Full disclosure: I consider everyone who stormed the U.S. Capitol a domestic terrorist as defined by article 802 of the Patriot Act, and as such they need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This article was written to shed light on a dark moment in our nation’s history, and to try and understand the rationale behind those who falsely believed they were justified in their actions.
The Logic of January 6th
- If P, then Q.
- Therefore, Q.
This formula is known as a syllogism. It was developed by Aristotle when he formulated his rules of logic. This particular syllogism is referred to as a modus ponens, or in Latin “the mode of affirming.” The letters ‘P’ and ‘Q’ can be thought of like ‘X’ or ‘Y’ in a mathematical formula in that they are variables, but formally they represent propositions — statements about reality that you can either accept or reject. In the first premise of this syllogism, ‘P’ is the antecedent, whereas ‘Q’ is the consequent. When you put them together, the proposition of ‘P’ is supposed to entail ‘Q’ or that ‘Q’ is a consequence of ‘P.’ If you accept ‘P,’ then logic demands that you also accept ‘Q.’ The events of January 6th, of the U.S. Capitol being invaded by a mob, have shown us that ‘Q’ in their case was we must storm the U.S. Capitol, and so this begs the question: what was their ‘P’? I am going to call it the core narrative, such that the syllogism can be phrased as follows:
- If the core narrative is true, then we must storm the U.S. Capitol.
- The core narrative is true.
- Therefore, we must storm the U.S. Capitol.
In its simplest terms, that is the logic of January 6th. Technically, the argument is valid, and so if the premises are true, then the argument is sound. But is it? One measure of soundness that philosophers use is to analyze the necessary conditions for each proposition, which is just a technical way of saying the checklist that a given proposition needs to check before it can be accepted. Below, I am going to attempt to conduct such an analysis as favorably and as sympathetically as I can to make the argument sound, in order to give you, the reader of this article, some insight into why the events of January 6th transpired. I have broken down the core narrative into a series of plot points:
i. We need to make America great again.
Globally, America is one of the most prosperous nations on the Earth, and there are opportunities for personal prosperity in America that you cannot find elsewhere. But for some reason, the average American does not ‘feel’ this prosperity. There are plenty of polls that suggest half of all American households are living paycheck-to-paycheck, that college graduates are saddled with student loan debt, that once-mighty industrial cities have abandoned America by outsourcing manufacturing, but who cares about all that when the stock market is on the up and up, right? It is easy to see a disconnect between the Dow and the Cow, that the realities on Wall Street do not necessarily convey what the reality is for Main Street, so to speak.
So who is to blame? Development of new technology such as robotic automation or the internet? The fat cat industrialists? The globalists who just want cheaper labor? The board of executives who just care about getting their return-on-investment? Illegal immigrants or seasonal migrant workers who displace domestic labor? The consumers who are unwilling to pay more for made-in-America products? No. It is the politicians who let all of it happen, it is their fault good and decent Americans are not feeling the prosperity our nation is known for around the world.
So who is going to stand up to these politicians? The electorate that put them in office and could vote them out? Of course not. It is a new President who will. But not just any President. This President is going to be different. He is going to tell us how it is, and he will not care if he is being politically incorrect or insensitive. He is going stand up to D.C. bureaucrats and give them a big middle finger. He is going to whip them into shape and make them listen to Main Street again. He is going to drain the swamp, end the kick-backs from special interest groups, and establish term limits so that the stench of career politicians who have used their office to serve themselves can be cleared from the rarefied air of the U.S. Capitol. There is no other President who has the balls to say or do these things, which is why it can only be one man in particular. This President’s name is Donald Trump, and if you vote for him, it means you are voting to make America great again.
ii. We need to win The Culture War.
It is clear when you do a quick survey of post-war American history, our culture has become increasingly progressive as opposed to conservative. But what are we generally progressing towards? What is it that generally needs conserving? These political attitudes have resulted in a Culture War (Hunter, 1991) over the soul of America.
