Ukraine #4

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Please allow me just one more set of background observations before I say what I think ought to be done in Ukraine.

When we teach math to kids, we are not training future mathematicians, although some will wind up there. We are training future grocers, carpenters, housewives, etc. We want what they learn about math to be consistent with what the future mathematicians will eventually learn, but it need not be anything like so complicated.

When we teach history to kids, we are not training up future historians. We are educating Christian kids to be faithful citizens in the country where God has placed them. God wants them here, and God wants them to honor their father and mother. As a third grader honors his fathers and mothers, there is no way to keep this from being “simplified” and coming across to academic historians as yet another instance of “monocausality.”

Fine, but monocausality shows up in biblical histories. Why did Herod get eaten by worms?

And at the same time, there are standard monocausal explanations that are simply anachronistic or wrong. A prime example of that is the standard view that the Civil War was “over slavery.” I would prefer to say that the Civil War was in the first instance, a tax revolt, in the second a battle over states rights, in the third a struggle over the expansion of slavery into new territories, in the fourth a cultural struggle between two different kinds of civilization which would have happened had there never been a Union, in the fifth, the Whig/Republican desire for centralization, in the sixth, Mark Twain’s assessment that Sir Walter Scott was to blame for instilling in Southerners an uber-sensitivity over chivalry and honor, and seventh, a  judgment from God over the South’s participation in the land grab from Mexico, and their gross treatment of the Indian nations that were largely centered in the South — the Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw, etc. There were other factors as well, that we might as well leave unmentioned for now, such as Virginia’s noble desire to prevent the rise of Al Sharpton.But in junior high and high school, to teach all sides of every conflict, from any imaginable point of view, is not academic “objectivity.” It is indistinguishable from postmodern relativism. We are to shape their loyalties first, and fill in the fullness of the story later. That filling in of detail must be honest, but the pretense of disinterested objectivity is nothing other than another laugh riot from the groves of academe.

This is hard to do with kids, but it can be done. For example, I have seen our kids at Logos taught that the shabby treatment that Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce received was in fact shabby, but this was done without that lesson being turned into a morass of multicultural micro-sensitivities that would earn our alums a place on the Lord High Executioner’s “little list.”

“Then the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
All centuries but this, and every country but his own.”

Now, bring all this down to the Cold War, and to the current state of affairs in Ukraine. You are the superintendent of a Christian school, and things are currently bad in eastern Europe. You are reviewing the curriculum for your history of the twentieth century. Do you teach the kids to be suspicious of Russia, or not? I do. Do you sympathize with any small nation along Russia’s Western border? I sure do.

Some might say that I think this way because I am a child of the Cold War. We had fire drills at school when I was a kid, but we also had nuclear war drills. Not much you can do in such drills except go down in the school basement, sit crouched along the wall, and say your farewells to the planet. It has been such a great seven years! And if you count the submarine I was stationed on as my house, like Tina Fey, I have seen Russia from my house. So I am in fact a child of the Cold War. But to dismiss an argument simply because you think you have discovered why your opponent came to advance it is simply what Lewis called Bulverism.

We are required to honor our father and mother, which includes our civic leaders as the Larger Catechism teaches, and we are required to do so honestly. This necessarily includes our history. We are to observe the fifth commandment, but without violating the ninth. In the fifties, the ninth commandment was often sacrificed on the altar of the fifth, and that was admittedly not good. But you are fixing nothing if you do what I see being done with facile glibness by the current generation, which is to sacrifice the fifth commandment on the altar of the ninth. We are supposed to obey them all, and we are supposed to teach our children to obey them all.

Do you do all this in such a way as to instill a jingoistic approach, one that is incapable of recognizing those instances when the United States has played it false, or made a hash of it, or weighed in on the wrong side? Of course not.

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Barnabas
Barnabas
6 years ago

Would I be wrong to view the appeal to piety to be a retreat on the issues at hand? An exploration of the problem of piety for the democrat and the Christian in a postmodern world would be more interesting than the debate over the Ukraine.

