Reader says that I have put myself in “morally highly dangerous territory” and have “tainted the entire VFR community”
have I done this? By having a discussion (here
) on whether human beings can become so depraved that they lose the image of God.
Lydia McGrew writes:
What I think it would be good for you to realize is that Matt has been trying to give you a warning that you are in morally highly dangerous territory. I would imagine that he’s doing that for your own sake as well as for the sake of your readers. To assert that some people are truly subhuman or even to treat this as an open question is to invite a grave form of darkness into one’s mind and heart. It is an occupational hazard of learning constantly about the horrible, evil acts that criminals commit that one will be tempted to exactly that—to dehumanization. It increases the temptation when one notices that the influential voices of our society increasingly are on the side of the criminal. But the urge to dehumanize should be recognized as a temptation, not treated as just another opportunity to have a bold and controversial public conversation that others don’t dare to have.
I write this both because I care about you as a person and because I have previously enjoyed commenting at VFR from time to time and have often posted your insights elsewhere. But this sort of conversation taints the entire on-line community at VFR and, to some degree, those of us who have endorsed your views on other subjects. It would be a legitimate question for someone to ask, having read these recent threads, why I would associate in any way with a site that considers the literal dehumanization of criminals (of whatever race) to be a fully open question, a site on which commentators openly hypothesize that those who are “feral” truly lack moral responsibility and are truly less than human, and on which the owner of the site is more than a little defiant about treating these as matters for civilized debate. Those of us who blog elsewhere and who have repeatedly cited you approvingly will have to think hard about how to answer such questions now when they arise.
One of the most disturbing things you said in the earlier thread was this:
I’m sorry if I seem not to be with the general trend of this discussion, but I think it is inadequate and almost silly to speak of the “evil” or “sin” of these mindless killing machines.
Here you rejected what I, Matt, Kristor, and several others had been urging about the importance of humanity and moral responsibility. Indeed, the entire context encourages the reader to think that your words “mindless killing machines” are not merely intended as a metaphor.
I urge you by our Lord Jesus and by the Good, for which you have so valiantly fought in human society: Consider how perilous a thing it is for your own soul and the souls of those you influence to think and speak in such a manner of any human being, however wicked, depraved, and justly deserving of death.
With sincere best wishes,
To reply to this extraordinary reprimand, to give a correct picture of how overblown and off-the-mark it is, and how unjust, and in how many ways, is beyond my energies at the moment. For the time being I will simply post it and let others reply if they wish.
- end of initial entry -
Dean Ericson writes:
To assert that some people are truly subhuman or even to treat this as an open question is to invite a grave form of darkness into one’s mind and heart.Even to treat it as an open question is wrong? To even think about it is wrong? But humans do think about such things. Most of us, at some time, need to work it out in our minds. It’s not automatically an obvious answer. Even the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” needs to be thought about and discussed to fully understand. Maybe Lydia and Matt have already thought their way to the bottom of the matter and no longer need to think about it. Fine. Let them not sully themselves thinking about or discussing it further. But it was helpful reading their thoughtful comments as to why the subject was improper. Should they not have discussed it as they did? I found it interesting and, judging by the number of thoughtful comments posted, others did too. I like Lydia and Matt and wouldn’t want to see them leave. But asking us not to think about something? It seems a bit much. (Not that there aren’t things that shouldn’t be thought of, but even those things you need to think about them first to determine what they are.)
There is a difference between thinking about and discussing a subject, on the one hand, and treating it as an open question, on the other. Presumably we can discuss any number of horrific things without treating them as open questions.
The difference is enormous, as hopefully even those who disagree with me are capable of seeing. We can discuss the nature of pedophilia, homosexual acts, or Nazism (as offhand examples) without treating their moral status as open questions. It is not discussion per se, but the treatment of the subject as an open question, which is at issue.
So now the difference between (1) a person being morally ok in Matt and Lydia’s book and (2) that same person putting himself in “highly dangerous moral territory” and “inviting a grave form of darkness into his mind and heart” and “tainting” everything he has done and becoming persona non grata to all decent people, is (a) whether that person hosts a discussion on the possibility of human beings losing the image of God, or (b) whether he hosts a discussion that treats the possibility of human beings losing the image of God as an open question. Do people see on how little Matt and Lydia are building this mountain of moral condemnation?
I think having this discussion could head off a subconscious dehumanizing that some of us may have been undergoing.
Joseph S. writes:
Perhaps I can cut through the misunderstandings here with a different point of view. If the “feral” criminals discussed here were to be imprisoned, would you regard it as a Christian obligation to provide for a chaplain to visit them in order to try to save their souls? Or would you regard it as not worth the effort? The former appears to be what is commanded of us, but your contributions to this discussion appear to be indicating to some of the commenters that you would make the latter choice. I think if we can agree on the answer to this question, the rest of the misunderstandings will clear up.
Of course I would regard it as a good thing to provide for a Christian chaplain to visit them.
Lydia and Matt’s absurdly exaggerated and hysterical response to the VFR discussion derives from the fact that they are taking my and other people’s comments—which are simply attempts to understand and articulate the reality we live in—as expressions of a total formed ideology and even of a legal system. Matt is a hyperintellectual Catholic who at times follows one narrow logical line of argument and misses the full context. Lydia, while not Catholic, has been strongly influenced by Catholicism. And both of them are showing a typical Catholic intellectual foible, which is to rationalize things to the nth degree, and thus they have wildly and unjustly distorted the tenor of the discussion at VFR.
