By Charlie Johnston
A few days ago I wrote, “We must not behave as savagely embittered victims, but as what we really are: soldiers of the soon to be victorious Army of Christ. So we must behave with the dignity of that calling even now, in anticipation of the certain victory ahead. We must behave in a way that all those uncertain souls, trembling, will look to us in hope rather than in fear that they are just trading one cruel ideology for another.”
Sunday I wrote a deliberately provocative column. I expected a huge backlash. Actually, I only got a mild one. A few people threatened – but only one actually demanded – I cancel his subscription. I was reminded the story of when an angry reader told William F. Buckley, founder of National Review, to cancel his subscription and Buckley growled back, “Cancel your own dam subscription!” In my case, that is the only way it can be done. I can neither subscribe you or unsubscribe you. You have to do it yourself.
In modern times, debate is seldom a search for truth, but simply mindless advocacy. People reach their conclusions and then seek reasons to back up the decisions they have already made – and are often uninterested in any evidence that might suggest they are not quite right. Even worse, people often glom onto any smear, no matter how ridiculous, if they think it supportive of the conclusion they have already reached.
Christians and Jews are under siege today, constantly threatened with fines, the loss of their business or jail time if they live their faith seriously. We well know that it does not matter what good we do; the statist left simply wants to destroy us. So we are well aware we are not going to get a fair shake from them. I have got to believe the most noble employees of, say, Monsanto and the CDC, feel the same way about Christians. No matter what they achieve, they are going to be villainized by a lot of Christians. In fact, I know this about Monsanto employees. When I worked in public affairs, I always had great relations with the Farm Bureau. The fellow who was the Midwest Regional Director of the Dept. of Agriculture in the Bush years was a friend before he got that appointment and since he left. Illinois is home to one of Monsanto’s experimental farms. I have done inspection/tours of it at least three, maybe five, times. It is amazing…they are constantly testing soils, various climates. I remember one particular section where, for the same vegetable, they were testing 32 different soils, various lighting conditions for each, along with various temperatures and humidity…they had several hundred pots of the same plant, rigorously finding which combination of conditions would produce the best results. The woman in charge of that project, a researcher maybe in her mid-30’s got very enthusiastic about showing me how they assess it all. She was beaming as she told me the dramatic increases in yields these painstaking, mundane efforts had accomplished. I was pretty amazed and enthused, too, and talked how her family and friends must be so impressed with what she was accomplishing. Her face fell. She said she doesn’t talk about what she does or where she works. I asked why. She replied with some surprise, “We’re Monsanto, evil villains, and everybody hates us.”
Over the last few years as I have listened to many Christians talk about Monsanto, I see no reason to believe that woman would ever get a fair hearing from us for what she actually does. When it comes to Monsanto and other agribusinesses, the mentality is just burn the witches and let God sort them out. I know very well that that is not all Monsanto does…but I know listening to many Christians speak about it, you would think all Monsanto does is plot and scheme how to take over and poison the world.
Our reader, Bob from St. Louis, yesterday touched on some serious and genuine concerns about genetically modified organisms (GMO). He spoke primarily of potential unintended consequences of creating more pesticide-resistant weeds and dangers of more resistant pests developing in response to some of these things, as well as the economic uncertainty GMO seeds place developing world farmers in – who cannot store seed, but must buy it fresh every year. A major crop failure could be ruinous.
Our reader, Ed Allison, will discuss Wednesday some of the genuine ethical questions we have not fully addressed. That we can do some things begs the question of whether we should – and what potential long-term consequences we might be missing. Truly ethical and moral consideration has been largely missing in our technological explosion. But while industry does not consider these issues seriously, rarely do its critics, either. Every major world scientific organization – including the European ones – have declared that there have been no safety issues found in 40 years of GMO production. There is some evidence that dissident scientists are being suppressed and trashed when they speak up. It is not as monolithic as the censure the global warmist community metes out to dissident scientists, but it is disturbing. It is disturbing that Monsanto and other major agribusinesses seem to have made a concerted effort to place their people on boards assessing them. The will to win seems to contest with the will to get it right. But that works both ways. In Africa, many are dying of malnutrition because of a lack of vitamin A. The agribusinesses created what is called “Golden Rice,” an easily produced foodstuff that is loaded with the essential nutrients, including vitamin A, that would prevent that. But because of the hysteria European farmers have created around GMOs in order to protect their agriculture markets, most African nations will not approve Golden Rice, even though denial of it is a death sentence for many people. And many, including Christians, consider it victory that their “side” has prevailed on this, even though many will die because of it.
