Friday, September 12, 2014

Talking about History without Sounding Like a Crazed Conspiracy-theorist

When Conservatives write books about problems with modern culture, they usually include a chapter on the unsavory, nefarious, or at least shockingly-misguided history of the particular ideas behind the problem that they are critiquing. Thus, a book about abortion talks about the eugenics movement, a book about the perils of public schooling talks about Dewey and social engineering, and a book about the sex education movement shreds Mr. Kinsey.

All of this is of course useful (I have known a few Conservatives who seem to think of history merely as a series of exposés, but I'm not talking about them). Yet the approach can easily sound like an addiction to conspiracy theories as a way to explain the evils in the world. How can one write about the perils of bad ideas without falling into a conspiracy trap? How can one understand the people in the past with whom one disagrees?

I think that most people who campaign to change the world are genuinely trying to do good. It is important to remember this.

Out of this mental process came an article which is in The Federalist today.

When Goodness Goes Bad
Belief in the goodness of man addicts people to change for change’s sake 
and causes social polarization.

Approximately a decade ago, I applied for a retail job. The application included questions such as, “Do you think people are: (a) basically good or (b) basically bad?” It also inquired whether I thought that, given the opportunity, (a) all people, (b) some people, or (c) very few people, would commit theft. I knew perfectly well the department store was relying on the fact that dishonest people tend to believe most people are dishonest. If I (acting upon the historic Christian claim that we humans are all sinners) clicked on “people are basically bad,” the application would declare that I was “not a good psychological fit” and the retail chain would not hire me, because they would have no way of knowing my theological beliefs would also prevent me from pocketing their merchandise whenever the supervisors weren’t looking. Their algorithm was not prepared to process an outlook that did not mesh with popular social psychology.

Read the whole article here.

1 comment:

  1. "When we reject the importance of shared beliefs, and cast off common cultural heroes, little remains on which to build a stable society. Once individuals have little in common, they are less likely to agree with each other’s choices, and it becomes increasingly difficult for them to trust each other."

    I'd say this isn't just a problem in larger society but also in the Church as well. I think it's often quite evident in our own Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

    Regarding your point about the criminalization of parenthood, it's not just that; nowadays it's the criminalization of practically everything.


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