? Exaggerate much?

        • Could you explain how the inclusion of more voices and perspectives in the conversation, with the same respect accorded to them that the traditional voices have always demanded for themselves, leads to the death of free speech? It seems to me that you want to return to a conversation where a monopoly kept out all other voices, or shut them up. Is that free speech?

    • johnbarry, I don’t know what part of the South you are referring to, but in my part of the Deep, Deep South the Civil War was called either The Wo-ah of Nawthin Aggression or sometimes just The Late Unpleasantness.

  2. Robert F posts that John Barry’s post misses the real issue. That there are other factors.

  3. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    From the article: “””It’s difficult to know exactly why vindictive protectiveness has burst forth so powerfully in the past few years. “””

    This is followed by a mention of the narrative of helicopter parenting, etc…

    Sure, Ok. [I will admit I believe this is narrative exaggerated – or true principally of a particular socioeconomic category – which, yes, is the category that principally feeds the higher end colleges mentioned in the text. Note the absence of community colleges in the discussions of this; colleges attended by far and away more students.].

    Putting on my Neighborhood/Community Organizer hat: perhaps protectivism (word?) is, in part, a response to real aggression? Boomers are mean! And I mean bull headed, rude, and thunderously obnoxious – and they don’t feel a damp craps worth of shame about it. They interrupt speakers, tell people they are “just wrong” [that they speak “for the public”], mutter constantly while others are speaking; it’s crazy. The Boomers that don’t participate in this sit their silently, just waiting for the storm to pass. Most of my generation (X) either simply doesn’t show up, or blows them off. My experience is the younger generation (post-X) is less tolerant of them: which is a GOOD THING. And, boy howdy, do the Boomers get indignant when anyone pushes back. This plays out over, and over, and over, and over.

    Is there over reaction and over correction? Of course. Humans. Is some of it completely absurd? Of course. Humans. Yet the silent and stubborn refusal to acknowledge the Aggression on the other side of Protectivism is **deafening**. Until that happens I don’t see this feedback loop being broken [fortunately time will resolve it eventually].

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      For the record, I am at least base-line good with all of his recommendations at the tail of the article.

      My beef, is that colleges, universities, and other organizations must recognize – and it seems a cognitive behaviorist would also recognize this – that their students are arriving on their campus from a culture that is a pressure-cooker of aggression and resentment, much of it very passive and resolutely unacknowledged. That many students, also confronting a world economically and demographically very different than that of their parents, would attempt to seek a way out of that seems obvious – and they will flail about and stumble and plunge dead ends as young people always do when they seek a way.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And demand Safe Spaces, i.e. My Forever Womb.

        Problem is, you have to go outside your Safe Space/Forever Womb to achieve anything, and that’s So Scary. Better to stay in the Womb forever, cleansed of anything and everything that could possibly offend or trigger Pwecious Widdle MEEEEEE.

        “The soft civilized man is doomed to fall before the bloody axe of The Barbarian.”
        — Robert E Howard (best known as the creator of Conan)

        • And demand Safe Spaces, i.e. My Forever Womb.

          There is is, tho. Colleges and universities are no longer safe spaces for patriarchial capitalistic whites. omg, they’re being challenged! They’re ivory towers are being exposed to ideas of societal justice, black and gay rights, alternative non-abrhamaic religions, how can this be???

          • This is the real issue. The Old White Boys club is no more; the intellectual man cave has been invaded by unwelcome guests, and they refuse to leave! The patriarchs no longer have their Safe Spaces; they are being triggered left and right by the newcomers, and they are beside themselves. The rules that favored and protected them are being rewritten.

    • Adam Tauno Williams wrote:

      “Boomers are mean! And I mean bull headed, rude, and thunderously obnoxious – and they don’t feel a damp craps worth of shame about it. They interrupt speakers, tell people they are “just wrong” [that they speak “for the public”], mutter constantly while others are speaking; it’s crazy.”

      This a ridiculous generalization of Boomers. I am a late Boomer myself, and I will assure you that being “mean” is pretty much a characteristic of all generations.

