Around the Web with American Reformer
Last week the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse concluded with a not guilty verdict on all counts charged against him. The trial in many ways served as a microcosm of the stark divisions that exist in American society as whole as well as the cultural fault lines within evangelical churches. One got the distinct impression that many would-be pundits weren’t commenting on Rittenhouse’s case at all, but rather on their view of second amendment rights, the right to self-defense, the pervasiveness of white supremacy in American society, and many other things.
The divisions with evangelicalism go back to around the time of the shootings for which Rittenhouse was on trial. One article about the trial in particular has been much discussed over the last few weeks, an article entitled “Why I Hate August” by pastor K. Edward Copeland, which was published by The Gospel Coalition (TGC) on August 29th, 2020. Many have drawn particular attention to Copeland’s confident assertion that Rittenhouse was “an armed mass shooter,” which in common parlance means someone who has with premeditation sought out and murdered numerous innocent victims. The FBI defines a mass shooting as “a multiple homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered.” The Gospel Coalition itself accepts this definition.
The Gospel Coalition finds itself under increasing pressure for this article and for very good reasons. As Ben Zeisloft at The Daily Wire notes, “[d]espite Rittenhouse’s acquittal, Copeland’s assertion has neither been removed nor addressed by The Gospel Coalition.”
William Wolfe furthermore notes that TGC, in publishing this article, has slandered Rittenhouse, thus breaking the ninth commandment. But the article is egregiously wrong in many other ways as well.
For instance, Copeland writes that Rittenhouse was able to kill two men without fear of being shot by police in return because of the white supremacy dwelling in his heart. This white supremacy need not even be conscious in Rittenhouse’s mind. He is white, after all, and therefore a white supremacist by definition, because white supremacy is “cultural” and “pervasive” even when its adherents aren’t aware of it. In this twisted way of thinking trying to defend yourself against the charge of white supremacy only proves how true it is.
Copeland also assumed Rittenhouse’s guilt without having anything close to all the facts. The facts are now crystal clear: Rittenhouse acted in self-defense and has been vindicated as such in a court of law. Anyone who could watch the videos of Rittenhouse and come to any other conclusion is living on another planet, but then again, it’s doubtful that those who continue so blithely to denounce Rittenhouse have bothered examining the evidence for themselves or watching the presentation of the evidence in the trial.
As if all of that isn’t bad enough, there is not a single argument in Copeland’s article. The entire thing is an extended episode of emotional manipulation through personal narration. The rhetorical function of such narration is to leave you with two options: agree with Copeland or place yourself into the category of a black dignity denying, mass-murder supporting, moral monster. Sadly, such manipulative story-telling in lieu of facts and argumentation is the norm in contemporary society, but that does not lessen how egregious it is. People know that “argument” via personal narrative is effective so they have little incentive to stop this practice.
“Why I Hate August” remains up on the TGC site and Copeland is still listed a TGC Council Member. TGC appears to be between a rock and a hard place. They really have three options: they can remove the article without comment, remove it with a retraction, or keep it up. All three options have their costs. If they keep it up they show that they continue to support the slanderous accusations it contains. If they remove it without comment it would appear that they hope the controversy will simply disappear through inattention. However, an even greater difficulty attends this course of action: a sizeable percentage of their readers—namely those inclined to accept Copeland’s narrative—will almost certainly be alienated. This would seem to be the most plausible explanation for the article still remaining on the site. And finally, they could remove the article with a retraction and apology. This is what they should do, but doing so would almost certainly offend a significant portion of their target demographic. Nonetheless, it is the right thing to do; it is what simple justice demands. Let the consequences be what they may.
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