In the summer of 1971, waiting for Army orders, I befriended a Baptist minister who had been assigned to an old, staid congregation at the First Baptist Church. We golfed together all summer long. While walking the course, he often talked about his congregation. He’d become a preacher with a missionary’s zeal, to find lost souls, then save them, so was frustrated with this self-satisfied congregation, for no matter what the subject was, from avarice to vanity to gluttony to covetedness to stewardship and stinginess, everyone in the congregation acted as though he were preaching to anyone else other than themselves.
He said he soon began carrying a second sermon in his coat pocket, just in case…just in case…a stranger walked in and sat down in the back pew. A lost soul maybe? Hell, even a Catholic would do, but he’d stop in mid-sermon, reach in his pocket and pull out that other sermon, then talk directly to that lone form at the back of the church the rest of the service.
Now, we all agree, singling out a person in a public place is not the way to generally win friends and bring in converts, but he was a Baptist and had been taught to do it just that way. But he also had a point, because I often thought about what he was was really aiming at was to impress upon his own congregation a lesson of some sorts.
A similar thing happened here last week at UnifiedPatriots.
A fellow (I assume he was a fellow) came in and sat right down on our back pew and began making fun of the sermon. In internetspeak he was a troll. I won’t give his name anymore credit than he’s already assumed for himself, but you can look for yourself at the way his conversation degenerated into childish gibberish. Just visit BlueCollarMuse’s article on Obama’s astounding proclamation that the infamous communist Ho Chi Minh was “inspired” (Obama’s words, not BCM’s) by the words of Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration.
But as my Baptist preacher friend was trying to do, there’s a larger lesson here.
You see, as the back-and-forth continued to dwindle, as they always seem to do, we showed the person the door, by invoking my version of the Hinz Rule, which, for those of you with a history at RedState, is a bringing down of the gavel by the Chair, ending further debate. My version was to invoke Proverbs 26: 4-5, which states:
4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you yourself will be just like him
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes. (NIV)
Now, everyone knows and agrees with the first verse, for everyone knows you shouldn’t sit in the counsel of, and debate with, fools. In fact, I think that rule has wormed its way into the Book of Etiquette since Victorian days.
But the second verse seems to contradict this, and for many, what I call 2-dotters, another huge Biblical contradiction, things they like to dwell on. Fools, most Democrats, and low-information-voters would likely see this second verse this way, especially since, in any conversation with us, they believe with equal fervor that it is we who are the fools.
When trolls come to any conservative blog site, if only to lay down a barrage of f-bombs then run away, they all have a preconceived notion as to who it is they’ll be talking to. If Christians, they assume you only have three teeth, and if tea party, they assume you wait tables for a living, or run a diner that hires others to wait those tables. I can sympathize, for I felt the same way when I went to my first gay mixer in law school. I wore my catcher’s cup just in case.
But it’s verse 5 that separates the slow-witted-two-dotters and the three-dotters-and-up we associate with. It’s our duty to point this difference out, especially when fooles of that kind come calling, for they often bring their friends, to watch them count coup.
Let me quote from GotQuestions?org, a pretty good Bible reference to explain what I mean:
The futility of trying to impart wisdom to a fool is the basis of Proverbs 26: 4-5, which tell us how to answer a fool. These seemingly contradictory verses are actually a common form of parallelism found in the Old Testament, where one idea builds upon another.
Verse 4 warns against arguing with a fool on his own terms, lest we stoop to his level and become as foolish as he is. Because he despises wisdom and correction, the fool will not listen to wise reason and will try to draw us into his type of argument, whether it is by using deceit, scoffing at our wisdom, or becoming angry and abusive. If we allow him to draw us into this type of discourse, we are answering him “according to his folly” in the sense of becoming like him.
The phrase “according to his folly” in verse 5, on the other hand, tells us that there are times when a fool has to be addressed so that his foolishness will not go unchallenged. In this sense answering him according to his folly means to expose the foolishness of his words, rebuking him on the basis of his folly so he will see the idiocy of his words and reasoning. Our “answer” in this case is to be one of reproof, showing him the truth so he might see the foolishness of his words in the light of reason. Even though he will most likely despise and reject the wisdom offered to him, we are to make the attempt, both for the sake of the truth which is always to be declared, and for the sake of those listening, that they may see the difference between wisdom and folly and be instructed.
So the test is situational in nature. And territorial. It’s best not to confront an idiot and let him draw you in, but if he invades your space, you cannot allow him to simply hit and run, for as we know, there are others who may be watching, who might think that this foole has won the field.
We can’t allow that.
In fact, that may be the biggest part of our problem, and why I’m bothering with this.
First, note that the wisdom literature of the Bible was first written down over 3500 years ago. The fools they were talking about then were not court jesters, town fooles and half-wits, but just like the ones we see today. They have always been with us. They will always be with us. The rules are the same, only their ascent to legitimacy, if not out-and-out power, has been due to our neglect of the Verse 5 rule.