      You say you are “Gen X”. I don’t know the age range of Gen X, but I can give you my personal experience with “Millennials”, which I define as being adults under 30. Keep in mind that this is my experience and may or may not be applicable to Millennials as a group.

      The Millennials I know are for the most part decent people, but that changes when any opinion they disagree with is expressed. Say that “homosexuality is a sin” and the don’t engage you, they just brand you as a “hater”. Make an argument that voting for Donald Trump was in any way justifiable and they think you are an idiot. For all their talk of “tolerance”, they extend none to differing opinions. I find this troubling and hypocritical.

      You mentioned the term “aggression” twice. Unless someone is directly threatening us with bodily harm, we old folks don’t consider words as being aggressive. If I say “you are full of crap”, that is not aggressive, blunt maybe, but certainly not aggressive. Being offended by words is something we just can’t understand. This is why Speech Codes and Safe Spaces boggles our minds. I hope it helps you to know that Boomers come from a different time and understanding this may help you in dealing with them.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        “”” Unless someone is directly threatening us with bodily harm, we old folks don’t consider words as being aggressive. If I say “you are full of crap”, that is not aggressive, blunt maybe, but certainly not aggressive. Being offended by words is something we just can’t understand.”””

        Exactly what I was talking about, thank you for the demonstration.

  4. senecagriggs says:
    • Thank you seneca for my daily dose of “right-minded” news and commentary from across the nation! The best article was “Porn star gives college students ‘Intro to BDSM’ training”. But I’m confused by the opprobrium in the comments. I thought the right appreciated expertise.

      I am heartened by the right’s new found love of the First Amendment.

      • senecagriggs says:

        Stephen, is this alleged “right wing news” true?
        Are you in favor of the college attempting to restrict the student’s ability to hand out Jesus Loves you Valentines?

        • Seneca, it sounds like she was handing out Valentines in a university office (General Services, where students go to take care of their business). Her claim is that it’s free speech. The university says she was in a campus office handing out material with religious content. I don’t like the way the university is defending itself, but then again, if students going to pay their bills were handed Valentines with quotations from the Koran or Black Lives Matter, or political flyers from a local campaign, it would cause headaches, too. When you hand out material in a university office, you use their captive audience and put them in the awkward position of endorsing you (by letting you stay) or rejecting you (by not letting you stay), or allowing in everybody to hand out flyers, educate, and edify in your space. I have students ask if they can come into my class to make announcements for their campus groups all the time, and yes, I restrict their ability to do so (I usually say no). I hate “free speech zones”, but free speech doesn’t mean a free microphone on somebody else’s stage.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > Are you in favor of the college attempting to restrict the student’s
          > ability to hand out Jesus Loves you Valentines?

          Yes, I am, and such restrictions are perfectly normal and valid.

          Some spaces have a designated purpose; and yes that purpose overrides your Free Speech rights. Your free speech is NOT the right to say anything you want anywhere you want anytime you want – that is not what it means.

  5. Christiane says:

    “Le coeur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connait point.”
    (Blaise Pascal)

  6. This is a debate about the 1st Amendment. Who would ever have thought that colleges would ever advocate any restrictions on free speech to further academic debate or advancement. If you control the language and the marketplace of ideas and what can be discussed you control the discussion, eventually what people learn and thus think You control the future.

    Failure to “protect us from the merciless savage” in in the Dec. of Ind., Should that be allowed to be taught in school?

    Orwell 1984 insoc rulers had rectify where the past was changed to go with present thought. Goodthink was what was approved by group.

    Control of language and content of educational material result in what outcome is produced. U of Berkley, one of the first advocates of “free ” speech now have protest and deny a true avenue for peaceful dialogue. The mob determines what is acceptable.

    If your beliefs, values, opinions and “thoughts” are so fragile that they cannot stand up to an opposing viewpoint or a close examination then the venue for opposing opinion must be closed or certain percepts are not allowed.