The discussion of the effect of agribusiness must consider evidence of cronyism and unintended consequences or silencing of internal critics. But we are not telling the truth if we do not recognize that it was agribusiness and GMOs that, in the late 70s and early 80s, eliminated scarcity as a cause of starvation. Distribution, which is a political issue, is now the primary cause of starvation. Scarcity had held that title all the way back into antiquity. I have an affection for small farmers – and we are going to need a lot more of them in the next few years. Many in my family have been small farmers. But the fact is, it was not small farmers who solved scarcity and developed the effective means to feed the world. It was large agribusiness, such as Monsanto. That does not give them a free pass to do whatever they want, but it ought to protect them from being caricatured as mere evil schemers and obtain for them a just and fair hearing.
On vaccines, our reader Francine, hit it out of the park. It is simply a fact that the vaccination regimen, largely begun en masse in the 60s, wiped out measles and most other childhood diseases as a serious threat. Francine questioned whether vaccines are the same today as they were then. I was desperately hoping someone would raise that issue. By 1980, the incidence of measles had dropped to 13,000 in the U.S. But over the next decade it was making a comeback, nearly tripling to 37,000 cases by 1990. Since 1992, we have never had as many as a thousand cases in a year again. I really do not know what they did to stop the rise in its tracks in 1993, but I find it interesting that autism cases began to spike upward roughly around that time. It is not evidence, just suggestive that a line of inquiry ought to be made. More troublesome are statements from people like Bill Gates that vaccines would be a great way to control population growth. That is indicative of the mentality of modern leftist statists who constantly want to hijack widely accepted credible programs to secretly do things “for our own good.” They pervert everything they touch. Shoot, they even do it for TV programs. I enjoy certain detective shows. For some years, NCIS was one of my favorites – and one of televisions top-rated shows. I dropped it last year. CBS decided since it had such a big audience, it would be a great vehicle for left-wing propaganda. After a show explaining to us that the NSA was our friend and we should not worry our little heads about them spying on everything we do, I sent CBS a note telling them if this was going to become “Occupy NCIS” I was out of here. Then they had a show where gun groups were conspiring to sell defective vests to our troops while crusading leftists saved them. I sent another letter. Finally, there was an episode about a high-level crook who was really scummy – and the way they demonstrated how scummy he was was to have a picture of him and George W. Bush together framed in his office . They are relentless and pervert everything, focusing particularly on widely accepted vehicles to deliver their propaganda and achieve their agenda without the consent of the governed. Look at what they have done to our schools.
We know that Merck deliberately made all rubella vaccines in a culture of aborted fetuses, while relying on mandates from the government that children must be vaccinated. That was one of the many deliberate assaults on conscience. So truth be told, I do not trust government not to lie to us about the basic things any more – nor to restrain itself to what it actually has consent for. I am almost reflexive now about resisting any program the government tries to impose mandatorily and with fines. They lie. In fact, I would not get my children vaccinated today. But that does not cause me to deny that the vaccination program, as originally set up, was one of the most brilliant successes and blessings in medical history.
When I was 19 I went to a presentation by our county sheriff on the drug traffic. He said that marijuana was a gateway drug; that over 90 percent of heroin users started with marijuana. Agitated, I told him that was a useless and irrelevant statistic. He made a mocking remark to me…and I said then he better go after milk drinkers…because 100 percent of heroin users started with milk. I told him the important statistic was not how many heroin users used pot, but how many pot users later used heroin. I was a kid, so he irritably shut me down. But after the meeting, I took no little smug satisfaction that people were telling him, “What that kid says makes sense,” and asking him to elaborate. I was an arrogant little snot.
