Public Discourse vs. Public DisCOARSE

Public discourseSocial media and the evening news are both making me tired.

Sad.

Discouraged.

Done.

Today, I hit my limit.

A friend posted a link announcing the president had signed an executive order correcting a difficult, complicated, and sad policy.

(I’m not taking a politically partisan position here—just making an observation.)

Her post acknowledged the Executive Order stopping family separations. She simply wrote “Thank God!” with a link to a major news outlet.

The comments that followed made me cringe. Instead of acknowledging something positive had occurred, comments ranged from “Trump will still get criticized” to “How is the genius planning to reunite the children with their parents?” One person wrote, “So he is now fixing an ‘issue’ started under the Obama admin.” Another wrote, “There is nothing to celebrate…this was a chance for Trump to show off.”

Let me say again, I am not taking a partisan position here. The point I’m making is that as a nation, we’ve lost the ability to discuss anything even remotely related to politics, civics, or culture in general.

Public discourse has deteriorated to public discoarse.

Namecalling.

Hyperbole.

Personal attacks.

I’m sure you’ve seen and heard some of these quotes:

  • “You can’t fix stupid.”
  • “I’m unfriending anyone who supports this.”
  • “USA. Like it or leave it.”

Do I have strong opinions on civic, moral, and political issues?
You bet I do. Most of us do.

But when 50% of our nation appears to despise the other 50%, I’m reminded of Jesus’ observation in Matthew 12:25 (ESV), “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.”

Celebrities have called for the death of the president. Supporters of the current administration vilify his critics.

The two sides are talking over each other.

At each other.

But they’re not talking to each other.

Allow me to amend that last sentence: We’re not talking to each other. Because it’s not us versus them. We’re all us.

The people who voted for the other side (whatever “the other side” is for you), are the same people who you:

  • grew up with
  • went to school with
  • attend church with
  • or share DNA with.

Delete KeyHave we come to the point where we cut people out of our life—or our social media feeds—simply because we disagree with them?

If so, we’re choosing to live in an echo chamber, hearing only what affirms our preconceived opinions. Demonizing the other side instead of seeing them as people like us who have different beliefs.

How can we hope to persuade others if we’re preoccupied with vilifying them?

And for those who are Christians, how can we follow Christ’s command to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 ESV) if we’re obsessed with demeaning them?

As the originator of the post I mentioned above noted:

“At some point, we begin to sound like nothing more than clanging cymbals.”

Hmmm…clanging cymbals. That’s how the apostle Paul describes us when we speak or act without love (I Corinthians 13:1).

So the next time you and I hear someone we disagree with, will we determine to:

  • Converse instead of criticize?
  • Discuss instead of demean?
  • Persuade instead of pummel?
  • Dialogue instead of demonize?

And if the “other side” refuses to dialogue, will we at least resist the urge to vilify?

Most importantly, will we purpose to love instead of loathe?


 
Is the Problem Guns, Sin, or a Worldview?

worldview

I’ve listened to the arguments.

The problem is access to guns.

No, the problem begins in the heart—specifically, hearts corrupted by sin.

The more I hear the debate, the more I think both arguments are missing the point.

Guns have always been available. And sin has always been around, at least since the Garden of Eden.

So really, what changed?

If we’re honest with ourselves, the only thing that changed in the past 50 years is our worldview.

Our western culture no longer even pretends to espouse a biblical worldview. What I mean by that is we no longer base our philosophy of life and our values on a biblical foundation.

  • Morality is relative. Right and wrong depend solely on your perspective rather than absolute standards.
  • Truth is relative. What’s true for me may not be true for you.
  • The determination of the beginning of life depends on whether the mother wants the baby growing inside her.
  • We teach children that they are a biological accident, rather than a person of eternal value created in the image of God.

When we divorce ourselves from the understanding that humanity is accountable to its Creator, what we have left is a diminished value of life and a corrupted view of sin. After all, your “truth” doesn’t have to be “my” truth anymore.

Our culture no longer views character development and discipline as useful. Just ask any teacher who’s had to explain to an angry parent why little Johnny experienced the consequence of failure for not completing his term paper. Excuses abound…from little Johnny and Johnny’s parents.

A cultivated sense of entitlement demands that we get our own way, regardless of someone else’s standards—regardless of any standards.

So our morality is relative, our view of life is that it’s an accident with no eternal purpose, and our understanding of sin is quickly becoming non-existent. And then we’re surprised when teens and young adults respond to their despair by killing anyone they perceive offended them?

We stripped life of its eternal value, and we’re surprised at the result?

Want more proof? A video game which was to be released in June would have provided players with the opportunity to play the role of a school shooter, scoring points for kills. The distribution company justified the game by saying the player also has the option of choosing to play the role of a SWAT team member instead of a shooter. And they had included the following disclaimer:

“Please do not take any of this seriously. This is only meant to be the simulation and nothing else. If you feel like hurting someone or people around you please seek help from local psychiatrists or dial 911 (or applicable). Thank you.”

Don’t take killing seriously? Really?

Due to a major outcry, “Active Shooter” was pulled from release. Interestingly enough, they pulled it, not because of the content, but because the creator had a bad reputation.

The solutions I’ve heard put forth to restore safety in our schools and workplaces seem to focus on symptoms instead of the cause.

If our culture persists in refusing to acknowledge the God who created us as well as the eternal value of life (whether a baby in the womb or a student in a classroom), we will continue to experience the horror of life violently snuffed out.

What shapes your worldview?


 
Fear of Missing Out

fear of missing out

Have you ever suffered from FOMO? Fear Of Missing Out. These days, FOMO is epidemic. Our culture constantly assaults us with a barrage of marketing messages that cultivate a fear of missing out. And nothing cultivates FOMO as effectively as social media.

Reading about the good times other people are having can foster a sense of envy in us. Learning about social events we weren’t invited to can cause us to feel isolated. Looking at all the beautiful pictures of beautiful people with their beautiful families can make us feel as if we’ve failed in our own family.

FOMO is real. And the more we give in to it, the more addicted we become to our social media accounts. We may find ourselves checking posts every few minutes for the latest news about local social activities.

FOMO is treacherous because it fosters a sense of discontentment. Dissatisfaction. Ungratefulness. Not that we’d ever admit it, but we feel cheated because someone else is having a better time. Travelling to more fun locations. Being more successful.

Black Friday sales are a prime example of FOMO. At least it used to start on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Now Black Friday sales begin on Thursday. We spend the afternoon celebrating gratitude. Then we leave family at the dinner table while we chase sales from store to store, worried that we’re missing a better bargain down the street.

It’s ironic that those who are not at all concerned about spiritual things are religious about keeping up with everyone else in every other area of life. Yet they aren’t at all concerned about missing out on the most important experience of all. This temporary life consumes them, while eternity isn’t even a blip on their radar.

But Christians can fall into a similar trap. When I get caught up on the fear of missing out, I’m so busy focusing on the temporary that I lose sight of the eternal. I can become consumed with trying to do it all in this life, without considering whether the things that mean so much to me now will be as significant five months from now. