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In Conformance to Reality: What does Virginia Tech ‘show’ us?

I’ve had quite a few things on my plate this last week so I didn’t have much of an opportunity to comment on the V-tech massacre, even if I had wanted to.  Having listened to some of the media coverage, I’m frankly glad that I wasn’t able to hear more.  The run to make political hay out of the event was atrocious in my view but I noticed that my own comments could have been percieved as more of the same.  I spent some time reflecting on what was different in my reaction and commentary and this post is part of the fruit of that reflection.

In brief, the critical distinction between my views and the views of many I heard is that in the first place, my views are actually in line with reality.  In the second place, insofar as everyone has compassion for the victims and their families, it is not the case that everyone has a ‘solution’ that is just as compassionate.  My response actually would lead to fewer mass shootings.  My compassion extends to the ones who live because their shooter was stopped earlier on.  I do not consider comments merely reflecting reality to be making ‘political hay’ because they are grounded in reality- it would not be political (per se) if I pointed out the laws of gravity, nor our best response to those laws when those laws are truly perceived.  If any of the rival viewpoints come in from that perspective, I will suspend my charge that they are politicizing the event.  I think I shall have to suspend it for very few.  I ought to probably share my comments now.  It will take a little explaining.

The ‘law’ in question in this instance is derived in many of the same ways that we would derive our ‘law’ of gravity:  observation of reality.  This particular ‘law’ can be found affirmed in the Christian scriptures, but one need not restrict themselves to ‘observing’ the Scriptures to deduce it’s existence.  Human history and our own experiences provide ample grounds for deducing its existence.  I am speaking, of course, of ‘original sin.’

One would never sit down to design an airplane without understanding the dynamics of flight… the laws of physics, etc, the nature of inanimate, unsentient, reality.  There are many in our society who would ‘design’ their models of governance without the faintest recognition of the nature of animate, sentient reality- or at least the sentience we are most familiar with:  humans.  I put ‘design’ in quotes because ‘design’ implies some sort of conscious manipulation based on principles that are known and elucidated through whatever the medium of choice is.  I am not so sure that the ones I’m speaking of can be accused of something that deliberate.  Still more explaining is required.

I was raised as a liberal democrat.  I was educated in Christian schools and was on my way to being a pastor when I was rocked with doubt.  I abandoned my beliefs- not merely the ‘religious’ ones but also the political ones.  I built up my worldview from scratch.  I had basically one rule:  follow the evidence; rationality is defined by conforming one’s worldview to the way the world really is.  To my surprise, this approach brought me back to Christianity far faster than I expected.  It would take much longer for the ‘liberal democrat’ views to change, though.  They had to.  The chief difference between the views on the ‘left’ and the views I have acquired is that my views are an attempt to take the world as it really is- the left believes the world as it really is is merely a momentary pause before it becomes how they wish the world would be.

Now, this is not to say that I do not have visions of how I wish the world would be.  It does mean, however, that I cannot use the current moment as the ‘means du jour’ to achieving that vision.  If one were to constantly be using the ‘current moment’ as the next ‘means to an end’ then one would never really arrive, for in truth, we live in no other moment than this current moment.  This is still not the most serious objection that I have to my liberal democratic upbringing.  The most serious objection is that the ‘left’ entertains visions of the future at the expense of the real nature of Man;  a principled response to the true nature of Man will inform the ‘visions’ that are crafted.  My liberal friends, I’m afraid to say it, are driven by personal, individual sentiment, rather than principle.

I can explain the problem using a provactive example- Iraq.

There is a sentiment that says “We should not be in Iraq, period.  What right do we have to impose ourselves on another people?” There is another sentiment that says, “People in other countries, even if they have a different culture and/or worldview, ought to be considered as equally valuable as the people in our own country.”  (This one is sometimes extended “…and what is a country, anyway?”)  These are sentiments that I share, actually.  But isn’t it interesting, then, that my liberal democrat neighbor- who almost certainly shares the above sentiments- has a sign on his house:  “Support our troops- bring them home.”