So for example, I said,
… I think it is inadequate and almost silly to speak of the “evil” or “sin” of these mindless killing machines.
When I said that, I was, in the course of a conversation, describing how some of these killers appear to me, these killers who murder someone for no reason at all and are so stupid that they are immediately arrested. (As a recent example, consider this.) I was articulating my observations and experience of these killers’ behavior. I was not, pace Matt and Lydia, constructing a philosophical/religious system in which some people are metaphysically determined to be non-human and are therefore officially placed in some different category. Nor was I constructing a legal system in which some classes of persons will be treated as human and some not. I was honestly describing the way some of these killers seem to me. And for merely expressing these reasonable observations and experiences, I am told that I have morally tainted all my life and all my work and that I am not suitable company for decent people.
When a person mass murders people in a movie theater, or when a person stabs a pizza delivery woman 30 times for ten bucks, is that person manifesting in any way the image of God? Obviously not. That doesn’t mean that in an ultimate metaphysical sense the person has lost the image of God. But certainly in temporal, human experience that person has lost the image of God. And simply for hosting a discussion in which this very real problem was discussed, I am told that I have committed one of the worst sins ever committed.
Some participants in the discussion, referencing the Bible, did discuss whether a person can lose the image of God in an ultimate sense. But most of those commenters were agreeing with Matt and Lydia that a person cannot lose the image of God.
James R. writes:
Re Lydia McGrew’s reprimand, I respect her as a thoughtful and philosophical writer. I’ve been troubled by this particular discussion on VFR but haven’t weighed in on it because I haven’t been able to articulate in a satisfactory way just why I find it troubling. I suppose the imperfect analogy is that I find it somewhat akin to philosophical theorists on the constructivist left who determine they can define when someone is a person or not. Now even writing that I understand it is not at all what is being discussed here. However, I will say that this is the precise territory where Jesus’ injunction to “judge not, lest ye be judged” applies. As a matter of practical reason, we must judge a great many things in this world. Including when someone must be punished for crimes. We can even judge when someone ought to be excluded from communion with the earthly Church (as, say, in a sane world, Nancy Pelosi would be by the Catholic Church). But even if it is possible for a person to lose the image of God, only God can judge that. We are in no position to determine it, and I do think that we put ourselves in peril when we start to think we can. [LA replies: I agree that human society is in no position to determine as a legal and official matter when a person has lost the image of God or not. It sounds silly even to suggest that society might do that. And no one in the VFR discussion was suggesting that society do that. We were having a discussion in which we were expressing our own human perceptions and understandings, largely in the context of the Bible and Christianity, of this issue; we were not proposing a new philosophical or legal system.]
Now I’m still not satisfied with how I put that.
VFR is one of the few places where we can discuss things that we’re not permitted to freely discuss elsewhere; I am not the sort who wants to curtail discussion. But I do think there is something about this particular topic that is wrong.
Terry Morris writes:
Lydia gives you too much credit. If I’m in danger of losing my soul, it isn’t because of anything you’ve said.
Stewart W. writes:
I want first to thank you again for the tremendous service you provide to the rest of us in the traditionalist community. Yours blog has been indispensible to me for many years now, and I consider this discussion to be the finest and most fascinating I have ever read here or anywhere.
As to Lydia and Matt’s assertion that even to entertain the question of whether someone can become so corrupt that they lose their essential humanity, “invite[s] a grave form of darkness into one’s mind and heart,” I can only say that I admire the certainty of their convictions. However, there are many people, myself included, who frequently struggle with the emotions articulated by Patrick H. at the beginning of the first thread in this discussion. For myself, the path to religion and Christianity is a slow one, more akin to C.S. Lewis than Joan of Arc.
I suppose, to use Lydia’s words, that “darkness” is already in my heart, and reading this discussion and pondering the implications has been invaluable in helping me to understand such thoughts, put them into context, and develop the understanding necessary to master and defeat these visceral impulses. An enlightening and challenging discussion like this is the tool that such a sinner as I find best to improve my own character. Since it also brings in questions outside of the purely theological (Tolkien’s orcs, the common law concept of the outlaw, the death penalty, the thugee, etc.), the entire journey is very rewarding.
I suppose if this means I must suffer Lydia and Matt’s damnation, as unfortunate as that may be, I’ll just have to find a way to live with it. I hope they can find it within their hearts to understand my view.
I don’t pretend to speak for Lydia, and I know she doesn’t pretend to speak for me, so the constant invocation of “Lydia and Matt” in this discussion is inappropriate. I am more than willing to defend my own actual words, of course.
Lydia certainly was claiming to speak for you. Read the beginning of her comment.
Anthony Damato writes:
Recently you’ve posted a lot of things I have found very important. Especially the subject from which Lydia McGrew recoiled. I read her appeal to your Christian sensibilities and connected her argument to the idea that we should not judge lest we be judged. That sort of refutation is especially mainstream in the Catholic Church which abandoned all the important elements that relate to Christ’s own example of teaching us to avoid sin and sinners, and also that some choose evil, just as some have no truth in them like the father of lies, the devil.