Right after the abdication of Nixon, Congress and its old Victorian ways were beset with a new onslaught from the likes of Nader’s Raiders, who stormed congressional hearings and any public forum they could find, usually for an environmental cause. This was forty years ago, so most of you weren’t paying attention then, but Hillary was trained at these cretins’ knees, and must have risen to at least brigade commander, as I think it was she who put the extra “q” in “Sqqueaky Wheel” and the extra “l” in “shrilll”. Even “cackles” and “cankles” begin to rhyme when she enters the room. But bad manners were her middle name. (Then she moved to Arkansas to develop court-like manners, Little Rock-style.)
No matter, Congress and virtually every other institution that had an old fogy as its administrative head began to quake in their boots at the notion of having to confront these insolent, loud, foul-mouthed children, especially since so many of them were girls…ahem…female.
Like our distaste for trolls today, they could never get past the assault on their senses to understand that these people were actually saying things. Things that were dangerous. Destructive. Even criminal.
So quit worrying already whether you should address her as “Ms” or “Miss”. Try finding a Victorian way to say STFU. (I think FoxNews has a bounty out on that, if you can come with it.)
From this comes a rule for dealing with trolls and other fooles:
Learn to diagram a simple sentence and paragraph. Their armor is their tone, their Achilles Heels are their words. Go for the words. In fencing terms, they can’t last much past the second thrust and parry because they never thought they’d have to. They have no answers to “why?” Ask them what they are for, and they haven’t a clue. All they know is what they are against. Give them time and they will resort to “that depends on what the meaning of what “is” is…or “workers of the world unite”.
I want to frame this in the larger context of the wahr.
In part, it has been our niceness that has gotten us into the fix. We’ve been way too nice. When Reagan left office we assumed niceness was back, for he did indeed inspire congeniality in people. But like every other virtue (remember the hugfest between GW Bush and prominent Democrats after 9-11?) the Democrats were able to fake that too.
And what we have done is hold to our rigid rules of manners, but abandon the highway to them completely. We want to keep our websites pure, so we can bitch-slap the bejessuz out of them, in nice Buckley-like rhetoric, but never have to confront a contrary word from them face-to-face. We have become mutual admiration societies, and somehow I think that is the problem. Why is it that the Left is winning, but the most published and richest pundits, wordsmiths and writers are all conservatives? Any connection?
We’ve abandoned the field, time and time again, since Reagan left office, on the general theory that if we raise our voice with even the mildest rebuke, or heaven forbid, call a spade a fritzing shovel, we will curve our spines and cause America to, in de Toqueville;s words “cease to be good”…which, apparently it has anyway.
To my mind, this all started with Queen Victoria, where well-spoken manners overruled just about everything, thus, turning English men into a nation of backstabbers, because there was never a way they could politely confront an enemy face to face. They may as well of been French.
But I don’t have to take it back that far. We watched a thoroughly decent man, GHW Bush sputter and cough against a genuinely rude, ill-mannered liar, simply because it wasn’t prudent to show anger, surprise, disdain, and a list of other normal responses to the calumnies Clinton leveled against him. Because that scam worked, arguably Clinton did as much if not more damage to America than even Obama has because of the precipitous slide we’ve seen in national morality. As Mortimer Adler said before he died, as to why he decided so late in life that there must by a Controlling Hand in the universe “If there is a God, then all things are possible. If there is no God than all things are permissible.” Clinton made almost all things permissible in America.
And so it has continued. As much as you all probably don’t like getting down in the mud and wrestling with these fools, with practice, you can pull them out of the mud, and at least wrestle with them with a white shirt.
But wrestle we must, if we are to win.
When Christ met Satan in the Wilderness, after hearing a bunch of promises, He said , “Get thee behind Me, Satan.” These days I like the angry Christ, turning over tables in the Temple (a misdemeanor in those days, mind you) at least as much as I do the peace-and-love Christ, for the angry Christ reminds us that sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Of course, in His case, He knew how it all would end up. We don’t. But in the Wilderness Christ was spitting in Satan’s eye. He wasn’t retreating, He wasn’t conceding an inch of anything.
Today, when we use that phrase (my mother was famous for using it as she headed down a side street to avoid an “evil old heathen” that commended the main sidewalk) we use it to turn and retreat.
We can’t do that anymore. And trust me, standing our ground is the sort of thing that encourages others, and frightens still others. When Good stands up and looks Evil squarely in the eye, Evil has to blink. Why it hasn’t had to do that for the past several years is because we are all down that side street, talking to ourselves, avoiding the eye contact.
It’s isn’t that difficult, just practice a few surgical skills. They simply haven’t the ammunition to beat you.