The sentiment reflected in that sign is that in fact he does consider the people of our own country to be more valuable than those in another.  If we were the brutalized victimes of an oppressive dictator, you can be sure that we would very much want someone to ‘do unto your neighbor what you would have done unto you.’  We would want to be rescued- and if a people really thought we were as important as they were, they would be willing to pay the price to rescue us.  What we have here are two conflicting sentiments. 

We could add a third sentiment:  if we had continued to do nothing in Iraq, we would find that our government would be condemned for doing nothing.  You hear this sentiment now in regards to the situation in Darfur.  It leaves me speechless that my liberal friends don’t know that it is they themselves that have created the political realities keeping our government from doing something.  An incursion into Darfur would be supported for about a minute.  After another minute (when the news reports starting reporting deaths) my neighbor would put up a sign:  “Support the Darfurians- save them from our troops!”

In contrast to the three sentiments above (which themselves contrast a little) we can now add the sentiment, “I ought to care in a special way for my own people in a way I do not for others.”  This is the sentiment reflected in my neighbor’s sign. 

You see the problem.  There must be a way to navigate through these sentiments in order to chart your actions.  The truest mark of a person that has not taken the effort to conform themselves to reality is a person who refuses to be pleased whether you give them what they want, or not.  This is the liberal democrat.  They will never be pleased.  They cannot be pleased.  Mankind would have to stop behaving like Mankind behaves in order for that to happen.  They honestly think that this is possible.

Now, I very much wish that I could be completely a-political.  If I had to categorize myself, I would be a Libertarian/Constitutionalist.  This tends to mean that when I vote I vote Republican.  In the final analysis, I trust no government, so the smaller the government the better.  You need not point out that under Republican presidents the government has grown bigger.  As I said, I would classify myself as a Libertarian/Constitutionalist.  Besides the moral platform occasionally upholded by the Republicans, there is one other thing that compels me to side with them more than I would like.  Namely, they are a party of principle.  Even if the principle is ‘greed’ at least you know what the principle is.  They tend to say what they mean and do what they say.  They are a known quantity.  The Democrat party is a shifting heap of warring sentiments and nary a principle in sight to prioritize them.  But you can also argue with a Republican since they do operate on principles.  Liberals operate on sentiments- how one feels.  But what to do when our feelings conflict?

We are now nearly at the point where it connects with V-tech.

I am pleased to have met a small number of liberal democrats who really have thought through their worldview and really do act on principle.  There have been occasions when I found the principle frightening.  There have been occasions when I have found the principle uplifting.  These are rare instances, but I’m glad to have had them to keep me from thinking that the whole group of people is a complete monolith.  Where they go wrong, if they do, is in their failing to be fully conformed to reality… they don’t take original sin seriously.  The overall corrupt nature of man, and myself, is real.  It is not fairy tale.  And if you do not take this into account, you will produce a vision of the future that is not merely out of line with reality, but dangerous.  Just like it is dangerous to get into an airplane designed by a person who does not know about gravity.  This is not simple analogy.  People are going to die in a plane improperly designed.  People will die in an improperly constructed system of governance.  This is not hypothetical- they are dying already in places like China and North Korea and Pakistan.

This whole line of response was inspired by listening to the ‘professor’ on the radio talking about how people don’t feel safe when there are guns in the hands of citizens.  What we need, she said, is more police officers.  More gun control of course- that’s what the people want- and also more social services.  Only after we pour another trillion dollars into social programs while taking as many guns off the street as possible will we finally feel safe.

You see the operating word here:  ‘feel.’  A person that tries to conform themselves to reality does not think this way.  I understand that even if I ‘feel’ safe, I may not actually be safe.  I am more interested in actually being more safe then feeling more safe.  This is why I do not believe my response is making ‘political hay’ while her’s is.  She believes that government can protect us and that it should protect us.  She acts on this belief, and each time there is yet another mass murder this does not disprove her notions of government.  If her notions were intellectually gained they might be falsifiable, but they are not intellectually gained, they are sentiments floating apart from reason and the way the world really is.  So she wants us to have more police officers and more social services and she wants the gun lobby to get out of the way.  Only then will we ‘feel’ safe.