I can’t stress enough, that for the past few days, your discussion about those losing the image of God, and, before that, your explanation of Christ’s warning in Mark 3 against blaspheming the Holy Ghost, have not had the effect of ” tainting” me, but opened up a pathway to a deeper understanding of good and evil, and especially the words of the Lord in that passage on the Holy Ghost, which always was difficult for me to understand.
I view Lydia as defective in understanding the fundamentals of the nature of good and evil.
I’ll also point out (I already have, but perhaps different words will help) that the adoption of a “morally neutral” position isn’t morally neutral. To adopt a “morally neutral” position with respect to a subject is to treat disagreement about that subject as legitimate. That is why it is wrong to adopt a “morally neutral” attitude with respect to, say, Communism. Communism has murdered an order of magnitude more innocents than Naziism, and adopting a “morally neutral” attitude toward it inherently legitimizes it. It is wrong to do that.
In fact from one point of view, liberalism itself is the legitimization of all sorts of moral horrors through the adoption of a “morally neutral” attitude.
So, yes, the difference between a discussion which treats certain ideas as morally neutral versus a discussion which does not is extraordinarily significant. It isn’t something to be dismissed as a triviality.
This is so off-base. No one was treating anything as morally neutral. The whole discussion was about morality.
Matthew H. writes:
How are thoughtful people to deal with other human beings who wantonly maim, rape, and kill innocent people and who, when they are captured, display no remorse and even laugh and smile? It hardly matters what term we use. The fact is that a large segment of our society is necrotic. Its members do not contribute anything good but only inflict added misery, harm, and expense on peacable people.
Who falls into this class? Certainly we can agree that people who commit some of the atrocities discussed at VFR have placed themselves outside human society. But beyond the actual perpetrators there is a great mass of associated people, their “families” and friends as well as the government service providers without whom they could not engage in this “lifestyle.” This, as the Viet Cong might have put it, is the sea in which the smirking murderers swim. They are the ones who have nurtured the monsters. Though perhaps to a lesser degree, they too, by their negligence and contempt for decency, have set themselves apart from humanity.
We may quibble about terms but it is clear that there is a large and distinct class of people whose depraved conduct has imposed massive suffering and expense on others. They are wicked people. It is grossly offensive to impute a moral stain to those who look at evil-doers and conclude that we are not of them and they are not of us.
Anthony Damato writes:
Lydia likely does not know this verse.
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. [John 8:44.]
For crying out loud: hosting a discussion in which both sides of a question are treated as deserving of respect is in fact adopting a morally neutral position with respect to that question.
There is a reason why you wouldn’t host a discussion which treats pro- and anti- pedophilia as points of view each deserving respect.
Again, even if people don’t agree with me about the specific subject of some category of people being literally subhuman, at least we ought to be able to agree that hosting a discussion in which both sides of a question are treated with respect is to treat the wrong side of that question with respect.
Matt’s repeated repetition of the ridiculously inappropriate pedophilia example (this must be the fourth time he’s resorted to it) shows how he is in Robo-cop mode rather than actually thinking.
James P. writes:
To the charge that you have tainted the VFR community, the Auster Autocrat might simply respond, “La communauté VFR, c’est moi!”
Would you host a discussion in which both pro and anti Communism positions are treated with respect?
It seems to me that you are fixating on the specific example of pedophilia as a way of missing the point.
What you’re missing is that reasonable people do not regard the act of believing that it’s possible that a human being might lose the image of God as the moral equivalent of the act of being a pedophile or a Communist.
Steve R. writes:
From VFR I learned this verse from Eccliasticus:
And all men are from the ground, and Adam was created of earth. In much knowledge the Lord hath divided them, and made their ways diverse. Some of them hath he blessed and exalted, and some of them hath he sanctified, and set near himself: but some of them hath he cursed and brought low, and turned out of their places.
My question for those that have a problem with this discussion is whether they would have a problem discussing the possible meaning of those words and where they naturally take us.
Aditya B. writes:
I would urge Lydia McGrew to peruse this article, this, and this, especially the first one. They deal with caste-based prostitution. Certain Indian castes force their daughters into prostitution once they enter adolescence. That has been the hereditary occupation for these women since time immemorial. Father and husbands pimp daughters and wives and live off their income.
This is a detailed investigation into the practice of buggering little boys that continues to this day in Afghanistan. It’s a status symbol, an indicator of prestige and power. Again, a practice that has been ongoing since time immemorial and isn’t likely to end anytime soon.
This is a brief TV interview of a child who desires “martyrdom”—i.e., death in the act of committing mass murder—fighting Jews in Israel.
Finally, this is a brief BBC report on cannibalism and other horrible acts in the Congo.
I am no theologian and I haven’t the slightest training in Christian theology (except my own inadequate reading) so I don’t know how and when a man loses that divine spark that makes him a man and acts as a sort of invisible connection to divinity. I don’t know what exactly one must do to lose the very essence of that which makes a man a man. However, if the acts detailed hereinabove aren’t enough, then nothing is.
