7 Reasons Why The Right Should Not Seek to Convert The Left
An appreciation of Dennis Prager and multimedia celebration of his magnum opus, Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph.
June 8, 2012 - 7:00 am
1. What Really Changes Leftist Hearts and Minds Is Not Words but Acts.
Just being a good person living a happy life will do more to shift your leftist friends than you can ever know. The way to be a good person is through imitating God. Note: one does not need to believe in God in order to imitate God. (Though as an agnostic theist I recommend both.) More important than what you think you are is what you are doing and how you are doing it. A person’s actions and their practical effects are more important than his intentions or beliefs in doing them. More important than believing in God is struggling with Him. You have to fight to rise up beyond your animal nature. That’s what “Israel” means — to wrestle with God. A very different way of finding happiness rather than through submission to an idol.
Prager’s previous book is Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual. In it and the video summary above, this insight from Abraham Lincoln sets the foundation:
People are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
There are more American trinities than just Liberty, E. Pluribus Unum, and In God We Trust. Another appears in our founding documents:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The most persuasive case that someone on the Right can make to try and convert someone on the Left is this: you’re unhappy and you’re looking for answers. And right now it’s very tempting to blame other people for causing your unhappiness. But by doing that you’re only going to perpetuate how unhappy you are. Because when you decide to take responsibility for making yourself happy then it means you are no longer a slave to anyone or anything. Your own happiness is not dependent on anyone else. Idol-worship and image-worship is not necessary for happiness. You are capable of developing yourself into a successful, happy person. Just take responsibility for your life and in America you can begin to create the life you want.
This was an important understanding central to the Enlightenment thought that forged America. People wanted to take control of their own lives and not have a tyrannical government mandating how to worship. We have the capability and responsibility as individuals to gain control of our moods and our animal nature. By doing that we can be the masters of our own destiny, exploring whatever facet of human life we want. We can conquer our demons instead of being ruled by them. That’s the fight and it’s waged from the Bible to the ballot box to the family dinner table and inside each of our minds.
In imitating God-as-a-Verb, Genesis 1:3 takes on new meaning and can be understood in a secular fashion:
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
The battle is between idolatry and illumination. Between those who submit to the random irrationality of Nature and those who have felt the Sun strike their face outside of Plato’s cave and realized that all of us are capable of bringing more light into this world just through willing it into existence. When we speak to enlighten others who are down and we commit to being presences bringing happiness and warmth into this world, then gradually that is what we will become.
If you enjoyed this article, check out my previous In Depth blogging series exploring the ideas of Barack Obama’s mentor Derrick Bell, the founder of Critical Race Theory: