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The Theory of Relativity and the Art of Conservative Apologetics

An “apology” is supposed to be not an “I’m sorry” sort of thing, as one might think, but a defense (from the Greek word for “defense”), “a reasoned explanation and justification of one’s beliefs and/or practices” in the words of scholar Bart Ehrman.

The early Christian apologists did offer reasoned explanations. They co-opted Pagan Greek philosophy to do it. Philosophy was the ancient world’s science, and modern conservative apologists aren’t above trying the same tactic, as with their Creationism Museum, or their “Intelligent Design” scheme.

But modern apologists tend less towards reasoned argument and more towards short, Tweet-like talking points to get their defense on the field. Talking points are offered in defense of a point of view in response to criticism. Apologetics serve the same purpose.

When not resorting to ad hominem attacks (and sometimes in conjunction with them) these catchy micro-arguments are offered up in answer to detailed, well-reasoned, footnoted arguments offered by liberals. Unsurprisingly, neither ad hominem attacks or micro-arguments serve to effectively answer the criticisms offered.

What results is a far less compelling and persuasive defense than the early Church fathers might have mounted.

But apologetics have always had another purpose, and that is to reassure people they have not made a catastrophic mistake, whether it’s a question of religion or of politics. The cover of every apologetic work has a subtext: “Don’t panic! It will be alright,” they tell you. “Ignore what everyone is saying, and here’s why…”

By the time you’re done, you’re desensitized to reason and the workings of the intellect – not to mention the natural laws of the universe (as the recent revelation that the theory of relativity is part of a liberal plot demonstrates) – and completely complacent once more.

Right where they want you to be.

But the problem is, talking points don’t really encourage you to think. They encourage you to accept pat (and simplistic) answers to some very big problems.

People are only too eager to accept these because it’s a simple fact that people do not like to have their beliefs challenged. They’re only too happy to have these answers. It’s comforting.

And that is the big difference between ideological extremists and the rest of us. We want you to ask questions. We want you to be challenged. We want to be challenged ourselves. Extremists, on the other hand, look for a comfort zone. The system must not fit the facts, but the facts must fit the system. Anything that doesn’t must be explained away, reinterpreted, or simply ignored.

The extremist system runs on pure lies. Anything less gums it up and stalls it. This is as true of the extreme left as the extreme right.

This said, it can now be understood why the conservative book writing movement is an exercise in apologetics from the Heritage Foundation to Beck to Coulter; why it has to be. The minute you start acknowledging other points of view, you begin to encourage people to think, to ask questions, to make choices.

This must be discouraged at all costs.

So instead you demonize the opposition. Liberals are cockroaches. They should be beat up, terrorized, and killed. Progressives are terrorists, responsible for every war in history, and are a threat to America. Feminists, secular humanists, atheists, pagans, Muslims, gays and lesbians, are all enemies of America, which after all, the spin tells us, was made by and for Christians.

All backed up by spin, by a glitzy array of cleverly packaged talking points. Go look at an example of the GOP’s own collection.

Like the Conservapedia.

Conservapedia a well known example of conservative apologetics, sort of a dictionary of their mythical America. If you think of it as one of those glossaries authors of speculative fiction sometimes put in the backs of their novels, you can better understand its function: When you make up a bunch of stuff, you have to explain it.

The whole thing is sort of like professional wrestling. If you picture the WWE as a fictional show about an actual sport, it makes a sort of sense. That’s what the Conservapedia is, a fictional portrayal of an actual country.

But talking points do not equal a cogent argument. And quantity here does not have a quality of its own. A ton of manure is still manure.

Of course, if you argue the talking points you’re told “not to drink the kool-aid.” They’d rather you eat the shit.

And if you believe the theory of relativity is a liberal plot, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

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