These are not random incidents by deranged individuals. These are acts carried out over generations by fully sentient beings who are fully aware of the consequences of their actions. I doubt if even St. Francis of Assisi could find any “Imago Dei” reflected in the vacant eyes of such people.
As far as I am concerned, community-wide and inter-generational savagery will ineluctably lead to the loss of the essence of humanity. Such people are not like most people who would recoil in horror at pimping their daughters or buggering little boys or blowing them up or eating them. A person who can engage in these acts is not, strictly speaking, fully human. And unless we admit this, we cannot utilize truly effective methods to stamp out such evil. For we do want to fight evil, don’t we? We can only fight evil aggressively by ceasing to extend to such human rubbish human courtesies. Any such kindness would be a greater evil as it will inhibit our ability to fight.
Therefore, Lawrence, you have displayed your characteristic courage by raising this issue. If we could turn this into a national debate then we might recover some confidence and the ability to fight evil and defend ourselves without engaging in pointless, unending wars. Instead, we would engage in short but brutal and decisive engagements, confident that we are fighting demons, not men. What may be appear as initial cruelty would in the long term emerge as kindness as it would shatter the enemy’s confidence and would lead to fewer casualties. It might also affect the population deeply enough to cause a change in its ways. And if that is accomplished, then it would be a matter of time before they returned to the human family.
All who are made to be compassionate in the place of the cruel
In the end are made to be cruel in the place of the compassionate
—Qohelet Raba, 7:16
Matthew H. writes:
For crying out loud: hosting a discussion in which both sides of a question are treated as deserving of respect is in fact adopting a morally neutral position with respect to that question.
Correct. We should not engage with those who are unable to draw clear moral distinctions between behaviors that are acceptable in human society and those, like pedophilia and wanton murder, which place one outside its bounds.
Mark Eugenikos writes:
During the course of the discussion, Matt made several related arguments which I will copy here:
As far as I can tell, Matt is saying that treating pedophilia, homosexual acts, and Nazism as open questions is the same as treating a possibility of losing one’s soul, or losing the image of God, as an open question. But the two categories (pedophilia, homosexual acts, and Nazism, vs. losing the image of God) are not equivalent at all. The acts in the first category are evil thoughts or systems of belief backed up by evil actions towards others and oneself. I believe most regular readers of VFR would agree with this, so no need to elaborate further.
- … it is morally wrong to have an “open” discussion in which all positions on pedophilia are treated as equally respectable. An “open” discussion on whether certain classes of people are subhuman is morally in the same category as an “open” discussion of pedophilia.
- OK, let’s stipulate that the discussion is about a class of people who have become members of that class by their own actions, as opposed to “accident of birth” or whatever. That doesn’t make “open” discussion of whether or not that class of people is subhuman untermensch, with theories pro as well as con treated as equally respectable, into an acceptable discussion for civilized men.
- There is a difference between thinking about and discussing a subject, on the one hand, and treating it as an open question, on the other. Presumably we can discuss any number of horrific things without treating them as open questions. The difference is enormous, as hopefully even those who disagree with me are capable of seeing. We can discuss the nature of pedophilia, homosexual acts, or Nazism (as offhand examples) without treating their moral status as open questions. It is not discussion per se, but the treatment of the subject as an open question, which is at issue.
However, asking “Is it possible to lose the image of God? Is it possible to lose one’s soul?” is not a system of belief backed up by evil actions. It is a question to which there is no easy and obvious answer, because it is beyond our ordinary human experience and powers of observation to know the answer. I wholly agree with Ian M. who said:
… one thing I found frustrating is that a lot of commenters focused on their own private interpretations of the Bible. But Biblical interpretation should not be done in a vacuum. What about the Church’s interpretation? Surely, the historic Church has had something to say about this topic, and I would trust her accumulated wisdom over a modern layman’s interpretation that’s been given all of five minutes’ thought. I for one would have loved to see more references to what some orthodox theologians had to say on the topic (there was some of this, e.g. Joseph A.’s comment). My strong suspicion is that the Church settled this question long ago.
I am not a theologian so I don’t know what the Church Fathers wrote about this topic, nor do I have a quick and easy way to find out.
However, my main disagreement with Matt is about making moral equivalence between discussing acts we all know and agree are evil, and discussing questions about the soul to which we perhaps don’t, and may never, have an answer, at least in this world.
Matt replies to LA’s last reply to him:
So would you agree, then, that hosting a discussion in which both sides of a question are treated with respect is inherently, in the nature of doing so, to assert that the wrong side of that question is respectable?
And if you would agree to that, can you at least consider the possibility that the idea that some class of persons is subhuman is not, in fact, a respectable idea?
I have already addressed this. The discussion that has existed at VFR has been respectable. There was one aspect of the discussion which I agreed was not respectable and I ended that part of the discussion. As I’ve repeatedly explained, the rest of the discussion was respectable.
This discussion has helped me in one important way to think about my fellow man, viz., that without an objective moral standard there is no way for us to process ideas of humanity at all. Without Christianity and its effects on Christian and non-Christian alike, Westerners are subject to endless relativism. I am grateful that we have any basis at all from which to rationally consider “sub-humanness” and moral responsibility.
Matthew H. wrote:
But beyond the actual perpetrators there is a great mass of associated people, their “families” and friends as well as the government service providers without whom they could not engage in this “lifestyle.”
