Thursday, April 22, 2010

Trouble in the USA

It gets deafening at times doesn’t it. I mean the chorus of nay-sayers is getting louder and louder. The negativity in our culture is getting harder and harder to live with. It certainly can’t be ignored.

A couple of days ago I got in the car and someone who sounded very educated was on the radio debunking the eco-movement as being akin to a tool of evil. Switching the dial I got drenched in the bile of a radicalized tea party devotee. Another quick twist and I heard someone insult people of faith. Heading to a sports station I was appalled at the hatred towards this team and that coach. There’s nothing wrong with challenging the eco-movement, or belonging to the tea part movement, or not buying into faith, or being a sports nut but there’s a whole lot wrong with bashing, baiting, and brazenly oozing hate all over the airwaves.

If you asked each and everyone of these people what they were doing they’d say that they were ‘exercising their right of free speech’. Well, that’s true on some level I guess. On another level I wish they’d exercise their obligation to be restrained. We really don’t have to say everything that’s on our mind especially when we say it in such vitriolic ways.

Turning on my computer that same day I had to dodge and weave around e-mails and postings that were filled with half-truth and innuendo. No one seems to fact check much these days and dragging individuals through the mud is becoming an internet pastime.

It’s got to stop. Really. How do we stop the hate? Is it fun to call the President of the United States Obozo? Some think it’s their right. Do all politicians take a pill diminishing their ability to put ‘impulse control’ into play? Sure looks like it these days. Could having a considered opinion be different than having a sound byte pronouncement? I think it is. Is it possible that someone could have an opinion different from our own and still be a good man or woman? Absolutely.

The killer for me in all of this is some of the most idiotic statements are coming from my own peeps – those who claim faith in Christ. Often those who call themselves Christians are on the front lines of dissent with clenched teeth, closed minds, and foul language. There’s nothing wrong with dissent, or being on the line of protest, or fighting boldly for principles and values but how we go about dissenting, protesting and fighting goes a long way towards defining who or what we really belong to.

We are creating a culture of fear. We really are. And when we do that we start to fight ‘boogeymen’ and create mountains of molehills. Everything becomes escalated when fear kicks in and before you know it there is a lack of trust, care and concern.

Instead of a culture of fear we need to create a culture of engagement. The rules of the culture of engagement almost sound silly in today’s culture. Things like listening for understanding, thinking before we speak, investigating facts, learning about the issues, and walking in another’s shoes don’t seem so interesting and titillating as knee jerk reaction. And then when we add those God things like praying for those we disagree with, and loving our neighbor, and practicing those go the extra mile Jesus practices … well, those things don’t play so well on the local talk radio show. They take more effort as more measured responses always do.

We’ve got trouble in the good ‘ol USA. And we’re part of the mess. We pick fights instead of building bridges. We spout venom instead of digging deeper towards understanding. We listen indiscriminately to media voices who care more about their pocketbook than they do about us and the country. We’ve quit reading. We’re losing the art of ‘dialogue’ and we look for proof texts instead of trying to understand the whole counsel of God.

My prayer is that we learn to engage. Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to commit myself to civility and respect as we talk about the big issues of the day. I’m not going to listen to hatred any longer on the airwaves because I know that garbage into my mind and heart means garbage out. And I’m going to use whatever tools are at my disposal to help those in my circle of influence to learn as much as possible about what’s getting us riled up and help them discern what God has to say about it all. What about you?


Inkydog said...

I completely agree with you, Mike. I pray that people will see those they disagree with as beloved Children of God. Disagreement is fine as long as there is context and respect. I don't begrudge anyone an opinion different than mine, as long as it is well reasoned and moral. In my experience, the harsher and more strident the tone, the less thought has gone into the position.

There is a healthy side to the situation, though. Things that used to happen in smoke-filled rooms are being scrutinized. News reports are being fact checked. Multiple sides of stories are available. It's harder for those in power to control the narrative.

People who never would have met 20 years ago engage in discussion, organize in groups, and work together, virtually.

Is it all good? No. But it's not all bad either. I suspect that people are the same as they always were - we just hear and see more of it now.

Mike said...

Love your phrase 'as long as there is context and respect'. I remember hearing about a church that was going to be talking about some sticky theological issues. People were upset. Church leadership said that the only people allowed to speak were those who wrote a position paper and read what others wrote. From what I gather there was plenty of disagreement but a high level of civility because people had to process both what they believed as well as what other thought