I am finding some solace today in the increasingly polarized world in which we live. I can always find some balm in humor! Over the last half decade or more, I have stepped outside the political fray psychologically, taking a seat in the audience and observing the circus. I vacillate from horror to sadness, but there is always humor to which I can turn for solace.
Today, someone posted on Facebook an article with the following clickbait headline: No one blamed Obama during the 2009 swine flu pandemic that killed over 12k! Killer headline, right? It didn’t take another poster to find this gem: Trump in 2014 said Obama was ‘a psycho’ not to immediately cancel flights into the US amid Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
I have not checked the facts, by the way. Does it matter anymore? Doubt everything. That’s just easier!
I have been meaning to “collect” a bunch of articles and memes in pairs that are the exact opposites of each other. For instance, one article might say, “Trump beats up little girls!” While, another article might say, “Hillary Clinton approves of beating up little girls!”
When I start looking for these supremely ironic pairings, I begin noticing them often, but I haven’t found the energy to do the collecting. Democrat says, “Scientists have proven the world is black”; Republican says, “Scientists have been debunked: the world is white.” Each posting is made with the certainty of inalienable truth.
Most people respond with hearty signals of knowing acknowledgment, replying according to the identities and protocols of their particular form of group think. Though one or two brave souls might dare to post rebuttal, this modern ritualistic dance on social media is practiced to perpetuate and strengthen what we already think, gaining the knowing approval of the people “who matter” in a series of empty triumphs over the time and energy it takes to be candid and introspective about truth.
The truth is that there is plenty of rebuttal to be found if one is simply looking for it. For every black, there is a white. It’s easy, of course, to get lost in the myriad shades of grey. And, perhaps, that’s the real problem of modern (postmodern) people. We fear getting lost and sucked down in the shades of grey. If we can “rise” above that gravitational force of contrary facts, virtually skimming the surface lest we get sucked under the waves, we can maintain our preferred position.
Might I dare suggest another course? The shades of grey are difficult to navigate, no doubt, but it isn’t all black and white. Life isn’t that simple.
That isn’t to say that truth doesn’t exist in a postmodern world. Truth is still truth. It just isn’t as simplistic as we prefer it to be.
I am currently working on another blog piece that might, seemingly, be antithetical this one. I address the propriety of holding to a position that is exclusive of other positions– even in a postmodern world. When someone questions the position I take on the basis that the truth of what I assert is contrary to the truth asserted by someone else, my question is this: why would I assert something other than I believe is true merely because someone else doesn’t think it is true?
Truth isn’t a democracy, but that doesn’t mean that I am the king of truth. None of us are. We are all finite, fallible beings trying to make sense of this world and our places in it. Thus, we need to give each other some room, even as we try to parse out the truth as best each of us can. We also need to be open to having our truth propositions challenged – if we care about truth after all.
My “collection” of contrary memes and articles from social media pundits (the collection I might gather someday), reminds me of the importance of humility and civility. Not because it is so often displayed, but because of its ubiquitous absence.
Would that we could have discussion more often in which we respect the people and ideas they express, even if we find them to fall short of the truth we think we have mined in our own personal journeys. Would that we could be more than tolerant of each other with quick reflexes to call out the intolerance of other people who don’t think like we do, and not so quick to stake out our unashamed flags of faithful allegiance to the hills on which we have decided to die.
Not that we should be lazy or uncaring for the truth. Maybe we should be just a little more humble on our quest for it. If we find a treasure, who wouldn’t dig it up? Who wouldn’t want others to share in it – especially, if in the sharing, our own benefit is enlarged?
This is where I find myself as a believer in Christ. I can’t stand on this side or that side of the political divide anymore. People in the spirit of the age have staked out positions on homosexuality, marriage, personal values and philosophies that I am not sure are motivated from or informed by ultimate truth, but they aren’t my enemies. They are my neighbors.
If there is one command that rises above all others to which the truth (I believe I have grasped) holds, it is to love my neighbors. How do I hold on to the truth I believe, while loving my neighbors who believe the opposite (on some points) of what I do?
That’s the challenge, and it requires nuance. It requires me to respect them and what they have come to believe, even if I don’t believe it myself.
And being a finite person, I need to be mindful that I don’t have it all figured out. I am bound to be wrong on some points. I am more than likely misinformed and simply wrong on some perspectives that I have developed.
Even as I treasure Scripture that is God-breathed and “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), my understanding and application of it may be off base. Even if I “have it right”, like the expert in the law, I have to be mindful of the words of Jesus, “’You have answered correctly,’ Jesus …. ‘Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28) And when the legal expert pressed Jesus, asking, “Who is my neighbor?”; and, Jesus answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan, I understand that I have to be willing to “go and do likewise” as Jesus instructed (Luke 10:37).
If I don’t love my neighbor, I am nothing more than a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1). Yes, I should love the truth. For the Christian believer, this means loving God and following Jesus, living as he lived. (1 John 2:3-6) Yes, I should not love the world; (1 John 2:15-17) but I must also love others as God loved us and gave Himself up for us. (1 John 4:7-21)
If anyone should demonstrate this balance, it should be the followers of Jesus. I am afraid I see a lot of professing believers, including myself sometimes, who don’t live like this on social media.
Following Jesus doesn’t mean ticking off answers on a test. It means walking as he walked; living as he lived; loving people as he loved them – willing to get out onto the dirt and grime of everyday streets with everyday people in their everyday lives. And if those streets take us through the labyrinth of social media sites, we would walk no less than like Jesus on those paths than he walked on his.
One last thought: though we should walk like Jesus, we aren’t like Jesus. We aren’t perfect. We aren’t blameless. Even Jesus asked as many questions of people as he supplied answers. How much more should we ask questions, not having having all the answers as Jesus did?! Jesus spent time with people, not just talking at them, but talking with them and simply being with them.
Like salt and light, our presence isn’t necessarily to be the most noticeable thing in the room. We often don’t notice or think about the light until the light goes out. We focus on the taste of the food that the salt brings out, not the salt itself. It wasn’t until Jesus left the two men he walked with on the road to Emmaus that they realized their hearts burned within them when Jesus spoke. (Luke 24:13-35)