Thus far we’ve looked at how God does care about Politics and He expects us to be engaged. We looked at how the best candidates are going to be those whose platforms take the same approach as the one our Founders took when they defeated the most powerful empire on earth and built a political system founded on Biblical Absolutes.
In Part II we examined the difference between being smart and being wise in the way we process the headlines and the media that we consume.
This week we continue our discussion on being discerning when it comes to the way in which current events are presented by looking at a series of tactics that are sometimes used when you’re listening to someone who doesn’t have something to say as much as they have something to hide.
II) Meet Saul Alinski
“Rules for Radicals” is a book authored by Saul Alinski, a “Community Organizer” that made a name for himself by developing a series of tactics designed to agitate and coerce decision makers to the point where they would be willing to make concessions that they wouldn’t consider otherwise.
It’s not wrong to be persistent or even shrewd in the way you obtain justice from an authority who is neither compassionate nor just (Matt 10:16; Lk 18:1-8).
But anything done in the absence of wisdom (Prov 9:10) translates to something evil.
- Unity becomes Corruption (1 Cor 1:10)
- Love becomes Neglect (Prov 19:18; Heb 12:7)
- Compassion becomes a Subsidy (Prov 23:9; 26:4-8)
- Peace becomes Indifference (Jud 1:19-26; Prov 6:10-11)
- …and Change becomes Destruction (Ex 32:1; Jud 2:10-11; 1 Kings 12:28-30)
Saul Alinski aligned himself with noble causes, but his methods and his rhetoric betrayed an unhealthy commitment to the acquisition of power more so than the realization of principle.
You see that reflected in the dedication he wrote at the beginning of his book:
Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and how is to know where mythology leaves off and history beings – or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom – Lucifer
In his book, Reveille for Radicals, Alinski said that all radicals like himself “want to advance from the jungle of laissez-faire capitalism…They hope for a future where the means of production will be owned by all of the people.”1
This was the goal. It wasn’t the elimination of Racism or Poverty as much as it was acquiring the needed power to facilitate a Socialist approach to government.
There are many informed commentaries on the fallacies of Socialism that rightfully underscore everything from the lethal consequences of a Socialist doctrine to the economic chaos of artificial pricing.
But there’s one aspect of Socialism that often gets missed which reveals it as something that is diametrically opposed to Scripture.
Socialists generally categorize a population under two headings:
- the rich, who are corrupt and
- the poor who are oppressed
Those who are not where they want to be financially are, in some cases, drawn to this paradigm because in the mind of the Socialist, among the poor you have only noble and hardworking individuals who have been unfairly victimized by a flawed system.
This is an attractive option for the person who has made some bad choices because if there are no fools and there no fiends among the “downtrodden,” then they cannot be held accountable for their actions and they bear no responsibility for their choices.
But Scripture is heavily populated with verses that contrast the success of those who are diligent and the difficulties faced by those who insist on being foolish.
Proverbs 24: 30-34 says:
I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; 31 thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. 32 I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: 33 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—34 and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man. (Prov 24:30-34)
On the other hand, it says in Proverbs 10:4:
Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. (Prov 10:4)
While there are situations that can be categorized as tragic and overwhelming, you also have scenarios that are intentionally exaggerated in order to make an irresponsible disposition appear reasonable:
A sluggard says, “There’s a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!” 14 As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed. 15 A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth. (Prov 26:13-15)
Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. (Ecc 11:4)
In the context of Socialism, there’s no acknowledgement of how poor decision making can contribute to any one of a number of difficult situations.
Victor Davis Hanson is a professor emeritus of Classics at California State University, Fresno, the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in classics and military history at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and visiting professor at Hillsdale College. He had this to say about the way in which more and more young Americans are gravitating to Socialism:
Many young people claim to be socialists but are instead simply angry that they were unable to afford a home, a new car, or other nice things, or start a family in their “woke” urban neighborhoods during a decade of muted economic growth (2008–17) and high unemployment. In college, they were not warned about the dangers of statism and collectivism, nor given the skills to look at the world empirically. The combination of nonmarketable degrees and skills with burdensome debt helped alter an entire generation’s customs, habits, and thinking.2
Compare the way in which the perspective of someone who has a very limited resume, yet feels entitled to those things that have to be earned and not simply obtained – how does that line up with God’s View as expressed in Proverbs 24:27?
Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house. (Prov 24:27)
Typically, a person’s situation is going to be characterized by things that constitute both personal flaws as well as challenging circumstances (Jn 16:33; Rom 3:23). To assert the idea that every difficulty you contend with is due to a systemic restriction and you bear no responsibility whatsoever for those choices that contributed to the problem – not only is that a nonsensical philosophy, but it also violates what God says in Galatians 6:7:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Gal 6:7)
In short, Socialism cannot be discussed let alone deployed without minimizing the way in which God expects individuals to take responsibility for their actions (Rom 14:12). However convenient or challenging your environment may be, Scripture makes it clear that you have available to you every Resource that you need to rise above those things that would otherwise limit you or tear you down (2 Cor 9:8; Jas 1:13).
Whatever the evil may be that stands between you and your ambition – be it the most desperate desire to survive or a noble passion to succeed – because you are not alone (Matt 28:20) and He promises that all things work together for the good (Rom 8:28) – you cannot blame anything or anyone for having yielded to the temptation to stop striving (Jn 16:33) without accusing God of having stopped caring (Rom 8:32).
It is God Who is in control and it is His Purpose and Power in and through a person that makes the difference both individually (Rom 12:1-2) and collectively (Ps 33:12; 84:11).