The thesis of progressive politics is that the basis of our society is the individual, and that the government ought to be egalitarian (that all individuals deserve the same rights and need to be treated equally under the law). The progressive person is someone who sees tension between our current set of laws and their thesis. Of course from the perspective of an 18th century American, every 21st century American is progressive because we voted to expand Constitutional rights to black people and women, especially when it comes to the issue of suffrage. It is not as though conservative people are against these things per se, rather they are skeptical of the future that a progressive movement would create if left unchecked.
The thesis of conservative politics is that the basis of our society is the family, and that the government ought to be utilitarian (that we should focus on the greatest good for the greatest number of people). The conservative person is worried that if you break down the family, then society will follow, and so progressive politics are a threat to society itself. As for seeking the greatest good, conservative politics tend to prefer policies that favor organizations who provide utility to society, such as families, schools, businesses, and charitable groups (mostly notably the Church). Where a conflict arises with a progressive person on this front is in how these organizations interface with individuals in providing goods and services, and the extent to which an individual has certain entitlements and protections that ought to be afforded by these organizations.
I am overly generalizing both sides of the Culture War, but for the purposes of the core narrative, it is conservatives who are privileged over progressives. The hot-button issues of our day, such as the economy, government spending, immigration, abortion, and self-identification rights are debated between the Republican Party (which is mostly conservative) and the Democratic Party (which is mostly progressive). And so the general rationale is that if you want conservatism to win the Culture War, then you need to vote Republican from the top of the ballot all the way down. Given that Donald Trump is a Republican, it follows from this rationale that you need to vote for him, so we can make America great again by winning the Culture War!
iii. We need to protect the Trump administration.
Every war has its armies, and every army has its general. When it comes to the Culture War, our general is Donald Trump. Remember, only he can say and do the things necessary to make America great again. Only he can win the Culture War for us. And so we must protect his administration at all costs. It does not matter what he does in his private life. It does no matter what he says on Twitter, even if it was offensive. Besides, the fake news media blows everything out of proportion anyway. All that matters is that the Trump administration remains in power, so that we can defeat the progressives and win the Culture War.
iv. Donald Trump is telling the truth.
From the time he announced he was running for President, Donald Trump has been telling us how it really is, even the ugly truth at times, like China beating us in trade. He has also called out the news media for being exactly what it is — fake — because they distort the truth. And so if Donald Trump is telling us now that the election was rigged, that there are systemic anomalies with the election process, that cheaters are being allowed to cheat, that illegal votes are distorting the true count, then we have to believe him. Donald Trump is the President of the United States after all, and so if we cannot take him seriously, then who can we trust in our government? The politicians who have been lying to us for years!? Absolutely not.
v. We have a duty to keep our Republic intact.
If the President said the election was stolen from him, then Joe Biden is by definition an enemy of the State. Anyone who supports his transition to power is supporting an anti-Constitutional effort, which can only mean the worst is yet to come for our nation. In order to avoid secession and to maintain the integrity of our Republic, we need to exhaust every Constitutional pathway available to us to challenge the election results and to prove our case. Now more than ever we need to stand up for the truth, and stand up for the Constitution. We cannot let others tear this country apart!
vi. The system has failed us.
The courts, media outlets, and even other Republicans are not seeing the truth that we see for whatever reason… most likely because they do not possess the strength and courage to face the truth like we have. Although it is not surprising that these people are not on our side, we would have preferred to handle things lawfully and orderly. We will do what we must from here on out, for the good of the nation.
vii. We have to take matters into our own hands.
Like all the great patriots who fought for this nation’s freedom many years ago, we must now fight. We have a moral obligation to make sure the United States of America survives this false election, and if that means we have to make some noise and do something drastic in order to get people to listen to us, then so be it. We must organize ourselves, and present a unified front to stop the steal and make sure the Trump administration remains in power.
viii. Trump said he is with us.