About a decade ago there was a report about gangs in the Los Angeles area. It said the number of “official” known gang members was something like 70,000 as I recall, out of a total population of about 12 million in the metro area. Attention was drawn to the fact that these thugs do not live in a vacuum but have families, friends, associates and their number may be approximated as ten times the number of actual gangsters. This gives us a subpopulation of some 700,000 souls who are criminals or are integrally socialized with them. I suspect it is a much greater number of proximate people who are indifferent to this condition altogether. Modern factors of mobility as well as target demographics mean that there is no enclave that is out-of-bounds for the criminal class. They announce themselves with loud bass rap music emanating from their cars wherever they go, seemingly without disapproval from anyone, especially tolerant liberal whites. So where does this “great mass of associated people” end and peace-loving citizens begin? In our large cities at least there are no real boundaries between these groups. As Matthew says, necrosis is everywhere.
The most debased savage individuals that are the subject of this extended thread are but the spear-tip of this depravity. It is good to debate these things and many valuable insights have been brought forth. There seems to be overall agreement that labeling anyone “less than human” (aside from momentary visceral disgust) is both wrong and counter-productive, both in practical and metaphysical terms.
We know that a person can lose his soul in at least some sense in the final judgment. Making the discussion about that is moving the goal posts.
What I am discussing with you right now is whether the view that some class of people—people here and now in this word—are subhuman, is a respectable view.
I say it isn’t a respectable view, and I don’t seem to be the only one.
Dave T. writes:
In my opinion Lydia and Matt are taking an extremely uncharitable point of view toward Larry in this discussion. Larry’s initial observation that a significant portion of the black community in Miami seems more bestial than human in certain respects is an accurate one that demands thoughtful consideration. The left has heretofore prevented our society from thinking about this unfortunate situation with any level of depth by demonizing anyone who articulates it; however, this approach of demonizing people who notice some unfortunate aspects of our reality has not served us well given that problems similar to this have only gotten worse over time and not better. Moreover, we simply can’t ignore this sort of thing forever given what’s already happened in other parts of the world.
On the other hand, I find the theological dimension of this discussion to be thoroughly helpful. To my knowledge, no one is denying the essential humanity of all people in the sight of God, which would be a rather extreme theological position to take, and with respect to the question as to what it means for people to be made in the image of God, there’s not much consensus in either the church or the scholarly guild as to the correct interpretation of that biblical concept. In any case, it’s not helpful for people to fling Bible verses at each other instead of addressing the real problem that is the debased humanity of a significant portion of the black people in Western societies.
In his writings on ethics, Aristotle describes the “wanton,” a man whose will has been so habituated to vice that he can no longer exercise his freedom so as to choose the good. (The severe alcoholic and the heroin addict come to mind.) For Aristotle, such unfortunate souls are objects of either pity or scorn, depending upon the extent of their complicity with vice. The black community, as presently constituted, tends to turn out such wantons in abundance. These “mindless killing machines” have degraded themselves, by slow measure, into an unenviable and deplorable state. I am not sure how we should distribute the blame for this unhappy reality, but much of it surely accrues to the white liberals who have systematically encouraged and enabled this dysfunction to continue unabated.
Now, to the topic at hand. The “wanton” must be sequestered from decent society. That this is so is orthogonal [meeting at right angles] to whether he has, or has lost, the image of God. A decent society must protect itself from dysfunction and pathology. Those who are wanton, as many in the black community now are, must be dealt with through some kind of penal mechanism. Nevertheless, the fact that some men have the capacity to become “wanton” is not an indictment against their divine origin. Blacks are men, and not animals. And even though men can behave as animals do, they do not thereby become animals. By God’s good graces we are positioned between the angels and the apes, and though by our choices we can approximate one or the other, we remain what we are, whether we do it gracefully or badly.
In a time dominated by lies and impropriety, it is tempting to think dark thoughts about blacks. But we must not. Yes, blacks are dysfunctional and perhaps intrinsically so. Yes, our wicked elites lie to us about their situation and they work assiduously to enable and promote their dysfunction. But we have moral obligations that we did not choose, and which were foisted upon us by the bad decisions of our ancestors. We did not choose to enslave an alien people and bring them into our midst. Our short-sighted ancestors did that. But now that they are here and among us, we have no choice but to try and live peaceably with them and to wish for their good. The first step towards peaceable living rests in the honest admission that blacks are less capable than us and that their chronic dysfunction is largely of their own making. To the extent that the left makes this honest admission impossible, they are to be opposed. But we cannot permit ourselves, out of justified anger at the wall of lies with which we are daily confronted, to depart from the truth of the Gospel which calls us to love our human brothers and sisters. We did not choose our predicament, but now that they are among us have no choice but to seek their good.
I thought I had made it abundantly clear that this discussion is not about blacks per se, or even about a subgroup of blacks per se, but about whether human beings per se can lose the image of God. I wanted to separate the question of black dysfunction and violence, which we will continue to deal with, from the question of whether a human being can lose his soul.
But since Sam has brought up the subject again, I will reply. He writes:
We did not choose our predicament, but now that they are among us have no choice but to seek their good.
