A Case Study in Rebuttal
Let me warn you in the first sentence, due to length this may take more than one, even several, columns to address to the level it deserves. But it does seem to me that at least one of the worthy purposes of my writing here is to try to equip you to reply to our critics. One of the most difficult challenges is when you encounter the academic who proposes to drown you in high minded discussions designed to impress the reader that this is such an intellectual giant that his words carry persuasive weight. The problem with this is that it serves to disguise that Mr. Academic is AT LEAST as invested in an agenda and a preferred social outcome as anyone else. This is not a cold, dispassionate objective analysis, but a polemic designed to advance an agenda. As such, he’s not above massaging the “facts” or “truth” in order to manipulate your takeaway view. But I hope here to illustrate that such a one can be opposed, even by one of the lowly non-academics, if you know your facts.
Our Case Study here is one Denny Burk. Burk is a “Professor of Biblical Studies and Ethics” at Boyce College which is in turn affiliated with the Southern Baptist Conventions Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. That makes him a colleague, associate, co writer and possibly protege of Dr. Albert Mohler who heads Southern and is one of the SBCs leading culture warriors. Burk has a bit of a fetish for trying to destroy “transgenderism” in our culture and never misses an opportunity to condescend to those of us dealing with the condition. Before I get into the meat of his latest polemic effort, there are a few things you need to know.
First, he loves the Social Conservative Culture Warrior (SCSW) rhetorical tactics and employs them freely. One of these is to find some obscure academic publication or discussion and then put it in front of his readers as something “liberals are trying to impose” on right thinking people. Would you concede based on my writings here that I’m tuned in to the cultural discussions and well informed on what’s going on with the effort for trans equality? I think so. So here’s Burk trying to build his whole argument on the advancement of something called “expressive individualism” and I had to look it up, literally, to have any idea what he was on about. I’ve never heard ANY activist on behalf of human rights in general or trans rights in particular mention the phrase. Never even seen it discussed in any context before. But Burk would have us believe it is sweeping our culture in a title wave of….something…that’s going to destroy our common cultural values.
That, too, is one of their tactics – adversarial positioning. This is not “we need to thoughtfully consider the implications of this philosophy” but rather it’s, “Destroy us all!! Destroy us all!!” coached in refined sounding academic rhetoric. It’s just a new term, of course, following on the heals of “moral relativism” and “secular humanism” and “post-modernism” – just throw the sheep some academic term and say, in however many words, “Destroy us all!!” and cash your paycheck.
Oh, and in the same vein, everything is a “crisis”, gender affirming surgery is “mutilation” and supporting your child is “abusive” and so forth. By the subtle (to the eyes of the target reader who can be manipulated) use of what are in reality not academic words but inflammatory language, people like Burk do not so much inform as propagandize their readers. Which is what makes them dangerous to our rights. The give the cover of legitimacy to what is, at heart, a theological conclusion wearing the mask of an academic argument.
I think that I’ll take the opportunity for a natural break here, before actually addressing the two articles that caught my eye. If you’d like to read them in advance of my next post to familiarize yourself with the points under discussion, one can be found at The Federalist, and the other at the Catholic blog Public Discourse – the later a bit of irony since comments are not allowed and contrary posts are unwelcome so wherein lies the “discourse”? On the other hand, the comments at the former are a cesspool so only engage with caution.
Image by: Joesph Spurgeon