Are You Up to the Task of Thinking: The Challenge of Thoughtful, Respectful Engagement of Different?
Thinking is hard work. I learned that in college and as I have continued my education well into my fifties it is considerably harder. But nevertheless, I enjoy thinking even if is hard.
Life is complicated and most of us come to the realization over time as we age and mature that we are limited in what we know and what we can know. In our Christian life we have the experience of being counseled by the Person of the Holy Spirit, a person of infinite knowledge. Do not underestimate this power. But we are also under the influence of sin and are surrounded by sinners.
Even if we get out of the echo chambers of the news or social media, we are still polarized.
More news and commentary only lead to those who cheer for their point of view and mock/caricature everyone else’s views and opinions. More information obviously is not the answer. As we have moved away from the print culture (which was available to all of society) of the past into the entertainment culture, entertainment and communications (in general) is limited in availability. Think of all the rural areas that do not have cable, wi-fi etc.
Julia Galef says in her book The Scout Mindset: “Listening to views you disagree with and taking them seriously enough to have a shot at changing your mind, requires mental effort, emotional effort, and, above all, patience.” It is hard work and most of us are either to tired/too lazy or to obstinate to attempt it. It’ easier just to keep up the rhetoric like a pep rally in High School.
What used to be somewhat balanced but limited (News) is clearly now just a vehicle for entertainment, gossip and argument. In reality there is little difference between Fox News, CNN and Newsmax for example. They all are vying for ratings that influence the bottom line, for money and not the common good. Social media is the same and of course we play right into it. We generally are not independent, critical objective thinkers. No one is trying to persuade or objectively look at both sides of an issue. We basically have Christians and others using verbal flame-throwers.
So Christian are you the light on the hill, the salt of the earth, are you moving away from the back and forth bickering and either keeping quiet or attempting to be objective?
Are you willing to work hard at thoughtful, respectful engagement of different viewpoints?
Carl Sandburg perhaps said it best: “If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.” So here we are, unable or unwilling to discuss or attempt to persuade leaving us to influence others with anger, coercion, and violence.
I have been surprised when on social media, when I have a calm engagement with someone or apologize the reaction people have. They are amazed! You and I know that social media posts are terrible ways to communicate. Yet again as Christians God will use us through even through social media to spread the Gospel.
Do you want to become more objective? Are you tired of the endless back and forth anger and argument? Well read history, its more reliable, get off social media, actually site down and talk to someone. Read and watch things that give an opposite opinion and try to understand. Be humble, you may be wrong. And above all persevere in your relationship with Christ, he is our focus and