The problem is, I hear all sorts of sloppy logical fallacies applied in these cases. I also see many assertions made with no citations – or with no credible attribution. You cannot just use anything you find online as proof for your point – you must use some credible authority that has no major and obvious conflicts. In your logic, you must use reasoning that is relevant and sound – based from the solid data you can glean. You won’t always be right, but you will almost always be fair.
If you are going to talk about something technical publicly, get yourself up to snuff on the fundamental principles involved. You do not have to become an expert to recognize poppycock from serious material IF you take the time to learn and understand the fundamental principles. Consider this website. My readers have a lot of specific expertise in a lot of areas. I have serious historians, scientists, medical professionals, theologians, financial analysts and others who read this fairly regularly. In many of those areas, I am not expert…but before I write about them I take the time to get up to snuff on the general principles involved and how they work. Some people suggested to me yesterday that I was losing credibility with them because of my stance. Well, if your standard for credibility is whether someone agrees with you or not, that is your problem, not mine. The proper response is to show me where I am wrong – where I have gotten my facts wrong, where my reasoning is deficient, or why the sources I used as a basis are not sound. Otherwise, we are just venting competing prejudices. It can be daunting writing this with the readership which has developed. I know if I err, there are regulars who are experts who will notice and correct me. Some have – usually on fairly minor points. They keep reading because they have developed real expertise and know that I have shown them the respect to get to know the basics of their field – and not caricature them in my arguments. And they know I will be grateful for the benefit of their superior expertise in their field. I think one of the privately proudest moments I ever had was when the prominently published microbiologist I used to vet this memo nine years ago on stem cells simply would not believe I had no background in microbiology. She corrected two words…and told me if I was telling the truth that I had no background in her field, I ought to consider getting into it, because I had a sounder grasp of the fundamental principles than many of her grad students. You CAN get the basic principles down – and you have a duty to if you are going to weigh in in a public way on such matters.
Some have said, both in the Joseph Cronin matter and in response to yesterday’s column, that I should leave that stuff to the experts. That is nonsense. Part of the reason we are in such a mess is because we have ceded too many of our decisions mindlessly to the credentialed, many of whom have not honored our trust. We should have been asking reasonable and pointed questions and following rigorous logic all along. No one can supplant our responsibility for the decisions we make. You do not have to be a master chef to know whether a dish is well or poorly prepared. If I had followed the dictates of such critics in the Cronin case, the plug might have been pulled before Joseph started showing unmistakable signs of life that Friday. Technological elites are not our masters. Like all of us, they are servants to each of us…and must be accountable. We are obliged to learn enough to be able to hold such servants accountable even though we do not have to know enough to do their jobs and have the humility to live accountability to those we serve in our own fields of expertise.
We will discuss these things. But when we do, we will do it as people of faith and good will, not as partisans ready to seize whatever accusation can be made, no matter how flimsy or false. Some may wonder why I discuss it at all when events are soon going to make many such matters moot. I discuss it because we must act as Christians. Fight hard and with resolve when it is needed, but fight justly. The employee at Monsanto who is trying to do a job nobly needs to believe that when Christians prevail, it is not going to mean she just has a new power to oppress her, villainize and caricature her. We do not do what we do just for people like us, but for all people, that they may once again live in a just world. Jesus did not say love your friends and hate your enemies. He said we should judge righteous judgment. We will be held to account for everyone we dismiss with a cheap smear…and for every aggressor we do not defend the faithful from. It is a task that can only be done by holding fast to God, taking the next right step, and being a sign of hope.
It has already gotten very serious in the world. It is going to get much more serious. Act as the victors we know we will be, right now, with justice, charity and firm resolve. If we do less, we will be held to account – and risk having the Lord tell us, “depart from Me. I never knew you.” That is what I am getting at. Onward CHRISTIAN soldiers.