I posted earlier today my own apology for jumping too quickly to partially blame violent and vitriolic political rhetoric for the tragic shooting in Tucson. I also suggested that it is a fallacy that because this case may not be directly linked to such rhetoric does not mean that such language does not or cannot contribute to violence.
I wrote the post yesterday and it posted this morning. Today, Sarah Palin has posted a video message on her Facebook page directly addressing, “refudiating”, and condemning those who have tried to link her or the Tea Party movement to the Arizona tragedy.
First, let me say, I actually think this is the best “speech” I have seen Palin give (anti-semitic reference notwithstanding). She comes across very well, is articulate and serious. She almost looks presidential in the moment. That is all to her credit.
But, there is a major fallacy in her statement that I want to address. Perhaps more than a fallacy, it represents a specific worldview that I think is incorrect, but also explains much of the conservative approach to life in contrast to other worldviews.
She says in the address:
“President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.”
This is a conservative worldview position. I want to contrast this view with a liberal worldview and also with a Biblical/Christian worldview.
This statement from Palin represents a classic conservative worldview. It is all about the individual. Individual responsibility and accountability are central. This is true about crimes, but also in other areas of life. In economics, this is expressed as allowing totally free markets; in social services, this leads to a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality; in government, it leads to a “smaller is always better”. Society and systems are never to blame — nor contribute to — issues like poverty, crime, illiteracy, etc. It is all about the individual.
In contrast, the liberal worldview is very different. Liberals pretty much believe the opposite. For liberals, individuals are products of systems and societies. The Watts Riots are not the result of a bunch of violent and evil individuals; no, the riots were the result of a complex set of factors including anger, frustration, poverty, racism, etc, all embedded in a system that inevitably would explode. Where conservatives say “acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own,” liberals say that often such acts are the products of systems and society. This is why liberals believe that good government can make significant changes and improvements to society. For liberals, fighting crime is often about improving education and safety nets; for conservatives, it tends to be about tougher sentences and enforcement. A very different worldview!
In Palin’s worldview, her rhetoric (and that of others) cannot be blamed for anything, because everything stands alone. However, from a liberal worldview, the culture that is created by the language and rhetoric contributes to an environment conducive to such evil acts.
The Biblical/Christian worldview is neither liberal nor conservative. The Bible insists on individual responsibility, but also believes that sin and brokenness pervades all the “powers and principalities” and systems. The Bible teaches that we are each accountable for our sins, but also that we are to love and encourage each other in intentional community (“it takes a village!”). And even in the Biblical worldview, there are limits on individual accountability — God holds the broader community responsible sometimes (see Ezek 3:16-20, for example). The sense of corporate identity in Biblical thought is central. The idea of the individual as primary unit is much more American than Christian. Much of the Old Testament law is about creating a society and culture and environment conducive to righteous living. This mindset, perhaps, is somewhere between the Liberal and Conservative worldviews — a both/and approach. And one that I think makes sense.
(For a more complete explanation of the Biblical worldview in relation to Palin’s comment click here — Brad Boydston does a great job with it.)
Palin’s claim that “Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state” is only true if you hold a conservative worldview. It is not valid in either a liberal or Biblical paradigm.
Perhaps, less than being political opportunism, the strong reaction from the left is actually a demonstration of the different worldviews we hold.
WHICH POSITION BEST REFLECTS YOUR WORLDVIEW?