Thursday, February 19, 2015

Going the Full Jessup

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is a viable candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2016. Because he's a successful conservative governor in a very blue state and has defeated three attempts to unseat him in the last four years he has his political opponents' attention. They see the need to discredit him and one of the most reliable ways to do that is to try to embarrass the candidate by showing that he's "anti-science." Thus, the question to Walker during a trip to London about his views on evolution, a question as idiotic as it is malicious.

It's idiotic because his views on evolution are no more relevant to being President than his views on quantum mechanics, and it's malicious because the question is designed to trip the candidate up and make him look silly, not to learn something important about him. More than that it's designed to expose the candidate's Christian worldview. Showing someone to be an "anti-science" Christian, in the progressives' playbook, is to paint him in the public imagination as an ignorant hayseed.

Peter Burfeind is a pastor and a contributor to The Federalist. He offers the Governor some advice on how he might answer that question in the future because, be assured, whoever the Republican front-runners are, it will be asked of them. It won't be asked of the Democrat nominee, of course, because no one in the media wants to embarrass the Democrat, but it will be asked of the Republican.

Here's Burfeind:
Walker should have answered with a paraphrase of Colonel Nathan Jessup, the Jack Nicholson character from “A Few Good Men” (1992). He should have said to that reporter, “You want the truth on my creationist views? You can’t handle the truth!

“Son, we live in a world that has walls. In the frontier lands that is the human psyche, we built the fort of civilization precariously near the wilderness of nihilism that ever threatens to encroach upon our cultivated abodes. This is a wilderness with beasts, monsters, and savages who want nothing more than to destroy the spiritual and intellectual basis of civilization. That’s why we have walls, walls protecting the truth upon which the West is built. It’s why the West has stood out as the font of humanitarianism for the rest of the world.

“And those walls have to be guarded by men with a steadfast faith in a transcendent God who has given us those truths. Who’s gonna do it? You, Brian Williams? You, Jon Stewart? We have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You curse the Christians. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what we know, that holding steadfast to the truth of human dignity—man created in the image of God, God’s redemption and restoration of that man to his image through his own involvement in our world—is the reason the West with its Christian roots has stood for something unique in all the world.

“And our existence, while intellectually grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives, bringing dignity to women, ending slavery, standing for the rights even of prisoners, for rules of engagement and law of war.

“You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you know you live off the residual fumes of our Christian past, that your ethics is built on a house of cards, a Christian ethic abstracted from Christian forms. That’s why you want us on that wall, you need us on that wall.

“We use words like truth, natural law, virtue. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending what is good and most redemptive in human nature. You use them as a punchline.

‘Our existence, while intellectually grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives, bringing dignity to women, ending slavery, standing for the rights even of prisoners, for rules of engagement and law of war.’

“We have neither the time nor the inclination to explain ourselves to people who rise and sleep under the blanket of the very protections a Christian intellectual framework provides, then questions why we hold it. We would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up some first principles with a modicum of consistency not based in legerdemain, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think of my creationist views.”
What Burfeind says here is all true, in my opinion, but as he admits, Walker's calm, irenic demeanor makes it unlikely that he would or could deliver a Jessup-worthy response. That's why I think my suggestion that he simply ask the questioner to explain what he or she means by "evolution" is more suited to Walker's personality. It would also completely flummox the interrogator who, if he or she is a political reporter, would be unlikely to have any idea how to answer it coherently.