Facts don't matter to the already-made-up mind

Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, which is a think tank focused on providing thought leadership in the areas of free-market economics and political culture. Mac Donald, not a Christian, holds degrees from Yale, Cambridge, and Stanford’s Law school, and is a best-selling author whose books include her 2016 work, The War on Cops.

Robin Schumacher
Courtesy of Robin Schumacher

In her June 2020 editorial for the Wall Street Journal, Mac Donald challenges the premise that racism is systemic in the U.S. police force. While acknowledging what all thinking people do – that racism is certainly present in law enforcement as it is in every other profession and industry – she argues for a position that has zero tolerance for racist offenders but maintains that racism is not a prevailing and universal spirit within the whole of those who work in the criminal justice system. Moreover, she highlights the fact that most violence occurring in African American communities is not police related.[1] She backs up her arguments with data-driven conclusions that many find compelling.

I published a link to her article on my LinkedIn account and encouraged discussion on her findings. What happened next was pretty interesting.

I had a number of people first attack Ms. Mac Donald for being an “ultra-conservative”. The same individuals then sent me to competing opinions published in the New York Times. I pointed out to them that they were committing the genetic fallacy by critiquing the source of information rather than the data itself, along with the double standard they were using (should I not listen to them or the NYT because both are “ultra-liberal”?)

Second, the data they pointed me to in no way defeated Ms. Mac Donald’s primary thesis of law enforcement not being systematically racist. In fact, their data showed the exact opposite; a truth I also attempted to highlight.    

Lastly, when a few brave souls dared to say the discussion I had started was a good thing, they were labeled as racist, as I was also eventually.

Preference over Facts

Let’s face it, all of us like to think we’re right. It doesn’t matter whether the topic is religion, politics, or badminton, we want to believe we have the correct take on a matter. The question is, are we up for changing our opinion if the data and truth says otherwise?

For example, people often tell me that I’m closed-minded where Christianity is concerned and that nothing will ever change my position. I always tell them that’s incorrect and point them to where Paul admitted (1 Cor. 15) that Christianity could be falsified if the body of Jesus were ever found. If that actually happened, I would have no choice but to reevaluate my beliefs and begin a fresh spiritual search.  

In the end, it’s all about a person submitting to truth and reality no matter how desperately they want to live in error. But in our post-truth culture that values preferences over actual truth, we’re seeing much less of that and instead an open and aggressive hostility towards anyone who dares to challenge a prevailing opinion that’s trending in society.

But popularity doesn’t decide truth nor does personal opinion. When the philosopher Frederick Nietzsche said, “It is our preference that decides against Christianity, not arguments”[2], he was willingly overlooking the fact that being wrong always has consequences, and in the matter of eternity, that fact becomes especially grave.

An Example from Scripture

Let’s take a look at a biblical example of the preference-driven, already-made-up mindset in action:

When it was day, the Council of elders of the people assembled, both chief priests and scribes, and they led Him away to their council chamber, saying, “If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I ask a question, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” And they all said, “Are You the Son of God, then?” And He said to them, “Yes, I am.” Then they said, “What further need do we have of testimony? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.” (Luke 22:66-71)

Jesus has been wrongly arrested and is now standing before the Sanhedrin, a group of religious leaders that has pursued His demise for years. His popularity with the people, His teaching, and most importantly, His pulling back the curtain on their hypocrisy has infuriated them and now they have Him right where they want Him.

The already-made-up mind always says they're open to discussion, but nothing could be further from the truth. True to form, they feign the act of having an actual dialogue and ask Him to tell them whether He’s really the Messiah. This, of course, is absurd as they have all the evidence they need having witnessed His miracles of healing, resurrections, exorcisms firsthand as well as the fulfillment of other Messianic prophecies. While even children recognize who He is (Matt. 21:16), those far more theologically educated end up personifying the words of Jeremiah: “Through deceit they refuse to know Me” (Jer. 9:6).

Jesus pierces through their façade and speaks to the futility of attempting to dialog with the already-made-up mind: “If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I ask a question, you will not answer.”

Try and tell an angry, hardened person the truth they don’t want to hear and it will be ignored. Try and ask them intelligent evidence-based questions on the matter at hand and they will sidestep them. In fact, doing so will oftentimes make them even angrier – something Paul pointed out to the Galatians: “So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16).

Jesus then directly links Himself to the portrait of the Messiah found in Daniel 7 and tells them plainly that He is indeed the Christ. He’s answered their question, but what happens next?  

Unfortunately, the problem with telling the truth to people who don’t want to hear it is summed up well by Richard Weaver in his book Ideas Have Consequences: “Nothing good can come if the will is wrong. And to give evidence to him who loves not the truth is to give him more plentiful material for misinterpretation.”[3]

This is exactly what happens with the religious leaders who twist Jesus’ truthful admission into a statement of blasphemy and proceed down their already-chosen path of murder.

Prevailing Voices

In a recent article, Dennis Prager lists four practices that are destroying America from the inside. One of those he outlines is demonization, where an entire class or group of people is labeled as inherently evil.

Heather Mac Donald’s WSJ editorial challenged this very thing. Like her, I think it’s dangerous to assign individuals to a particular group and then label that entire group as either innocent or guilty. But minds that are manipulated by their emotions and afflicted with a post-truth worldview on LinkedIn declared me a heretic and a “lost cause” for believing that.

Facts don’t matter to the already-made-up mind; they never have.

The same was true in Jesus’ day. If you keep reading in Luke, you’ll see that after Jesus was condemned by the Sanhedrin, Pilate tries time and again to release Jesus, arguing with the mob, telling them that Jesus is innocent, and asking them to give him facts and evidence to support their demand for crucifixion.

That never happens.

Instead, we read a very sad statement of how emotionally-driven mobs work: “But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail” (Luke 23:24).

How sad. And frightening.

As Christians, I believe we have an obligation to speak against the prevailing voices and already-made-up minds in our day, which are not friendly to Christianity or the truth in general. Speaking the truth is oftentimes a lonely exercise, but popularity and agreement with the world is not something to which God has called us.                 

[1] She’s not the only one pointing out these facts. Another WSJ editorial noted that the Sun-Times reported 492 homicides in Chicago last year, and only three of them involved police.

[2]  H. Lubac. Drama of Atheist Humanism (Ft. Collins: CO: Ignatius Press, 1995), 49.


Robin Schumacher is a former software executive and Christian apologist who has written many apologetic articles, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at various apologetic events. He holds a Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament.

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