To which the first answer that comes to mind is: what if blacks, as an organized community, are seeking our bad, as is the case? Must we still seek their good?
Which does not mean that we should seek blacks’ bad. But what we must do, first and foremost, is seek our own good. And that requires the complete dismantlement of the present system which unjustly rewards, flatters, and empowers blacks, and unjustly dispossesses, demonizes, and weakens whites. The only way our society can return to a decent order is that it is once again led by a moral, upright, and confident white majority.
In a re-traditionalized society, where whites live according to traditional morality and set the model for others, blacks will also be better off in the sense of being better people and having far less dysfunction than they have now. But they will also have far less cultural and political power than they have now.
James N. writes:
There is not a truth existing which I fear … or would wish unknown to the whole world.—Jefferson
Discussions of race DO bring us into dangerous territory. Dangerous on many levels—personally, socially, danger to the civil peace, and others, I’m sure.
Nothing human is alien to me.—Publius Terentius
In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.—Orwell
The issue of the divisibility of mankind into groups, and the relation those groups bear to one another, will be solved by human genome studies. Despite the retarding hand of politics, enormous discoveries have been and continue to be made in this field, and they will revolutionize the common understandings which we now hold.
But VFR is not a genetics site. Whites and Asians are fertile with blacks and have identical chromosomal architecture—all are human, if the definition of human is simply Homo sapiens. Whether the behavior of criminals is ever correctly described as “sub (i.e., non-) human is a question of philosophy and also a question of taste. Certainly the blond beast Reinhard Heydrich was recognizably human, as were his minions who carried out pogroms of inhuman character.
The question(s) about the blacks that are for discussion on VFR are questions about their social customs and group behaviors. These things are real, they are instantly recognizable to all, and they have enormous consequences for the future of our nation. Jefferson thought that nothing was more certain than that what we call integration was an impossibility. I gather that Farrakhan and his minions believe this, too.
A discussion about the genetic and hormonal aspects of these phenomena is beyond the scope of VFR, and as such should probably be left alone. As far as the rest, what better place to have the discussion than VFR?
Ben M. writes:
Perhaps pertinent Scripture concerning this possibility:
For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? (Luke 9:25)
In some translations:
For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Is a man, in losing himself, not losing his soul and losing the image of God?
Yes, that would seem to be related to the discussion. But of course, “losing one’s soul” does not mean literally and absolutely that one has lost one’s soul; it means one has cut oneself off from one’s soul in an immediate or long-term sense, not that one has destroyed one’s soul in an ultimate and metaphysical sense. At least, I assume that.
There are, I’m sure, all kinds of philosophical and theological terms to describe the varying degrees of these phenomena. I am not versed in those terms.
Ben M. writes:
Just out of curiosity, when did the word “human” become sacrosanct? It appears that to categorize someone as sub-human is a sacrilege. I did not grow up being taught that the term “human” was inviolable. Human were good, humans were bad. Some were great, others were rotten. Some were friends, others were enemies. Some were even killed in wars. There was never in my home any concept of the human as an unshatterable image. Some got saved and went to heaven, others were condemned to hell. There was no overarching concept of man or humanity that superseded individual men. As my grandfather used to put it, “The great men with spectacles on their eyes and books on their shelves worry about man and humanity; I worry boychick if you’ll find a good woman … ”
Another result of the Nazi destruction of European Jewry. The Nazis placed the Jews outside humanity. So now everyone—even right-wingers like Lydia McGrew and Matt—when they hear even a conversational, speculative reference to the idea that some people may not have the image of God, immediately translate that into the idea that entire classes of human beings are not human, which they then immediately translate into the threat of a Nazi-type Holocaust right around the corner.
Speaking as a professional philosopher, I think all of the following are extremely interesting questions, at least as worthy of discussion as most of the stuff that most of my colleagues spend most of their time discussing:
What is it to be created in “the image of God?”
What is it to possess “the image of God?”
Can a creature created in “the image of God” cease to possess that image?
What is it to be “human?”
What might it be to be “sub-human?”
Could a morally depraved human ever legitimately be described as “sub-human?” Could a non-human animal like a tiger ever legitimately be described as “sub-human?”
What is the relationship between being “human” and being morally accountable for one’s actions?
If there are any creatures legitimately describable as “sub-humans,” could they still be held morally accountable for their actions?
If there are any creatures legitimately describable as “sub-humans,” would it be any more or less morally acceptable to torture them than it is to torture humans?
And so on and so forth.
It is simply disgraceful that Lydia Mcgrew, who is married to a professional philosopher, and who has some pretensions to being a philosopher herself, refuses to confront such obviously interesting and important issues—preferring to hurl rhetorical thunderbolts at you and your readers for daring to do so.
Thank you very much.
I would just make the tinest quibble. When the discussion began, I had no notion that I was “daring” to do anything. It was simply an interesting topic that had been raised by a reader (Patrick H.) and I was addressing it. Then, to my surprise and shock, I found myself charged in precedentedly severe language with violating an ultimate moral boundary and told that I had placed my immortal soul at risk.
Lydia McGrew writes:
There are just a couple of notes I would like to make to set the record straight about our recent disagreement and the discussion at VFR.
First, I want to emphasize that my writing to you about this at all has been a result of my great affection for you. I realize that this is not apparent to you, but it is true nonetheless.
