The United States of America was founded upon Christian principles, and throughout the history of our nation our Christian heritage has been respected by our government officials, until the middle of the Twentieth Century. Since that time Christianity has come under increasing attack from government officials at all levels, but particularly from those in our national government. To put this trend in perspective, we invited to our conference Dr. Frank Wright who is the president of the National Religious Broadcasters. As such he is on the firing line in the battle to protect freedom of expression for American Christians. For 25 years he worked with the ministry of Dr. James Kennedy. Dr. Wright's topic at our conference was "The Challenge of Government" (watch).
Step #1: Ignore Your Viewpoint
The first step in the Politics of Opposition is a simple one, and that's quite simply to just ignore your viewpoint. They won't even condescend to acknowledge your idea. In fact they believe that the very act of acknowledging you would give your position more recognition than it deserves. And so, you are summarily and rather haughtily dismissed. We see Atheists practice this principally as it relates to believers, dismissing them altogether and not even being willing to entertain their ideas.
Step #2: Maginalize Your Opinion
Step two is to marginalize your opinion by characterizing it as being out of the mainstream. How many times in Washington D.C. have I heard the word "mainstream?" As far I can tell that stream flows pretty far to the left in Washington D.C. It's not down the middle.
Here your opponents will do something different than ignore you. They sort of shake their heads by saying only those on the fringes of the debate hold the opinion that you hold. In other words, you are way out there on the margin and not worthy to even be really recognized. And so, they just label you as a fringe type of a person and accompany that with the appropriate winks and nods and all sorts of condescending looks. They'll say, "These people are just a little extreme. That's what you Christians all are. Do you know that you're an extremist?"
He was condemned for saying this, but I love Barry Goldwater's comment all those years ago in which he said, "Extremism in pursuit of virtue is no vice." So, extremism in pursuit of truth is not vice.
Step #3: Attack the Factual Basis of Your Opinion
The third step in the Politics of Opposition after having tried to ignore you and then having tried to marginalize you, they'll then attack the factual basis of your opinion. They'll declare, "You've got your facts all wrong." Recognizing that they can no longer ignore you or marginalize you, they will begin to contend with you. However, they will not contend over the perspective you're advancing, but over the foundation on which it rests. So, they are going to say to themselves, "If we can destroy or discredit the factual foundation, then your viewpoint that you are trying to advance goes along with it." In this way your antagonists hope to argue that your stance is not worth considering because it's just factually way off base and therefore it's not worthy of consideration.
Step #4: Dismiss Your Ideas
Step one is to ignore. Step two is to marginalize. And, step three is to attack the factual bases of your idea. But, when the efforts to undermine your factual basis begin to fail, they begin to challenge you in a different way — by dismissing you and by dismissing your idea as though the debate over it is over. The opposition will declare the matter has been resolved and you're on the losing side.
With the wave of their hand they invoke that favorite mantra, "The debate is over in this matter. Don't you know?" Here are some of the other words they will use to accompany this dismissal: "history has shown," "experts agree," "choose your experts," "it's now beyond dispute," and "this matter has been long settled." That's the rhetoric of dismissal. They'll declare, "These things that you bring forward are from of old and they've already been dismissed and discredited a very long time ago." So, they attempt to dismiss your ideas. Their too subtle point being: "That you are a member of the latter day Flat Earth Society and that your ideas are so out of touch and have long been discredited so we can ignore them."
Step #5: Ad Hominem Attacks
Having declared the debate over and yet still seeing your persistent efforts to advance truth in the marketplace of ideas, your foes will eventually draw the next arrow from their quiver. Here begins the ad hominem attacks. Ad hominem means, "against the man." These are the personal attacks.
You've brought your ideas forward and they've attempted to ignore them, to marginalize them, to attack the factual bases, and to dismiss the ideas as the debate being already over. Now, they are coming after you.
These personal attacks are shaped like this initially: "no serious person believes that," "all reasonable people agree," and "reputable experts are of the same opinion." You get the flavor of that? What they mean by this is that you are not a person to be taken seriously. You're not a reasonable person. In fact, you are a little disreputable. Well, all Christians are in that class, aren't we? We are in the class of the disreputable, according to the eyes of the unbelieving world.
By the way, these attacks generally begin with sort of a rhetorical flare using the kind of phrases that I just used, But they quickly descend into rank name calling, casting aspersions on your character and your integrity and even pelting you with epithets. So much for their greatest mantra — tolerance! They have very little tolerance for us Christians. How mean-spirited the nature of these attacks are once they begin.
These personal attacks are all designed to accomplish one thing — to divert attention away from your viewpoint and to you. They realize they are losing ground on the idea you're advancing, and so they try to undermine your personal credibility.
In the next part on the challenge of government, Dr. Wright explains the Politics of Opposition's strategies six and seven.