Drew
Drew
6 years ago

Doug, Admittedly, I cheer for the Ron Paul consistency approach. Though Ron Paul should perhaps show less sympathy towards Russia, he does a fantastic job at pointing out the hypocrisy of the United States government’s foreign policy. I will teach my kids to be suspicious of Russia, but if the Feds continue this horrendous hypocritical foreign policy of blaming other nations (like Russia) for being bullies while also bullying those very nations (like Russia), I don’t think I’ll have any choice but to teach my kids to be suspicious of American foreign policy (and in a sense, America itself) as… Read more »

Matt
Matt
6 years ago

But to dismiss an argument simply because you think you have discovered why your opponent came to advance it is simply what Lewis called Bulverism. Red herring. You haven’t made any arguments, only expressed prejudices. And examining the sources of prejudice is a legitimate course of action. If it were just you it wouldn’t matter, but anti-Russia Mania has been instilled in generations of Americans, and unfortunately many of them still sit in the Pentagon and Congress. Also, the simplistic view of the Civil War is still better than yours, where slavery barely merits a mention. Again, if it were… Read more »

Ben
Ben
6 years ago

Drew, you already don’t have a choice regarding teaching your children to be suspicious of the U.S. government (that is, if you care about the truth). If you’re reading this blog, you probably already have enough good sense to know that the U.S. government lies about just about everything domestic. Why would this be different with regards to foreign policy? Why do they suddenly become benevolent sages with nothing to gain as soon as they start taking action outside of our borders?

Robert
Robert
6 years ago

How should Russian and Ukrainian Christians view this?

Drew
Drew
6 years ago

@Ben

I think you make a good point. I just feel particularly offended at the Feds’ foreign policy.

timothy
timothy
6 years ago

@DougWilson argued: the Civil War was in the first instance, a tax revolt, in the second a battle over states rights, in the third a struggle over the expansion of slavery into new territories, in the fourth a cultural struggle between two different kinds of civilization which would have happened had there never been a Union, in the fifth, the Whig/Republican desire for centralization, in the sixth, Mark Twain’s assessment that Sir Walter Scott was to blame for instilling in Southerners an uber-sensitivity over chivalry and honor, and seventh, a judgment from God over the South’s participation in the land… Read more »

timothy
timothy
6 years ago

Oops.

@DougWilson used the illustration of the civil war in support of his argument .

my bad

Matt
Matt
6 years ago

That would be pretty bad timothy, if he offered an illustration in support of an assertion that contradicts that assertion, and on top of that the illustration isn’t even accurate. But there are still no arguments to be found. We’re four posts in and all we’ve gotten is “I don’t like Russia”

timothy
timothy
6 years ago

But there are still no arguments to be found. We’re four posts in and all we’ve gotten is “I don’t like Russia”

Ahhh. That makes sense now. I was looking only at this post and not the series.

Barnabas
Barnabas
6 years ago

Should we put loyalty to the nation before reason? Should we be worried to what extent the disinterested analysis of the competing interests in a given situation will impede the propagandizing of children and adults and disrupt the unity which may come from a simple us vs them understanding? I am not completely unsympathetic to this line of reasoning. One of the things which make Putin a somewhat sympathetic character is his advocacy for Russian interests against the internationalism of the US and the EU. The question is, what loyalty do I owe to a nation that is fundamentally against… Read more »

Rob Slane
6 years ago

Doug, I just want to pick up on one thing you have said in this post. You say: “You are the superintendent of a Christian school, and things are currently bad in Eastern Europe. You are reviewing the curriculum for your history of the twentieth century. Do you teach the kids to be suspicious of Russia, or not? I do. Do you sympathize with any small nation along Russia’s Western border? I sure do.” If I was sitting in that class listening to this, I would ask the following question: “I understand why Eastern European countries might be suspicious of… Read more »

Vega
Vega
6 years ago

Hello Doug,

Apropos of your statements on education on this post: I’m a lurking follower of your blog, as well as a prospective teacher, and I would like some resources and/or books about teaching and education from a Christian worldview. It is highly likely I will be entering the System of Mass Education, and I want to arm myself well beforehand. I value your perspectives and recommendations highly.

