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Evangelicals & Dissent

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. Matthew 5:22

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16

After I posted my bewilderment about the scorn heaped upon South Carolina Senator Timothy Scott on social media on January 26, 2024, I immediately received condemnation, mockery, and ridicule for my position.

Now, rest assured my perceived ill-treatment will not be the focus of today’s blog post other than to admit no one particularly enjoys ill-treatment in any form, especially from those in their sphere of influence.

Notwithstanding, I continue to be dismayed at the low standard we have among ourselves in the larger society, to be sure, but I will forever be aghast when it occurs among professing people of Jesus Christ.

As a matter of ethics, our society flourishes best when we assume the best of intentions in others until and unless proven otherwise.  Similarly, our judicial system assumes a person is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal court.

I freely admit I disagree with Sen. Scott’s decision to support Donald J. Trump. I am on the public record for my disdain for the candidacy of DJT, but two things can be true simultaneously. I freely admit I understand the political necessity if one wants to remain viable for a future race for president in the future. I recognize Sen. Scott’s quandary, but life is filled with vexing decisions.

As the old adage goes, I can disagree without being disagreeable. Due to a lack of erudition and sophistication, I commonly encounter many people who resort to ad hominem modes of communication when they have no rational basis for dispute.

Ad hominem is Latin for against the man. When you disagree with someone and cannot rebuff them intellectually, you resort to attacking them personally instead of attacking their line of argument.

I witness such ad hominem time and time again. As I engage with the person, they quickly pivot to accusations of arrogance, aggression, or narrow/close-mindedness. Now granted, these accusations may or may not be true to varying degrees to be sure, but in the final analysis, what do they have to do with the veracity of the argument I am presently proferring?

Of course, they have nothing whatsoever to do with the truthfulness of my supposition.  It is the classic bait and switch; it is a red herring. My adversary has no legitimate, well-reasoned retort, so they resort to name-calling.

As a quick aside, I find no accusation no more detestable and foolhardy than the lazy charge “he thinks he is right all the time” or “he always thinks he is right.”

Now, on first blush, this might seem a sensible rebuff. I mean, isn't there the time-honored maxim that no one is perfect, right?

But think more deeply with me for a minute. If you offer an assertion, why do you do so? You only do so because (at least I would hope) you do so with a conviction you are correct.  No sensible person makes an assertion, knowing full well it is untrue or inaccurate.

Now, liars and individuals with no sense of fair play do, but as a matter of practice, we don't employ negative assumptions about the veracity of others as our go-to posture towards our fellow man unless one is compelled to do so because of demonstrated wayward behavior. Remember: we assume the best in others unless forced, based on their conduct, to do otherwise.

Granted, there are levels of confidence where one can feel more strongly about some matters than others, but my main point is no one should ever assert anything if they do not have a good enough conviction that said assertion is correct. Hence, every time one asserts something, they should “only” do so because they believe they are right.

This should be the expectation “every time.” Thus, the accusation that “he thinks he is always right” falls upon the weight of closer scrutiny. Of course, no one will be found correct in every supposition, but the charge “he always thinks he is right” is a red-herring; it is an ad hominem tactic.

No mechanism is available to humans to verify or falsify such a naked accusation. No one, except God Almighty, has the wherewithal to catalog every assertion one has made in their entire existence.

Accordingly, to conclude, a person has “always” thought they were right; when you peel back the onion, you begin to see the charge is a ploy to attack the man versus attacking the man’s argument—classic ad hominem, pure and simple.

Now, enough of that, back to Senator Scott, but I hope you can begin to be able to contact the dots because the same thing is being done to Senator Scott, just on a much larger and more debased scale.

As aforementioned, I disagree with Sen. Scott’s decision to support DJT, but does Scott’s action warrant depictions of Uncle Tom or caricatures as one of the Fat Albert retinues?

Can’t one disagree with Sen. Scott’s decision, even criticizing the decision, however passionately they desire without succumbing to a debased mode of disparagement?

Even more succinctly, mustn’t one not do so according to an Evangelical worldview if they claim the name of Jesus Christ?

Of course, I am stacking the deck because even young children in a Sunday school class intuitively know the answer has to be in the affirmative, even as they are not intellectually equipped to cite the chapter and verse augmenting their affirmative.

Thankfully, I can cite chapter and verse, and even as I engage with others in the public square, I can posit my argument without directly referencing “the Bible says” or “Mathews 5:22 says.”

I choose to do so not because I am embarrassed or reticent about using the Word of God to ground my thought process but because I realize many will quickly resort to allegations of Bible Thumping so I voluntarily choose to do so to avoid the baseless charge.

In fact, literally, just the very day before this blog post, while interacting with a professing follower of Jesus Christ, my interlocutor informed me that my employment of Bible verses to augment my position “held no sway over them.” I will forever flabbergasted at such an interaction, but press on, I must.

