Not Different Truths, Just Different Tribes and Teams

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In news that should startle and amaze precisely no one, it appears that a controversy has broken out on Twitter.

It happened on this wise. In response to the #BuffaloMassacre and #ReplacementTheory, Jackie Hill Perry tweeted this:

“Say what ya want about Farrakhan (because there’s a whole lot to say) but this right here is facts.”

Jackie Hill Perry

And this was accompanied by a clip of Louis Farrakan, dispensing what some people in these misbegotten days might want to regard as wisdom. I wouldn’t know, I didn’t watch it.

To which Phil Johnson responded with:

“Folks, when someone who is perpetually platformed by Big Eva starts pointing people to Louis Farrakhan as a source of factual & spiritual insight, that’s all the proof you need that Big Eva & Woke dogma have passed their use-by date.”

Phil Johnson

To which Anthony Bradley responded:

“@JackieHillPerry does not need to apologize for this LF clip because what he said in this particular clip is true. Truth is truth.”

Anthony Bradley

To which I now respond . . .

As we are now speaking of truth being the truth, let us dig in to find a bit of truth that we might find useful in these troubled times of ours. If the principle articulated by Bradley here is a sound one, then we should be able to apply it in disparate situations, and come away satisfied that we have tested the rule and found it to be straight line true.

So Jackie Hill Perry “does not need to apologize” for having quoted a controversial figure because, as far as the words within the quotation went, they were true. If Farrakhan believes other things that are either loopy or full of bile, we may discount all of that because none of it was included in the quote in question. Furthermore, a defender of Jackie Hill Perry could even say that she went so far as to put some daylight between her and the fruitier emanations from Monsieur Farrakhan (i.e. “because there’s a whole lot to say . . .”).

Now even granting this principle, which for the sake of argument we are now doing, one sees that the principle likely has some natural limits. Say that Adolph Hitler delivered himself of the view that two and two equals four, and that the sun invariably rises in the east. If you were arguing these points in an academic paper, you might want to pick a less distracting source to buttress your argument, and this seems really understandable. So let us limit our application of this principle to situations less extreme than those created by genocidal maniacs doing simple math, or watching the sun rise.

So then, granting these natural limits, which we all understand, we now have our rule. Shall we apply it equitably? Shall we bring in equal weights and measures, not to mention a mixed metaphor, and see how Anthony Bradley likes them apples?

Suppose somebody taken at random, a Douglas Wilson, say, quoted one R.L. Dabney favorably on an issue like secular education. The quotation was accurate and true as far as it went, meaning that everything between the quotation marks was right on the money.

Christians must prepare themselves then, for the following results: All prayers, catechisms, and Bibles will ultimately be driven out of the schools . . . Humanity always finds out, sooner or later, that it cannot get on without a religion, and it will take a false one in preference to none.

R.L. Dabney, making sense in the marbled corridors of history past

Now I suspect that Anthony Bradley would rather be dead in a ditch than go along with this. He would say that Dabney, an unreconstructed Confederate, was a disgrace to evangelical and Reformed theology, no better than a Nazi, and that he should under no circumstances be platformed in any way by anybody today, even when he was saying something true. Actually, especially when he was saying something true, because impressionable types might read him on the true stuff and think that this helps to validate anything else he might have been saying, and so they proceed from accepting what he said about the impossibility of secular education to an acceptance of what he said in his Systematic Theology about the innate inferiority of redheads. Which he did in fact say. As Jackie Hill Perry might say, if she were putting daylight between herself and Dabney, and if she were here, “there’s a whole lot to say.”

Okay, so now we have ourselves a new rule, a little different than the earlier one. Actually it is the opposite of the earlier one. Now a person who says true things in one setting and outrageous things in another setting must not be listened to at all. To affirm such a person at any one point is the same thing as affirming whatever they might hold about anything else, and to quote them favorably at any one point entails one (does it not?) in all their perfidy. By this means, Anthony Bradley dispenses of me and my Dabney quotes, and good riddance says he, but doesn’t this mean that Jackie Hill Perry now needs to apologize for commending anything that came out of the mouth of that Farrakhan guy?

Sauce for the goose, as Heidegger the Nazi once put it.

But something else is going on actually. Anthony Bradley said that truth is truth. What he should have said was “tribes are tribes.” What he should have said is “teams are teams.” Whenever partisan feeling runs high, and your team is on the three-yard-line late in the fourth quarter, and you score, but then one of the refs makes a call that pulls the touchdown back, and everybody is yelling, the sentiments about the accuracy of that call is likely to be seriously divided. Different parts of the stadium see it differently. And a yelling fan might say something like “truth is truth,” just like Anthony Bradley did, but he is actually yelling the way he is because teams are teams.

The thing that is complicated in our day is that many of the fans in the evangelical bleachers are in the process of switching teams, switching allegiances. And so the bad call happened right when they had one fan jersey off and the other one halfway on. Now what? They can’t really appeal to team spirit simpliciter because that part is all confused now. And so they appeal to “the truth,” as though anybody is clear about what that is anymore.

So these are confusing times. Times of uncertainty. Few things are stable anymore. But despite all this, I do think that we can still say one thing with real confidence. If Jackie Hill Perry had quoted Douglas Wilson instead of Louis Farrakhan, she would have already had to apologize by now. Repeatedly. And at Anthony Bradley’s insistence.

I speak the truth here and, as we all know, truth is truth.