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What To Do When Progressives and Conservatives Can't Communicate: Part IV of Lumish Vs Swindle


See the previous installments in this ongoing discussion about American values, Left vs. Right, Biblical morality, and New Media activism:

Part 1, by Michael Lumish on October 13: Politics Vs Theology: Beginning A Debate With David Swindle. "Why we should not frame political issues as a matter of Good versus Evil."

Part 2, by David Swindle on October 20: Secular Political Ideology Vs. Biblical Moral Values: Continuing a Debate with Michael Lumish. “Why I don’t care much about Left vs. Right anymore. And four more points of disagreement.”

Part 3, by Michael Lumish on October 27: Debating America’s Ideological Origins: Part III in Lumish Vs Swindle. "A disagreement about the founding fathers and classical liberalism."

Dear Michael,

I appreciate your continued enthusiasm for this debate. I'm enjoying it too and hope we can continue. But I admit that I'm starting to worry about how fruitful our discussion can be. That this dialogue even began and that it now continues is primarily due to you following a common progressive bad habit: rather than engage with conservative arguments and ideas on their own terms, you evade them by distorting the point, rewriting the concept in different words to transform the meaning. You battle straw man arguments. You do this over and over again, as virtually all progressives I ever dialogue with do also.

I would certainly like to continue a great public exchange with you, but if anything worthwhile is to grow from these talks first I'm going to have to fertilize the ground with the ashes of the straw men versions of my ideas you set after in your rebuttal. I'll give you two examples.

1. Well Duh. Of course Classical Liberalism has more influences than just the Bible.

Your previous piece began with your supposedly more complete understanding of America's founding ideology. You quoted the sentence from me that you took issue with, then rewrote it to change its meaning, and then proceeded to lecture to your straw man about the numerous influences on the founding fathers. I wrote, and you quoted me,

the founders’ philosophy of classical liberalism that forms the foundation of our government is just the political expression of Biblical values.

But rather than make issue with this statement, you instead dissent from an absurd claim that I did not make:

 I must disagree that the founders' philosophy of classical liberalism derives just from the Bible.

It is obvious that the philosophy of classical liberalism had a number of influences and the founders drew from sources beyond just the Bible. You summarize a number of them (though not all) and I hope you don't think me so ignorant as to be unaware of them.

Perhaps the meaning of what I wrote can become more apparent if I reverse its formulation: one who believes in Biblical values expresses them through defending classical liberal governments and public policies.

There is a very important relationship between the Bible and the revolutionary, John Lockean liberalism that took root in the the minds of a colonial population steeped in what David Gelertner describes in his book Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion as "Old Testament Christianity." That you name Locke in the same company as Rousseau and Voltaire suggests to me that you do not understand the difference between the French secular Enlightenment tradition (that led to the French Revolution's Guillotines) and the British monotheist tradition (that led to our American freedom.)

The difference between the two competing Enlightenment ideologies is most apparent in how each responds to the Judeo-Christian value system...