Monday, December 14, 2009
Rush Limbaugh: Why Do So Many Dislike Him?
I'm a political conservative - there I said it.
And I'm a political conservative because I'm a conservative, period. The only liberal thing about me (and most other conservatives) is my generosity. (A recent study and follow up book by Arthur C. Brooks, professor at Syracuse University, entitled Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism proves with hard data that conservative Americans are much more, well, liberal, with their charitible giving than so-called "liberals." And Americans are much more charitable than Europeans, and so on...so much for the stereotypes. But I've already digressed way off topic...)
I'm a political conservative, and I listen to Rush Limbaugh. (And I've read both of his books, The Way Things Ought to Be and See, I Told You So). And I agree with him on a lot of things. Most things. Almost everything, when push comes to shove.
I've noticed, though, that there are some conservatives who would not be willing to make the public confession I just made. And I know other conservatives - some of them conservative clergy like myself - who don't like Rush. I've also got friends and relatives who are conservatives who gladly admit that they don't like Rush. When these people give a reason why they don't like him (and I like to ask, just to tweak them a bit!), there's one word that they use more than any other in their answers:
They say that Rush Limbaugh is arrogant.
They also say he's obnoxious (second most common answer in my unscientific survey - but I think my results are more accurate than any current "scientific" global warming models!). He's in-your-face. He's rude to callers (not really - not until or unless they're rude to him...and never as rude as some other TV and radio personalities I've heard, both on the right and the left).
So I've thought about this...
...this whole "Rush Limbaugh is arrogant" mantra. Why do people have this almost knee-jerk response in their dislike for the man? Many of them have seldom or never listened to a single daily three-hour Rush Limbaugh radio program. I suspect most only know of Limbaugh second hand, from what they've seen/heard said about him in the media, and by now we all should know how today's media edit everything they report for their own desired slant on issues or news.
But there's something else at work here. There's another reason why people say Rush is arrogant. It is this: because Rush speaks with passion to the issues of the day, and he has an opinion about nearly everything...and he believes he is RIGHT. No, I don't mean he believes he's on the right (versus the left); Rush believes and has the conviction that he is speaking THE TRUTH.
And that makes a lot of people today nervous.
Because we live in a culture today that believes it's just fine to have an opinion about things, but it's not politically (or culturally) correct to have the conviction that one's opinions are TRUE (unless of course, those opinions reflect the liberal / politically correct / Hollywood / mainstream media / academic ivory tower mindset that is pushed on us from every direction these days).
If you have conservative convictions, you are not supposed to believe your convictions are TRUE...they are just your opinions, and you really should keep them to yourself, thank you. Don't impose them on me. Stay out of my personal space (my bedroom, my womb, the internet sites I visit late at night). Many persons who have conservative beliefs and convictions (about what is true) have been pressured by those around them to keep quiet - and even to question whether their convictions are anything more than, at best, personal preference.
Enter Rush Limbaugh. Loud Rush Limbaugh. Passionate Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh who is "right 98.6% of the time" (his words on his radio show - occasionally he says he's right as often as 99.2% of the time). He talks about being a "Truth Detector." The "Doctor of Democracy." "Talent on Loan from GOD." And liberals go nuts!
Why? Because their mantra is "no one has a corner on the truth" (except them). There are no absolutes (except that little "absolute" - oops!).
Over his 20 years on The Rush Limbaugh Show, Rush has accomplished something that not only makes liberals crazy, lately it is making them very nervous. He has moved the markers of the public conversation. Liberals no longer control the conversation in the public square - Rush and other conservative talk show hosts (and news outlets like FOX News) have more listeners than the old (and new) liberal media outlets. And that is impacting public opinion.
Does Rush speak "the truth?" Well, you can say, "no" all you want, but over 20 million listeners every week are tuning in, most of them agreeing with his views. Again, other conservative shows are also attracting huge numbers of listeners (Sean Hannity, Glen Beck, Laura Ingraham, and others who are more libertarian, like Neal Boortz and Tammy Bruce).
Is anything TRUE? For sure? Does Rush - does any one of us - have the right to say "this is the truth, that is a lie; this is right, that is wrong"?
Well, if we can't say with certainty that some things are true, how can we live our lives and function each day? Is that car silver or red? Is the sky blue or green? Is this a $5 bill or a $50 bill?
What about much more important things, like defining murder, lying, adultery, stealing, and other vices? What about defining marriage as between one man and one woman? (Certainly those on the left have absolute moral definitions for their "pet sins," like homophobia, obesity, smoking, business profits and year-end bonuses for executives in the private sector)?
We quickly see that everywhere we turn, things must be defined - we must pass judgment - and our judgments are all about moral choices, convictions about right and wrong.
Since I'm a minister, I can't resist taking this blog post in the direction of religion. And even if I were not a minister, I would need to do so, because religion is where many (all?) of our convictions about right and wrong are founded (that includes the liberal left's moral convictions as well - they won't admit it, but they do come to those convictions by faith).
The Jewish and Christian religions have a great deal to say about right and wrong; there are definitions and judgments of good and evil throughout the Old and New Testament scriptures of these two faiths. The Bible calls some behaviors "sin," period. There's no getting around it. And we should note that everything defined as "sin" in the Bible is an act that breaks relationships - either between God and human beings or between one person and another (this includes between individuals, or between private persons and the state, etc.).
Jesus made judgment calls all the time, while still extending love, grace and forgiveness to persons. But he was not shy about calling something "good" or "evil". And he made a profound statement about truth in John 8.31-32:
"If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
(emphasis added, English Standard Version)
Jesus said very plainly here that "the truth" can be known (by those who are his true disciples). It can be discerned, practiced, and named.
And Jesus said to those disciples, "the truth will set you free." Our founding fathers would say that this means free from the need for others to govern you, because you are self-governing. Yet we see more and more laws being passed - why? Because we are a people losing our moral conscience - and therefore our ability to be self-controlled, and self-governing.
"Free" also means free from restrictions on where you can travel, what you can eat, where you can live, what size home you can own, what kind of work you can do...these were all freedoms assumed and enumerated by our founding fathers who wanted to keep an oppressive government out of their lives.
This is the "truth" that Rush "preaches," and it is an understanding of freedom that many Americans have lost because our generation no longer understands these constitutional concepts. Therefore many people easily accept the liberal left's own truth claims, without asking for sources or evidence for why we should listen to them or trust them.
So Rush drives people crazy and brings on their wrath because he, too, has the arrogance to claim to know and speak the truth.
I'm sorry that this bothers some people. I'm sorry if it makes a few folks uncomfortable. I'm sorry if it embarrasses people in polite society when someone says with conviction, "you're wrong."
In today's dark world, we need someone to turn the light back on. Keep talking, Rush!
P.S. Since I brought up generosity at the beginning of this thread, I'll also note that Rush is a generous philanthropist. He holds an annual fundraising telethon called the "EIB Cure-a-Thon" for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In 2006 the EIB Cure-a-Thon conducted its 16th annual telethon, raising $1.7 million; totaling over $15 million since the first Cure-a-Thon. In 2008, Rush raised his pledge to $400,000 after someone called in and challenged him to do so. Rush usually matches a pledge each year made by two anonymous donors, whom he only identifies as two sisters. So ... Rush is another liberal, generous conservative.