Still, the temptation to take the wheel from your Heavenly Father and insist that it’s your turn to drive is alluring despite the fact that it is toxic (Prov 14:12). This is why Socialism appeals despite the Truth it ignores and the lives it has taken.
And this is why you want to be aware of what’s going on and what’s being said. This is why you want to Pop the Hood, Keep Your Balance and Kick the Tires. It’s also why you want to be aware of the some of the more frequently used tactics deployed by those who have something to hide more than they have something to say.
This is where Saul Alinski comes in. His book, Rules for Radicals details 13 tactics that can be used to get your way by virtue of the manner in which they extort, embarrass and manipulate your opponent.
In today’s discussion, we’re going to build on some of Alinski’s rules, not for the sake of glorifying them but for the sake of exposing them. And then we’re going to get more detailed in how Alinski’s approach is manifested in the media according to five easy to remember and recognize tactics we’re going to call the Progressive Pentagon.
Here we go…
III) The Progressive Pentagon
There are five tactics you can be listening for when you’re being told by someone that they have a point, when in fact they’ve got something to hide.
I call it the “Perspective Pentagon” because, taken together, they serve as the way in which the Left both defends its stance and attacks its opponents.
It’s bogus, but it’s brilliant.
Here’s the five tactics we’re going to look at:
- They spend more time talking about labels, mobs and crowds than they do a name, a person and a choice.
- They spend more time attacking their opponent’s character than they do discussing their opponent’s content
- They spend more time pretending to be hurt than they do proving that they’re right.
- They spend more time trying to appear honest than they do telling the truth.
- They spend more time defending bad decisions and demonizing personal responsibility than they do applauding wise choices and holding people accountable for their actions.
Let’s start by looking at “Mobs…”
You can conceal a person’s lack of judgment by presenting them as part of a supposedly virtuous group.
You can do the same thing, only in reverse, by making a sinister collective appear innocent by associating them with an honorable person or intention.
Both approaches are part of a heinous tactic that seeks to assign whole demographics a specific morality, regardless of the individuals who do or do not qualify…
…and it’s often used by that person who has something to hide.
God doesn’t look at your appearance, He looks at your heart. So, however you would try to elevate or justify yourself by insisting that your membership in a particular tribe, company or movement is sufficient to validate your status as a moral individual, those efforts will not only fall short in the sight of God, they also tend to fail in the marketplace as well (Pro 1:32, 3:35; 10:10; Gal 6:7-8).
Jews in the time of Christ saw themselves as justified before God because of their last name (Dt 14:1-2). As a result, they felt comfortable being critical of others, despite the fact that they were just as guilty before God as those they were criticizing. Paul takes all of that apart in Romans 2:17-29. He summarizes everything beginning in verse 28:
A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. (Rom 2:28-29)
It’s not about a label, a mob or a crowd. Ultimately, the credibility of your platform is going to be measured according to the character and conduct of the individual in question and not the assumed morality of the collective.
In his book, Rules for Radicals, Alinski documents Rule #13 as: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” What you’re doing here is identifying a particular individual as the one who’s “responsible” for whatever the problem may be. Once you have your target, you focus all of your attack on them as opposed to anyone else who may bear some responsibility. That’s how you “freeze” them. And the one thing you want to keep in mind when selecting your target is that they must qualify as an intuitive personification of the problem you’re trying to solve. You make them the “poster child” for your cause and by giving your campaign a face and a specific behavior or quality to despise, you give your platform emotional momentum that draws people in because of the way they want to be perceived as compassionate and justifiably indignant.
Jesus of Nazareth…
His hometown wasn’t especially noteworthy and some saw that as one more reason to doubt His Authenticity as the Messiah.
Even when Nathanael was skeptical. When first told about Jesus, Nathanael said:
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. (Jn 1:46)
In addition, Jesus was never referred to as “Joseph’s son.” Rather, He was always referred to as “Mary’s son…”
Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. (Mk 6:3)
Reason being is that, in the mind of His detractors, He was an illegitimate child which made Him all the less likely to be “Divine.”
Christ’s critics spent more time attempting to discredit Him than they did actually listening to Him. And the more people that were drawn to His Message, the more the Pharisees resolved to attack His Character, even to the point where they made Him out to be an enemy of the state.
In Part IV we’re going to conclude our series by wrapping up the remainder of the “Progressive Pentagon” as well as take apart some examples where you can hear these tactics being deployed.
In the end, it’s not about winning elections or being overly cynical as much as it’s about being aware and being wise when it comes to the way in which we process current events.
- Sanford Horwitt, Let Them Call Me a Rebel: Saul Alinski, His Life and Legacy (New York: Vintage Books, 1992); Saul Alinski, Reveille for Radicals, p25, books.google .com
- Hoover Institution, “Our Socialist Future?”, Victor Davis Hanson, https://www.hoover.org/research/our-socialist-future-0, accessed February 16, 2022
- Andreas Kluth, “Why Germany Will Never Be Europe’s Leader,” Bloomberg Opinion, April 29, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-04-30/coronavirus-crisis-why-germany-will-never-be-europe-s-leader; Jennifer Rankin and Daniel Boffey, “Tensions Mount between EU Members Ahead of Budget Talks,” The Guardian, February 19, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/19/tensions-mount-between-eu-members-ahead-of-budget-talks; Alberto Alesina and Francesco Giavazzi, “Will Coronavirus Kill the European Union?,” City Journal, March 27, 2020, https://www.city-journal.org/covid-19-european-union.