    I do not think it is pathological behavior on the part of many, it is ignorance and lack of education in the values and underpinnings of Western Civilization. It is letting the inmates run the asylum. College administrators today have surrendered to the mob.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > This is a debate about the 1st Amendment.

      No, it is not. Viewing this as a debate over the 1st Amendment misses the point.
      Human, and American, society is not principally about constitutional law.

      • Adam T. Williams, So Lukiaoff, a 1st Amendment attorney and Haidt who was concerned about the echo chambers on campus that students should only hear and act in certain ways are not concerned about the First Amendment? Restrictions on words, banning of phrases and boycotting of opposing views is not a 1st Amendment issue?

        From what I gather, the article and the book seek to examine why the disregard for the 1st Amendment gained acceptance on the college campus. Parents/society who are too protective of children in their development years, the weak college administrators who want to keep money coming in and our political differences that have exceeded historic norms are their concern but the end result is an assault and lost of appreciation for the First Amendment.

        American society is influenced and our culture shaped by constitutional law so much we take it for granted.

        Seems people today want goodthink only and believe to think otherwise is crimethink. I remember when the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in Skokie Il. accepted the rights of the terrible, racist, stupid American Nazi party which was small, to have a parade in Skokie even carrying the swastika, the community followed the Supreme Court ruling knowing the First Amendment did and would protect them in the same manner. If they could survive the historical persecution of their faith, and the Holocaust , 20 or so pretend Nazi’s were only an insult to good people everywhere.

        I have read that many people in USA believe there should be “some” limits, other than the historic court decided limits. This is part of the concern of the authors , I believe. I do have the right to remain silent but I will not use it. I do have the right to be wrong but if I do use it I will not admit it. Book em , Dan O

      • +1

      • It certainly is a 1st amendment issue regarding speech on state funded colleges and universities. Private schools, not so much.

    • “it is ignorance and lack of education in the values and underpinnings of Western Civilization.”

      Many of Western Civilization’s victims have a clearer understanding of it’s *real* underpinnings than most of its defenders do.

      “It is letting the inmates run the asylum.”

      Can they do any worse than the lunatics currently running it?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      If you control the language and the marketplace of ideas and what can be discussed you control the discussion, eventually what people learn and thus think You control the future.

      The Principles of Newspeak.

      COMRADE O’BRIAN, INNER PARTY: “There is a Party slogan about the future. Recite!”
      6079 SMITH W, OUTER PARTY: “Whoever controls the past controls the future. Whoever controls the present controls the past.”
      COMRADE O’BRIAN, INNER PARTY: “And where does the past exist? Does it sit out there somewhere?
      6079 SMITH W, OUTER PARTY: “In history, in records, and in the memories of men.”
      COMRADE O’BRIAN, INNER PARTY: “And We, The Party, control all history. We, The Party, control all records. We, The Party, control all memories and men’s minds. So We, The Party, control the Present. We, The Party, control the Past, and thus We, The Party, control the Future. LONG LIVE BIG BROTHER!”

  7. The discussion of college campuses is a perfect example of the Our Team vs Their Team opposition. If you hurry over to the nearest college, you can scour the bulletin boards, look at the campus meetings, study the course catalog — heck, you can even sit in on a few lectures! — and you’ll have a hard time finding the nefarious suppression of free speech you hear so much about. Some of the “shocking” examples posted above are either a) stunts or b) the usual friction between students and administrators. They are not Signs of the End Times. For all the clamor about the end of free speech, I’d say: name a controversial or forbidden topic, and I’ll find you the person writing or speaking about it on a campus somewhere. And as for today’s “fragile” students, I have taught the whole range: children of wealth, children of poverty, kids whose parents send them loving messages every week, young people who come to class after bailing dad out jail. If you met them, you might just find that you liked them! They are much more varied and interesting than the headlines make them out to be.
    I’m not even certain that students say more outrageous things now than they did decades ago. I was lucky enough to be young and, let’s call it “opinionated” before everything got recorded and spread on the internet. Thank your lucky stars that the sage wisdom and brilliant arguments you expounded at the age of 19 (not to mention the kinds of things you laughed at) are not available for all to see.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > And as for today’s “fragile” students …
      > If you met them, you might just find that you liked them!