Second, and for the record, you have made several extrapolations from what I wrote that are not, in fact, what I said or what I believe. For example, you have said that my position is that you, personally, are “not suitable company for decent people.” I did not say this and do not believe this. You also said that you guess that in my opinion you are “now damned” because of your refusal to retract the various things you have said both at the object level (about subhumanity) and at the metalevel (about the appropriateness of a discussion about subhumanity). While I have certainly warned you of what I believe to be the genuine moral and spiritual peril of the situation, that is far stronger than anything that I have said or believe.
Third, I count two of your readers now who have said or implied that there is a general consensus among participants in the discussion and yourself that no one is ever actually less than human. Without going on and on documenting this (it is quite easy to demonstrate from the discussion threads themselves), I wish to note that there has been no such consensus. Quite a number of people in the discussion have either considered quite seriously the possibility or else outright asserted that some people do indeed lose the “spark” that makes them truly human. It may be comforting for some readers to believe that this is all merely metaphorical, but in fact the entire burden of the discussion has been about whether notions like people’s “being beasts” and the like are mere metaphors or whether they have some deeper reality. One reader even asked explicitly why we should assume that all human beings have a significant trait that crocodiles lack. That is by no means the only example.
Again, I continue to wish you all the best.
… I want to emphasize that my writing to you about this at all has been a result of my great affection for you. I realize that this is not apparent to you, but it is true nonetheless.
Excuse me if I don’t sense the presence of great affection in an e-mail which tells me that, for merely hosting a discussion which I happen to regard as a perfectly reasonable and legitimate discussion, I have entered “morally highly dangerous territory,” and have invited “a grave form of darkness” into my “mind and heart”; which tells me that by allowing this discussion I have “[tainted] the entire on-line community at VFR and, to some degree, those of us who have endorsed your views on other subjects”; which tell me: “It would be a legitimate question for someone to ask, having read these recent threads, why I would associate in any way with [such a site]”; and which tells me: “Those of us who blog elsewhere and who have repeatedly cited you approvingly will have to think hard about how to answer such questions now when they arise.”
So, yes, you expressed affection and concern for me. But the affection and concern were expressed in the context of an implied but very plain warning that if I do not recant or retract this discussion, (a) I have deliberately embraced that “grave form of darkness” despite your heartfelt warning; (b) I have tainted VFR in the eyes of all morally sensitive people; and (c) you and others who have previously cited my work approvingly will no longer be able to associate with me or with VFR. In short, you were threatening to banish me from whatever community you belong to if I did not do your bidding.
It’s a common event in life, that when Person A is telling Person B that he must mend his ways, he prefaces it by saying, “I’m your friend.” That statement of friendship is in fact a warning that if the Person B does not change his ways, Person A will no longer be his friend. And that is the way I read your e-mail that is posted at the top of this entry.
Second, as to whether I was correct in characterizing your position as that you think I am “now damned,” I think that when you tell a person that he has entered “morally highly dangerous territory” and has invited “a grave form of darkness into [his] mind and heart,” and that if he doesn’t recant of that darkness he will be rejected by the community of decent people, that certainly sounds as if you are saying that he has committed such a grave sin that he is in danger of damnation.
If you wanted me to believe that you were not telling me that I was in danger of damnation if I did not yield to you on this issue, perhaps you should have used less loaded language.
Further, since you had to realize that I was not going to yield to your demand that I retract an entire VFR discussion, you were in effect telling me, not just that I am in danger of damnation, but that I am damned.
And if we posit that you were not literally saying that I am in danger of damnation, how would we characterize your statements about me? At the very least, you were saying that, having “defiantly” rejected your urgent call for me to recant, I am a person who is unrepentantly harboring a grave form of moral darkness in himself and who is using this blog to spread that grave moral darkness to other people, and who therefore deserves to be rejected by all moral people. This is what you expect me to see as your expression of “great affection” for me.
Patrick H. writes:
The only reason you have been subjected to these really outlandish criticisms is that you dared to allow a discussion about the moral and intellectual failings of black people as black people to happen at VfR. This is of course taboo.
Hence the statements from your critics about how it is unacceptable even to consider as an open question whether “some category of people [are] literally subhuman”, whether “some class of people—people here and now in this world—are subhuman”, and whether “some people do indeed lose the ‘spark’ that makes them truly human”. Which people, pray tell?
That you explicitly shut down that specific thread of the discussion is irrelevant. You violated the taboo by allowing the subject to be spoken of at all. When a taboo is violated, the transgressor instantly becomes “unclean”, he is ‘tainted”, and so are those who transgressed with him. The violator and his community must be warned in no uncertain terms of the eternal consequences of their actions, and if they persist, they must be shunned.
Not for the conclusions drawn. You concluded quite firmly that blacks are human. My comment that began the original discussion stated “as a traditionalist theistic reactionary I find the idea that blacks lack the imago dei repugnant”. The crimethink was in giving the question any consideration at all.
All of the verbiage about imago dei and all of the quotes from the Bible and all the thoughtful comments about souls and humanity and damnation and the possibility and significance of soul-loss, all of that stuff was of no interest to your two most prominent critics. (One even said outright that she was not interested in a theological discussion, as if theology isn’t central to the entire debate!)
