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We Live in a Culture of Contempt

Updated: Apr 1

We Live in a Culture of Contempt
We Live in a Culture of Contempt

We Live in a Culture of Contempt

Political scientists have found that our nation is more polarized than it has been at any time since the Civil War. Millions of people apparently organize their social lives and news choices along ideological lines to avoid people who have opposing viewpoints.

According to a new study co-authored by a Boston College neuroscientist, a new idea is called “motive attribution asymmetry,” one group’s belief that their rivals are motivated by emotions opposite to their own. The idea is driven by a group seeing its own members engaged in acts of “love, care, and affiliation” but, as the report points out, “rarely (observing) these actions amongst (opponents) because we only see them during moments of heated conflict.” The researchers found that the average Republican and the average Democrat today suffer from a level of motive attribution asymmetry that is comparable with that of Palestinians and Israelis. Each side thinks it is driven by benevolence, while the other is evil and motivated by hatred — and is therefore an enemy with whom one cannot negotiate or compromise.

Ok, so where are you in this dynamic? Do you express contempt toward other people either online or in person?

What is contempt? Contempt is the opposite of empathy. Empathy implies being able to put oneself in the place of others, experiencing their emotions and understanding their ideas, while contempt implies an attitude of arrogance and superiority with which the other is judged. Empathy nourishes the bonds of the relationship while contempt breaks them.

Contempt makes political compromise and progress impossible and makes us unhappy as people as well. The American Psychological Association, says the feeling of rejection, often experienced after being treated with contempt, increases anxiety, depression, and sadness. It then damages the contemptuous person by stimulating two stress hormones, cortisol, and adrenaline. In both public and personal, contempt causes us great harm.

We are addicted to contempt, yet we hate it, just as addicts hate the drugs that are ruining their lives. In a study of political attitudes by the nonprofit More in Commonly found in 2018 - 93 percent of Americans say they are tired of how divided we have become as a country. Large groups say privately that they believe in compromise, reject the absolutism of the extreme wings of both parties, and are not motivated by partisan loyalty.

Yet we are today spiraling out of control.

Our underlying psychological problems of course are not just one thing it is many. Our sinful nature, our hard heart, our current situation in life. The pandemic has broken down many barriers and delusions or blind spots we have had. And many are fearful of what the future may hold.

In a cultural meltdown, our task as Christians is to BE Christians and not buy into or participate in the culture to the extent we look and act like it. We as Christians are countercultural.

If you reflect and see you are being contemptuous in your relationships stop. Pray and ask God to purify your heart and attitudes.

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