But if she is wrong (and she is) and the truth is that no amount of government will ever be able to stop people- sane and crazy- from doing terrible things, then her naive and sincere notions are positively dangerous.  Not only will we not be getting any safer, but one of the worst human rights offenders to ever be seen in human history, that is, Government, will be compelled to get bigger and bigger.  And bigger.  It is not political to insist that airplanes actually be able to fly safely.

She points out that police chiefs have roundly pointed out that it makes the police officer’s job more dangerous when they have to be constantly worried that a person has a gun.  Of course, the police officer does not merely feel more safe, but is more safe- he has a gun!  But is it really so bad that a police officer has to be concerned that every person may be heavily armed?  In fact, police officers already have that concern and always will.  But I’m thinking that the kind of respect born out of their own interest for safety rather than a ‘respect for the law’ may be just what the doctor ordered for keeping our police officers honest.  But we have yet to return to the point- even if the police officers were more safe if there weren’t as many guns on the street, would we be safer?

Of course not.  People are not mindless particles of matter that can be simply deterred.  When obstacles are put in place they can think their way around them.  A person who is bent on doing a lot of killing will find a way… to try.  Is it really rational and realistic to expect the police to always be ready, alert, and available, when the individual citizens need them?  See how the sentimental mind works:  if there were so many police as to actually be a deterrent in that way the sentiment would be to renounce the ‘police state.’  There is no pleasing some people- therefore, we ought not be so concerned to try to please these ones as nothing we do will satisfy them, anyway. 

The bloody truth is that Man is a brutal creature.  He is not a mindless brute, either.  As a thinking creature, he is able to carry out his inclinations, good and bad.  V-tech shows this.  The legislators in Virginia, filled with good intention and hopes to make the students on their campuses ‘feel’ safer perhaps succeeded when they passed legislation making campuses ‘gun free zones.’  Successfully made people ‘feel’ safer, but did not in fact, make them safer.

I should love to live in a world where guns were not required and we did not have to worry about bad men, or police officers that will not have time to respond to a bad man breaking into my home, or car, or shooting me at the mall, or governments going bad.  I do not live in this world.  Everyone sees that we do not live in such a world but not everyone allows that to serve as a foundational principle.  This really raises the issues to some critical heights.  How do you use reason with people that are not operating on reason?

It is no surprise that the tactic of the Liberal Left has been to avoid persuading the average citizen.  If they had to actually pass legislation to further their visions they’d find themselves constantly stymied.  This is why they use the courts- in the courts, you need only convince one or two men, the judges.  For now, this isn’t as bad as it could be because our country at least shares in some common sentiments (as I have tried to show, I do have many of the same sentiments as my liberal friends).  But one day there may be people in charge who do not share these sentiments, but share others.  It just so happens that the very mechanism that will actually make me more safer today from devilish assassins is the same one that will make the tyrannous governmental administrators (which are all the more inevitable when you legistlate through the judiciary) think twice before they move outside the will of the people.

Thus, I must conclude… as I am more interested in being more safe than feeling more safe, I am compelled to arm myself.  Even though I wish I would not have to participate in ‘political’ conversation, reality supercedes my wish.  Even though I would like, on a forum devoted to the defense of Christianity, to avoid conversations such as these, the fact of Original Sin, a critical ‘doctrine’ of Christianity, makes it unavoidable.

Let those who are empirically minded and yet skeptical of Christianity think twice.  How many worldviews actually predict that men will do naughty and nasty things?  Think twice, and get a gun.  Think three times, and conform yourself to reality:  Christianity predicts this and more.  Only Christianity correctly diagnoses the problem and provides the ‘cure.’

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