Thank you!

JohnM
JohnM
6 years ago

Do I sympathize with any small nation along Russia’s Western border? No, not all of them equally, because they don’t all merit all that much sympathy. Do I sympathize with any nation that is willing to stand up to the Washington/Brussels axis? Maybe not any , but that’s my leaning. Am I sympathetic to a further expansion of NATO? No, because I do yet have a ounce of patriotism in spite of all. Am I sympathetic to the propagation of contemporary western cultural values that likely would accompany any expansion of NATO and/or the EU? No, because I’m a Christian.… Read more »

joe_wa
joe_wa
6 years ago

In the second a battle over states rights

Yeah… the state’s right to own slaves, primarily. You would think after all the controversy that pastor Wilson has embroiled himself in over the years that he would practice a certainly level of modesty and humility when touching on this issue.

But from what I keep reading from Wilson suggests that a war over taxes is more morally and ethically acceptable than a war over slavery… because of abortion, or something.

Moor
Moor
6 years ago

I just wanted to take a moment and commend Rob Slane for his contributions to this ongoing discussion. They have been salient, edifying, and compelling. Thank you, from someone who knew very little about the situation and largely relies on discussions like this one for information.

Andrew Lohr
6 years ago

Maybe the eastern half of NATO should split off and reorganize itself as, say, the “Warsaw Pact” or maybe as the Hapsburg empire?

Ellen
Ellen
6 years ago

Just wanted to add my thanks to Moors regarding Rob Slane’s interaction with D.W.’s posts. It has become compelling reading.

Robert
Robert
6 years ago

@vega

Type in German American internment on You Tube. There is a 22 minute propaganda video of a WW2 internment camp which held German Americans and Japanese Americans together. Read Shattered Lives Shattered Dreams by Estlack or the The Train to Crystal City by Russell

Barnabas
Barnabas
6 years ago

I think Pastor Wilson admires the Ukrainians for their nationalism. Conservatives are starved for nationalism which is why they have such a crush on Netanyahu.

timothy
timothy
6 years ago

I would prefer to say that the Civil War was in the first instance, a tax revolt, in the second a battle over states rights, in the third a struggle over the expansion of slavery into new territories, in the fourth a cultural struggle between two different kinds of civilization which would have happened had there never been a Union, in the fifth, the Whig/Republican desire for centralization, in the sixth, Mark Twain’s assessment that Sir Walter Scott was to blame for instilling in Southerners an uber-sensitivity over chivalry and honor, and seventh, a judgment from God over the South’s… Read more »

Alex Kerr
Alex Kerr
6 years ago

Why don’t conservatives read Antony Sutton any more?

John Callaghan
John Callaghan
6 years ago

And at the same time, there are standard monocausal explanations that are simply anachronistic or wrong. A prime example of that is the standard view that the Civil War was “over slavery.” Every conflict has multiple causes from large social factors to minor, seemingly random incidents. That does not necessarily preclude identifying a major or overarching cause In the Civil War, both sides were in almost complete agreement that the conflict was over the legitimacy of the way in which the Southern States seceded from the Union. The North regarded that secession as a totally illegitimate refusal to abide by… Read more »

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
6 years ago

joe_wa — I don’t think treating it as a tax revolt is done because that’s held to make it “better.” The belief is that’s what it actually was. If you don’t want people to assume that your own understanding of history is agenda driven, don’t automatically make that assumption for others.

Matt
Matt
6 years ago

Of course it is done to make it better. Opposition to tariffs was a much more sympathetic case than wanting to own other humans and treat them as farm implements, hence why it is number one on the list for those trying to exonerate the South from being the evil empire that it was. The issue was slavery and always was. The North wanted it gone, the South wanted it everywhere forever. Tariffs were an issue: how much profit the South would be able to make off its slave labor. Culture clash was an issue: a relatively modern culture vs.… Read more »