      This.

      Perhaps, in the interest of Christian Charity, it is helpful to **listen** to people who feel offended, actively attempt to find something in their perspective one can sympathize with, and reach – at least a bit – beyond what one is comfortable with. That will go much further than telling someone they are fragile.

      I was already near the religio-political sphere when Lakoff’s “Moral Politics” made its huge splash [circa 1996] and was the talk of the town. It was a wave of thought which produced little to no fruit. And I am not saying anything Lakoff proposed was bad. However – to strech a metaphor – fruit does not come from a forest, if comes from trees. To gather the fruit one must go into the forest amoung the trees. Sitting on one’s back deck observing the forest will harvest no fruit. I fear when analysis such as Mr. Haidt’s becomes popular one creates legions of forest observers, and while Mr. Haidt may not be wrong, many are emboldened by their confidence that they understand the forest into which they never, or rarely, walk. Such forest observers too often demonstrate a lack of charity and a disinterest in the specifics of a instance [everying is generalized] – and when that instance concerns people already feeling aggrieved or ignored . . .

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        But there’s also the Tyranny of the Most Easily Offended (especially with access to lawyers).

        In Christianese, it’s Tyranny of the Professional Weaker Brethren (“YOU’RE CAUSING ME TO STUMBLE!”)

        Either way, it’s gaming the system for fun and profit.

  8. Christiane says:

    We can take a look at the meaning of ‘heart’ in examining Blaise Pascal’s quote which can be translated, this:
    “The heart has its reasons of which the mind knows nothing”

    “What Pascal calls the heart is the faculty that makes us know things by intuition and immediate, closely connected to the body, includes everything we understand by instinct, sensitivity, sentiment. The reason only infer and conclude from first principles, they, we are provided directly by the heart. The heart is the first, anterior superior mind.”
    https://www.the-philosophy.com/pascal-heart-has-its-reasons-which-mind-knows-nothing

    Certainly, we can TRY to bifurcate ‘reason’ from ‘the heart’ but we have a problem when we come to human moral conscience, and there we stop and consider that among all the world, humanity seems to agree that some things are evil, and others are good . . . . that this universal consciousness of ‘right and wrong’ is ingrained in our humanity like a ‘law’ we honor in principle as human persons . . . . so what guides our humanity towards our better angels is INSTINCTIVE in a sense . . . . we don’t have to be taught that brutalizing a little baby is wrong . . . . we ‘know’ it because our human kind depends on knowing it for survival . . . . we instinctively try to help a little baby in distress and it comes from a place deeper than ‘reason’ . . . . we are ‘impelled’ to do it for some primal need beyond ‘decision-making’ using our mental faculties alone.

    I’d say we have little understanding among fundamentalist-evangelical theological thinking concerning the idea of the fostering of a ‘moral conscience’ in that there is a dis-connect between the concept of ‘conscience’ being a rational tool AND the idea of conscience being a God-given gift/curse (you choose, depending on the situation) which has profound implications on how we will be confronted on the Day of the Lord concerning how we lived out our lives.

    There is something to the idea that our humanity is ‘connected’ to our dignity as human persons and some have said that we can ‘walk away’ from doing humane things if our ‘leaders’ override our consciences, and we can then point to the fact that we ‘were just following orders’ in a regime where ‘order’ depended on ‘obedience to authority’;
    but that was the ‘Nuremberg Defense’ and it didn’t stand up then, and it won’t stand up now.

    At some point, we are RESPONSIBLE for our own actions and if we cry ‘it was legals and logical to take those babies away from their mothers at the border’, in some part of us all, we KNOW it was not ‘right’ to do something so cruel. I submit that the part of us that knew this was intuitive and yes, deeper in our beings than any rational excuses could wipe away.