At the “Save America” Rally, our President told us that we need to fight, that we need to go down to the U.S. Capitol, that we need make our voices heard, that we need to save our democracy, that we need to be bold and brave, that we cannot allow people to illegally take over our country, that we need to make history! Therefore…
The Reality of the Core Narrative
Human beings are captivated by narratives, because narratives have a way of helping you see the truth, to connect the dots so to speak. But an epistemic problem with narratives is that more often than not they only capture a partial truth or a certain kind of truth, they do not help us see the whole truth. Related to this problem is that the truth we do see gives us an internal green light to think and feel rational and justified in our beliefs, and if we act on those beliefs, we can tell ourselves that our actions are justified because we know we are on the side of truth. But what if our narrative is wrong?
Although it takes a lot of intellectual courage to admit this: sometimes we believe a half-true story because it is what we want to be wholly-true, even when we recognize there are gaps or inconsistencies in the story we are trusting. When you only look at one side of an issue, or only get your information from one side, then your narratives are going to be formed by that one perspective. And so by design, your narratives will only be half-true.
When we have to courage to admit that we rely on half-true narratives to form our judgments and basis for action, we should also have the courage to caution ourselves against making judgments and taking actions that are extraordinary and extreme. The reality of the core narrative is just that — it is a half-truth, promoted by only one perspective, that has led to an extraordinary and extreme view of what is actually happening.
The Reality of the Conclusion
Taken entirely by itself, the call-to-action we must storm the U.S. Capitol is rather extraordinary and extreme. What would it take for you to consider taking that action? As a veteran of our armed forces who has sworn an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, it is nightmarish to imagine the circumstances that would have to be in place in order for me to treat my fellow Americans as domestic enemies. Whatever those circumstances would be, they would have to be extraordinary and extreme enough for me to be willing to defend the Constitution with all necessary force. Now if I was only working with the core narrative, I would understandably be led to a point where the circumstances necessitating violence against the U.S. Capitol might be considered, but only after all lesser or intermediate actions had been exhausted.
If perhaps multiple independent news outlets were reporting election irregularities, voter fraud, cases of vote tampering, manipulation of election officials, widely unsupervised vote counting, and there were a majority of both Republicans and Democrats making calls to repudiate the election, and state and federal judges across many courts were drawing the same conclusions… storming the U.S. Capitol to keep our democracy intact would make sense on some level, but that level would be a very low one. What would make better sense would be other ways to conduct a peaceful transition of power, such as letting Congress or the Supreme Court determine who the next President should be.
How Can Christians Respond to This Logic?
As a pastor I have had to continually remind myself that the Church abides, it does not take sides — even during chaotic and tumultuous times. But how can we as the Church abide by the logic of January 6th? The answer is by professing our own logic, our theology, based on what we read in the Scriptures. This logic informs us that there is only one hope in this world, and that is our Lord, Jesus Christ. There is no system of this world that can save us from the madness and darkness of the world. None. And yet there are those in the Church who were present at the U.S. Capitol when it was stormed, and those in Church who condoned it.
Sadly, I suspect why many Christians are captivated by the logic of January 6th is because their reality has become increasingly or entirely political. They no longer have a heart for the Church, only a heart for the State. They no longer have a mind for mission, only a mind for legislation. They no longer are motivated by a love for their neighbor, instead they are motivated by a love of the self and their desires. They are no longer led by the Holy Spirit, instead they are led by a Partisan Spirit. They have forgotten that character is destiny, and that the waters we use to baptize our leaders flows downstream and impacts everything that leader touches.
On both sides of the political spectrum, the Christian worldview can become compromised by Enlightenment ideas and values. We need to repent, and renew our logic with the Bible instead of our desired political reality… which can be driven by secular interests. You can do so much more for this world when you stop seeing it through a political lens, when you stop trying to make political points, or score political victories, or obsess over the Culture War between ‘The Left’ and ‘The Right.’
Politicians build sand castles. Christians build the Kingdom.