So riddle me this, Batman. Why does Matthew 5:22 not stop people, most pertinently Christ-followers, dead in their tracks from posting vile accusations of Uncle Tomism on social media against Tim Scott? I mean, come on, it can’t be only atheists or Muslims or Buddhists, etc. etc., posting this tomfoolery.

Some, if not many, of these people, will brazenly darken the doors of some place of worship this very upcoming Lord’s Day—all without any embarrassment, shame, or the ability to blush (Jeremiah 6:15).

Lest you forget, let me remind you again what Matthew 5:22 actually says

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire [emphasis mines]

I draw your attention to insults his brother and the subsequent penalty: council AND Hell! Yet, social media is rife with demeaning depictions mocking Sen. Scott for acts of pedophilia or embezzlement, right?

Of course not; he has earned this level of public rebuke, scorn, and vitriol because he dares throw his support behind the apparent presumptive Republican nominee for the 2024 presidental race.

Sorry, last time I checked, people, in America at least, are still free to make choices, even choices that one can personally disagree with. Registering one’s dissent is fair game; dissent to your heart’s content, dissent all you want till the cows come home, especially with accompanying cogency supporting your dissent. But vile name-calling is childish, it is low-rent, it is sub-human, and saying my best for last, it is sinful.

Oh, by the way, if you know this to be the case but refuse to condemn it, you are worse than the initial offender, as you are guilty of sheer moral cowardice. Someone replied to me in response to our dialogue about the Scott issue, “I would not personally say this, but I understand why others would have this reaction.” The person said they would not condemn the action and didn't understand why I was so worked up about it because I didn't know Scott personally.

I was and remain worked up [I invite you to peruse my recent blog post titled Evangelicals & Anger ] because Tim Scott, even when I disagree with him on individual matters, is still a fellow human being created in the Image Dei, worthy of full dignity and respect without exception, period, full-stop, end of story!

Even without a conscious reflection upon God’s Word, I know instinctively it is not proper to castigate anyone. It is a gross offense to God from above to be angry with a brother without cause (see again Matthew 5:22).

Like Supreme Court Judge Potter Stewart famously opined in 1964 to describe his test for obscenity, “I know it when I see it.”

When we saturate, only as the Word of God commands that we do so, ourselves in the Word of God; even when we do not know the chapter and verse, we can still biblically reason the matter and speak as an aroma pleasing to God.

Resorting to the gross and vile mockery of our fellow man, especially without cause, will forever be a stench in th nostrils of the thrice holy God of the Bible.

Even worse, our refusal to condemn and call offenders to the carpet is even more repugnant, not to me. Me, you need not worry about in the slightest; not one iota do you need worrying about my offending my sensibilities. I have no Heaven or Hell to cast one away. Yet, I know a Man!

That Man is the Triune God who is The Alpha and the Omega, The First and the Last, and it is indeed a most fearful and dreadful thing to fall into His Hands.

The only manner that facilitates people posting depictions of Tim Scott in Uncle Tom's caricature or as one of the Fat Albert stooges is that there is no fear of Almighty God in the land.

Realms of literature have been crafted as to why this is the case and beyond the scope and reach of a blog post. I commend you to those valuable resources, but suffice for this blog post: this deplorable conduct must be challenged with full chests in the spirit and tenor of the great late Winston Churchill.

In closing, I make no apology for my polemic style of engagement. I write reflecting my personality as well as consistent with my gender. This assertion does not give license to write as a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal. I readily admit I never dot every “i” or cross every “t.” As previously postulated, no one is perfect. I have blind spots, just like every other human in time and space.

I employ two litmus tests in my writing:

  1. Does it demonstrate fidelity to the Word of God? More succinctly, is it true?

  2. Am I saying it for the right reasons, which is to glorify God and edify my fellow man, or am I writing it to glorify myself in the sight of others?

And guess what? You, the observer, don't really have much of a say in that analysis simply because you are not God and can never read my heart. Granted, trusted and vetted others can and do come alongside me, but in the final analysis, I have the final charge to make an honest inventory of my motives.

So again, two things can and are true: I can write passionately, directly, and forthrightly, clearly assuming the rightness of my position and still not guilty or deserving of ad hominem attacks.

I submit the same is true of Senator Scott. No one has to agree with his support of Donald Trump. Maybe his decision to do so warrants possible close scrutiny. Perhaps you ultimately reach the decision Sen. Scott’s actions do not deserve your support in future political aspirations. That is fair game. What is not fair or Christian-like is vilification on social media or even in private discourse.

Neither escapes the all-seeing graze of God Almighty. Again, and one could never state it enough, it is indeed a fearful thing falling into the hands of the living God.

Thus, I would think twice before posting mockery on social media and even in private conversations. Your concern is not with the NSA eavesdropping. It is with God Himself.

As usual, let me know what you think. Until then, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One!

With fear & trembling

Ricky Kyles DEd.Min

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