Matthew Sanders: Thoroughly Modern Silly: Modernists recycle philosophies, dress them up and shout down opponents

Published: Saturday, Jan. 18 2014 6:10 p.m. MST

3) Reality versus aspiration

In contrast to those who suggest we embrace everything new, some declare the status quo must simply be accepted as “reality.” I refuse. So have people of conscience throughout history. The great and heroic do not simply capitulate when a self-declared consensus wills it. With such an attitude, would the Pilgrims have sailed, Ghandi fasted, or Lincoln persisted? Why should current circumstances become the master of our future?

The great human saga is full of people aspiring to something higher. Trying to shame others into simply accepting some “new reality” defies not only the course of human events, but ignores the soul’s yearning for greatness.

So much of what man builds and creates and does and says and sings and writes elevates and inspires. Yet modernists argue that we lower expectations and accept the reality of man’s depravity. But why must we accept societal slouching as inevitable?

4) Mislabeled

Labels sting. Labels silence. Which is why they are used as blow horns to shout down and shame opposition. Proponents and opponents on sensitive topics magnify the pain by using rhetoric to frame judgment before dialogue even begins.

As a graduate student, I recall leveling a diverging argument surrounding abortion in an ethics class at Harvard. Rather than others engaging in dialogue, I was simply met with a retort of being “close-minded.” Amazed, several classmates approached me later and explained that they hadn’t previously heard a compelling argument for pro-life throughout their education. The irony made me chuckle.

Modernists and traditionalists use labels with equal chilling effect on dialogue. “Radical” and “extremist” are bandied about by both sides. Modernists seem to favor “sophisticated” when describing anything edgy, “bigot” for anyone who disagrees, and “hateful” for anyone who believes differently.

The latter two are viciously and regularly used to shout down dialogue on the role of the traditional family, which marginalizes substantiated concerns over the safety of children, the sanctity of marriage as an institution, and the threat to religious liberty itself. To ignore these concerns as legitimate dissent is both narrow and presumptuous.

Still, modernists revert to age-old, bully tactics to silence opposition by labeling anyone who disagrees with their own declared consensus as “out of touch” or “behind the times.” Such intolerance threatens free expression of conscience in the public square.

For generations, secularists and modernists have prophesied the demise of faith, to both their disappointment and to the discredit of their would be soothsayers. The human soul is resilient in its yearning for something beyond this life. And while the preaching of excessiveness is well within the rights of the modernist creed, their arguments are neither sophisticated nor new, and some are downright silly.

Matthew Sanders studied economics at Brigham Young University and business and government at Harvard University. He is a general manager of publisher solutions at Deseret Digital Media. msanders@deseretnews.com or @Sanders_Matt

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