But you see, there is no taboo against talking about the possibility that people, including entire classes of people, might have lost their souls, might have become somehow less than human. Neither of your critics would have protested if the discussion had been about that class of people called psychopaths. No. It was the conjunction of “black” and “less than human” that was the red flag. That was the breaking of the taboo. Not the identification of blacks and subhumanity, but the simple contiguity of those terms. And to the magical thinking that drives taboo-enforcers, that was enough. That was all they needed.
I am afraid that you have been a victim of the same kind of PC-driven intellectual ambush that got Derbyshire canned from NRO and that Greek hurdler girl booted off her Olympic team. And the ambush was executed by conservatives!
It’s too bad that some conservatives seem to have taken it upon themselves to do the left’s dirty work for them. But it is yet more evidence of how deeply many conservatives have internalized the left’s world-view. No wonder they keep losing.
On the bright side, at least they can’t get you fired from your own website.
But if your explanation is correct (that it is the black angle that has my critics so exercised), why did they continue attacking the “can men lose the image of God” topic after I had explicitly removed the question of blacks per se from the discussion and said that we would only discuss whether human beings per se can lose the image of God?
That continued attack, by the way, made me feel that Matt is not acting in entire good faith in this debate. In the first thread in this discussion, he, in an attempt to “reach” me, had boiled down the topic to: “Golly, just what is wrong with the idea that a subpopulation of blacks are subhuman?” and said that treating this topic as legitimate would “reflect very poorly on VFR as a community.” When he put it in those terms, I agreed that I did not want to have a discussion on that topic and would not continue that discussion, but that I continued to regard the larger question of whether humans per se can lose the image of God as a legitimate question. Matt never acknowledged my concession. Even though he had boiled down what he felt was objectionable about the discussion to the topic whether a subpopulation of blacks may be subhuman, and I had agreed that that was objectionable, he just continued his attack on the larger topic. I thought that wasn’t right.
I would also like to say that the reason I have allowed Matt to have such power in this discussion is that he has been a highly respected commenter since VFR’s earliest days, then he went away for some years and then returned in the last year or so. So I took his criticisms seriously and allowed him to keep attacking VFR in a way that I would not have allowed to other commenters. I have to say that I feel he has abused the privilege that was given him.
Also, in the second thread in this discussion, I had written a comment characterizing Matt’s argument in a certain way and he wrote to me privately and pointed out that I had misstated his position. I told him that I saw his point, and I removed the offending comment. He never wrote back acknowledging my concession. He just continued his attacks. So I say, as I said once before, that Matt has been in robo-cop mode in this debate rather than conducting himself like a thinking person.
Patrick H. replies:
For one, you allowed the discussion to happen at all. The taboo enforcers want the whole topic made completely forbidden. The most powerful taboos cannot be talked about at all.
And two, your very first response (where you indicated that you shared my troubled reaction to the savage behaviour and attitudes from a significant portion of the black community) was a direct violation of the taboo. By talking about the forbidden topic in your first response, you publicly violated the taboo. By indicating in the comment that you had given the taboo a brief moment of consideration, you became a transgressor twice over. You became doubly unclean, tainted in word and in thought.
It was that first comment from you that set them off. I think if you re-read their follow-on comments, you will see that they never stopped reacting to that first comment. No shutting down of threads by you, no qualification or clarification from you made any difference to them. Any further comment on your part that was not a retraction or apology was simply another wave of the red flag.
You opened the forbidden door in that very first comment. And that, as they say, was that.
You said, “Matt has been in robo-cop mode in this debate rather than conducting himself like a thinking person.”
That is exactly right. His reaction to your taboo violation was that of a policeman trying to halt a criminal activity. Hence the mechanical, robotic repetition of the same point. Like the policeman repeatedly issuing the same command to an unruly crowd, his intent was to control, not communicate. As long as the discussion continued at all, his intent was not being realized. So he kept repeating himself, hoping that eventually everybody would get the message and shut the you-know-what up.
Sage McLaughlin writes:
Ventuil’s description of Lydia McGrew as someone “who is married to a professional philosopher, and who has some pretensions to being a philosopher herself,” is a calculated, gratuitous attempt to belittle her and I won’t let it pass. Mrs. McGrew has not earned, by her actual scholarly work, any such snide expression of contempt, even from a “professional philosopher,” and it is worth nothing that Ventuil would make such a remark in the context of condemning her for offering nothing but “rhetorical thunderbolts.” As his post contained no real substantive content on the subject under discussion, but plenty of personal invective, it was a cheap and hypocritical thing for him to have said (besides its being simply false, as any fair-minded reading of McGrew’s contributions to the discussion will attest).
I am thoroughly turned off by the personal ugliness and, indeed, the silliness of such commentary. (I note that you have confined your comments to what Lydia has actually said, rather than Lydia’s personal qualifications or “pretensions,” and that at least redounds to your credit.)
I agree that Ventuil’s remark was an illegitimate ad hominem. I should have edited it out or changed the wording before I posted his comment.
This entry has reached maximum length and the discussion is being continued in a new entry. Also, Lydia McGrew replies to Patrick H. in that new entry.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 03, 2012 10:43 AM | Send