My latest for the Longview News-Journal
It is no secret that we live in an odd time in American history. With the advent of the internet, social media and the 24-hour news cycle, we are bombarded with information all the time.
With the increase of news coverage and news outlets, a polarization has taken place. Now the news is not just “news,” it is “conservative news ” or “liberal news.” As a result, we find ourselves gravitating to sources that only reinforce what we already believe, and this is a problem.
It’s easy to fall into these “echo chambers” and regurgitate the rhetoric we find in them. Critical thinking, analysis and the idea that we could be wrong have for the most part gone out the window. We only want to hear what we want to hear and throw the other stuff away, declaring it without merit or worthiness in our lives. Terms like “fake news” have dominated the last election cycle, and the 2020 cycle is seeming like more of the same.
I do not think we can survive another tumultuous election cycle unless we begin to name the problems we see, and not just in those people we do not like.
Luckily, Jesus the Christ spoke to something just like this. In the Gospel of Matthew, we find the infamous “speck and log” teaching. At the conclusion of what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus states, “Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First, take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5 Common English Bible)
We fall into this trap far too often. We denounce an action as being against God or the teachings of the church, but when it involves someone we like or support, we find reasons to dismiss it. Surely there was a good reason why this accusation happened. Maybe it was the “conservative” or “liberal” media just looking for dirt. Increasingly, we seem to believe things should be deemed good or bad based on what political party the accused person happens to be affiliated with.
We don’t know how to have honest conversations about our political thoughts or beliefs without it turning into “one-liner theater,” where we lob bumper sticker-like sayings in an effort to derail the conversation.
Can I learn from someone who thinks differently politically than me? Absolutely. Should I listen more to the different ways topics are viewed and approached? Yes, I should. Can we as a society stop trying to tear each other down and start to see the logs in our own eyes? I hope so.
As a follower of Christ, there are standards of living, caring and loving humanity that are the foundation of my theological framework. All people of faith have a “lens” through which we see the world. These lenses are built over our lifetime and are informed based on where we grew up, our family of origin, and even our generation. Rarely is there a straightforward answer, but claiming we have it all figured out or that our party of choice has it all figured out has led us to this point.
When things are wrong, we need to call them as such, no matter what party might be to blame or how it will tip the scale of an election. When something needs to change because it violates our theological understanding of how humanity should be treated, then we must speak out. If we do not, if we allow “our side” to get away with things and hold the other side to another standard. Then we have forfeited our beliefs, our values, and morals and replaced them with the will of the political party of our choice.
The Epistle of James reminds us that “Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.”
Our faith should inform our decision, not our political party. If we lead with our faith and not trying to secure a win, then the message of Christ’s redemption, forgiveness and grace will be heard loud and clear.
This next election cycle will be filled with mudslinging and social media debates and no one “wins” in those election years. Let’s do better. I know we can and the United States of America will be better if we stay true to what we claim to be most valuable in our lives.