As I write, it is a couple of hours before the big first presidential debate featuring Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. It is a bit misleading, I think, since it is not likely to be either very “presidential” or a real debate. No, this will likely be all about who gets in the best timed zingers so media pundits can declare faux victories. I would not expect to hear to many answers tonight to questions like how can we sustain a Social Security system whose model no longer appears sustainable or what can we do about the plight of poor schools and mushrooming drug violence in our great urban centers. The only real ways to address such things is by talking to one another, and we no longer do that… we only talk at each other.
But America’s communication problem is not just a political problem. Nobody in the culture really talks to anyone anymore, unless they are relatively certain they are talking to someone with whom they are in agreement. Everyone else (those we fear may not agree with us), is just an object of disdain to be branded with demonizing labels and bullied with convenient half truths and exaggerated hypotheticals. Usually this occurs on our favorite social media platform, where we can bombard each other with cooked Facebook videos, so bonus, we don’t really have to look our rivals in the face as we question their motives, call them names, and generally pillory their character. Is there anything more uncomfortable and less “social’ than seeing family members “debating” meaningful things and hurling accusations at one another on social media?
I miss the day when we could actually talk to each other, even about uncomfortable and difficult things. I also think the “culture” misses those days. We used to call America a melting pot. We greatly benefited from the things we learned from each other. What a ridiculous notion that would be today. Nobody “melts.” America is more like 10,000 little homogenous ice trays. Stay in your cube and I’ll stay in mine.
Of course, where this becomes challenging is when Americans have to make decisions which effect us all. Decisions about social norms, security, or a host of other tricky issues. It is a zero sum game now… meaning you better get the political numbers to impose your will because you will never reach a true compromise. Even if one political side does muster enough power for a season to impose their particular partisan solution to a national problem, nothing is really solved, as the other side simply bides their time until they can undo what was done.
But, while I sigh a bit for an America which has come to this state of cultural and political obstinance, I mourn over an America that has come to this place spiritually. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (ESV) Jesus said of his generation that they were ‘ever listening but never perceiving’ in Mark 4. He was explaining how it was possible that the people of his day could miss a Messiah who was standing right in front of them… the answer: they had stopped listening to God a long time ago.
God, help us open our ears and our hearts again to one another, and even more importantly to you… the One who loves us and saves us. LET’S TALK!
You Shall Know the Truth,