More about “Back up what you say”.

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Contact an expert supporter of the view you criticize. Listen well. Learn to defend his view as well as he does, so that when you refute it, you will be refuting his actual position and not some perversion your misunderstanding has made of it that is much easier to refute. This used to be the routine approach for news reporters, but is the first casualty of news departments determined to promote a personal agenda. Unfortunately, individual Christians are usually much worse about obeying Matthew 18:15 even than godless news reporters.

In communist and Islamic countries it is dangerous to challenge government or theocracy with probing questions, so opinions must be based on sources much harder to document. But this isn’t a totalitarian country. It is not physically dangerous, here, to shine light on evil. Even though Christians generally are afraid of retribution from offended police or government officials, shining light on their deeds, and keeping the light bright, is often the best way to protect yourself.

Our example is Jesus, at the age of 12. Before he went public with his positions, he sought out the brightest experts in the whole world on the subject of the theologies he was born to correct. He tested His understanding against theirs, and he passed that severest of tests, and then just thought about it for almost 20 more years, and then He was ready to go into their courts and win every time.

If people with suspicion do not actually search out facts capable of either confirming or dispelling their suspicions, then their suspicions turn into chains crippling them, making them incapable of clearing their minds enough to contribute intelligently towards a rational policy.

An example: the Vietnam War. Our military had no problem defeating the ruthless, civilian-terrorizing Communist enemy, but our diplomats were crippled by stateside suspicion.

Before and during the war the North Vietnamese were assassinating South Vietnamese government officials at the rate of about one a day. Midway in the war our side had reduced the North Vietnamese forces to an ineffectual army incapable of taking and holding ground, relying on Chinese Communist troops to keep the war going.

When President Nixon finally authorized bombing their supply lines, they gave up and returned most of our POW’s and began winding down their fighting. Yet our media told us nothing about our military progress.

They told us about the Mai Lay massacre, where a few American soldiers slaughtered a few dozen unarmed civilians in violation of U.S. policy, and were being punished for it. They did not tell us that same kind of slaughter of unarmed civilians was the POLICY of North Vietnam since the war began.

So as we were winning on the battlefield, the suspicious hearts of average Americans was so turned against our forces and our president that we pulled out completely and let the Communists flood over South Vietnam unopposed! To this day it is one of the most closed countries in the world, where Christians are not allowed to meet, but must secrete themselves to jungles to worship at night with lowered voices, reminiscent of slaves in the American South.

The problem is Americans not looking for facts, but just looking for someone who makes government look bad, or makes the other party look bad, and latching on to it, accepting it as fact, and searching no further for evidence. In an age when even pictures can easily be altered to “prove” anything, caring not for evidence makes suspicious Americans vulnerable to Suspicion Salesmen who know how to “tell people what they want to hear” for a fast buck. Suspicion is entertaining. It makes “us” seem more righteous through comparison with our imagined dark, evil “them”.

We Americans must determine that we are willing to endure the hearing of truths we do not want to hear, or how will even God rescue us from error? And if we are open to uncomfortable truths, we must be prepared to sift through the evidence for them, or how will we know what is true? If we care nothing for all this trouble and work, but latch on to accusations and twistings of facts that tickle our ears and confirm our prejudices, we are no better than those who bend the laws of God and man to justify their wicked livestyles.

Not only does this impatience with reality hamstring Americans from supporting government action against real enemies, but it consumes vast quantities of precious time with which we could otherwise be attacking real evils which are easily documented, and which are in fact common knowledge and not even contested. Such as sodomy rights legislation and abortion protection, or the right to Proclaim the Gospel in public places.

Americans must, therefore, learn to be suspicious of suspicion itself. When suspicious Americans cripple themselves with suspicions they do not bother to test, their fellow Americans must rescue them from the ranks of the disabled by helping test them.

Not even Jesus backed up his statements with “because I said so”. Neither should we expect to persuade anyone that some disputed fact is true, without backing it up – citing some authority that is trusted by those who dispute it. It is hard enough to get people who disagree to look at your evidence even when you offer it, but some will. No one will, if you offer none. If you can’t figure out what authorities your adversary trusts, you have the opportunity, here, to ask.

Don’t tire adversaries making a good faith effort to reason with you, with a string of claims backed up by nothing more than each other. Respect the difference between arguments (in the sense of logic, also called reasoning) and facts. You can submit original arguments. (A thing prohibited on Wikipedia.) But when you say something is a fact, limit your statements to what you can back up with links to authorities, if your statements are not “common knowledge” acceptable to all.

Do your own research. When you read an article about someone, and you would like to know if it is true, contact that person and ask him. If the article was a lie, he will probably be able to prove it.

Corollary: Don’t allege what you can’t back up, and that no one could do anything about even if it were true. Avoid wrecking your own credibility with claims you can’t back up. Avoid posting such allegations of facts under existing topics and subheadings; avoid creating new topics or subheadings based on speculations that can be neither proved nor disproved. “That rings true to me”, or “I can believe they would do that”, is not evidence. It is no substitute for evidence.

Speculations about evils unaccompanied even by any plan of action for correcting them if they were true, is a double waste of time. This forum exists to enable people who disagree to verify facts together and test their arguments on each other, in order to isolate corrective actions which people can agree to take together. Topics involving no verifiable facts, or proposed corrective actions, are inappropriate here. (However, they probably won’t be censored. They will only be tagged as inappropriate without verifiable facts or proposed actions.)