    I always liked this definition of moral conscience:

    “Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise. . . . [Conscience] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.” (John Henry Newman)
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a6.htm

    • senecagriggs says:

      “I’d say we have little understanding among fundamentalist-evangelical theological thinking concerning the idea of the fostering of a ‘moral conscience’ in that there is a dis-connect between the concept of ‘conscience’ being a rational tool AND the idea of conscience being a God-given gift/curse (you choose, depending on the situation) which has profound implications on how we will be confronted on the Day of the Lord concerning how we lived out our lives.”

      Christiane, are you speaking as a fundamentalist-evangelical? If not; you’re guessing what we think. And as a “fundamentalist-Evangelical” that’s NOT what I think.

      If you wish to tell me what liberal Catholics believe, I’ll be happy to listen. I won’t tell you what liberal Catholics believe because I’m not one.

  9. senecagriggs says:

    BTW, I cannot speak for all fundamentalist-Evangelicals either. We are actually quite a diverse group.

    • Hello Senecagriggs,
      your point is well-taken with one exception: I would agree with you that Evangelicals are quite a diverse group.

      ‘fundamentalists’ of all religions are way too similar in destructive ways, I’m afraid . . . . I’m referring to ‘fundamentalism’ in the worst sense of the word

      thanks for responding

      • senecagriggs says:

        You also don’t understand the many of the Evangelical “fundamentalists.”

        • Christiane says:

          perhaps we see the definition of the term ‘fundamentalist’ differently?
          I think that may be the case.

          Perhaps you might explain how you see that term so I do understand what you ARE meaning. I am open-minded enough to try to understand because there is such a great need for ALL people, including Christian people, to communicate for the sake of understanding one another better.

          Thanks again for responding.

  10. Christiane says:

    “I am heartened by the right’s new found love of the First Amendment.”

    I had to laugh at this, Stephen . . . . oh, goodness

    most of us Americans enjoy a good debate of two opposing sides . . . . it is an American tradition, especially in universities and colleges . . . . most civics classes in high school will teach debating techniques and afford their students a chance to practice being involved in a debate to get them used to how it is done

    I suppose what is at issue here is something called ‘hate speech’ or, in religious terms, the ‘la shon hara’ (the evil speech) which, once said, is like an arrow fired . . . . you can say the words, but you cannot control the harm that they may do
    . . . and those who advocate for the FREEDOM of hate speech would be the last to suggest that they are advocating for the consequences that may or may not result (although everyone knows yelling ‘fire’ in a theatre will not end well)

    a beautiful child goes home from middle school and her parents find her hung and cold in her closet . . . a suicide, and yet they knew nothing of the ordeal she endured from the ‘la shon hara’ as she was bullied and encouraged to kill herself . . . another example of ‘over the line abuse of freedom of speech’

    question remains for folks to determine when and how words become weaponized

    my own thought is that we have a tremendously powerful weapon in our abilities to protest by just showing up en mass and silently holding signs, even if it is determined to be ‘disruptive’ and we are eventually arrested as those in wheelchairs and on pallets were arrested in the halls of power when they came to protest for the sake of affordable health care . . . the VISUAL on those arrests said all that was needed

    it was like the protests for civil rights when fire hoses and attack dogs were released on protestors who were non-violent . . . . the VISUAL of that injustice SPOKE to the whole nation and we were never the same again once we had SEEN the suffering of those silent witnesses

    communication . . . . and our ‘bubbles’ . . . . and how very quickly ‘christians’ become ‘offended’ when someone suggests they are being abusive in how they speak to others and about others . . .

    a dear friend loves to listen to Rush Limbaugh and Hannity, so we almost never agree politically, but he has a heart of gold and tells the best stories I have had the privilege to read which are originally and extremely funny and moving, often in the same story . . . . I want him to speak his mind freely, even if he is drowning in the conspiracy theories that he loves so much to dabble in . . . . thing is, he is not a malevolent person and I know this very well and I’d be the first to stand up for his freedom to speak his own mind

    it’s the malevolent ones we must be concerned for . . . they hurt themselves, they hurt their victims, they hurt our society . . . . it’s not the ‘words’ so much as the INTENT TO HARM that concerns, or should concern us, yes

  11. As someone who was bullied for a time as a child, I don’t believe that “words will never hurt me.” They do indeed hurt. The trick to healing after being bullied is to know the truth about oneself.

    It is no less the desire for truth that is the issue here. There certainly is the truth of a person’s feelings. That’s not the same as the consensus regarding the facticity certain historical events.

    How are we able to say that injustices of the past (or present) are wrong if we’re not allowed to even talk about them? If we’re not allowed to give examples of people’s actions and point out how those examples are faulty, where is the hope of 1) finding ways to correct those wrongs and 2) truly hearing other points of view and coming to respect other people, and really changing one’s mind?

    At the bottom of everything, nobody wants to do evil; people do evil because they think some good will come of it (as they define good). It’s not healthy for society when it is assumed that someone who has a different **opinion** is evil and intends evil. That’s not the path to understanding or tolerance. This assumption of evil intent in others (I and my group are the only ones who know what’s right here!!!) is, I think, doing the same kind of harm – though of course not to the same **degree** – as the past efforts to silence marginalized people. It’s all use of force, whether blatant or subtle.

    Force may change behavior, but it doesn’t change minds and hearts.

    Dana

    • senecagriggs says:

      “At the bottom of everything, nobody wants to do evil;”

      I would strongly disagree with your assertion Dana.

      • Go argue with Socrates.

      • What people want to do is affect things around them so that results are to their advantage, as THEY see it. Their view may be warped, but that doesn’t change the reality that people want to do what they see as bringing benefit to them, even if it hurts others.

        One of the reasons I’m Orthodox, Sen, is the clear explanation of the nature of evil as Privation; it doesn’t have any existence in itself. It happens, but it happens as the result of action by humans (and angels), not because it has its own life, so to speak. This is the view of every Christian confession I know about.

        A bigger reason that I’m Orthodox is the view of the human being in the Orthodox Church, which stretches back to the Eastern Fathers, centuries before the Reformation. We don’t believe that our nature – that about us which makes us human – is a “sin nature”. And you’re not going to find anything in the Greek of the New Testament that could translate as that term; translators who use that term are reading their theological bias into the text. Our human nature was created by God and it is good; I don’t know of any Scripture where God takes back his declaration that it was good. When we sin, we are acting **against** our nature.

        We are sinners, but our nature is darkened, and we have a disease, Death – the fear of which colors so much of what we do, and which enslaves us so that we sin. Sin and death feed off one another. Do read Hebrews 2.9-15, which talks about why Jesus came (the Incarnation is so much more than the Second Person of the Trinity picking up a body that could be sacrificed…). Sin and death are inextricably entwined, but the larger problem is Death. Jesus had to deal with Death so that we would be loosed from the bondage to sin. Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection brought about and opened to us humans the kind of life that is beyond the reach of the fear of Death, so that, united to Christ, in Whose Image we were made, we can start back toward recovering God’s likeness within us – we can, little by little, with God the Holy Spirit working in us, become Truly Human, the way God made us to be. The first part of Heb 2 talks about what being truly human was meant to be, and that true humanity is what will be recovered in full when the Lord returns, as in Rom 8.19-23. (And that true humanity looks a lot like Jesus on the Cross – just as the one we call “God” looks like Jesus on the Cross.)

        Fr Stephen has written that we are sinners, but we are not our sin. Another priest has said that when he found Orthodoxy he finally found a theology that is worthy of the dignity of the human soul. God doesn’t judge us by whether or not we understand theology, but theology matters. That’s why I left Evangelicalism.

        Dana

  12. Christiane says:

    hello Chaplain MIKE,

    i think my response to Stephen got stuck . . . could you check on it for me please? (and thanks)

  13. Ah, it’s so refreshing to come to iMonk on a blasé Wednesday and find Jesus permeating the discussion.

    Glad I missed most of today’s blather. Truth vs. Untruth, there’s so much opinion here that it makes my mind spin.

    On days like this, just give me Jesus. I need a cool cup of water, Lord…please.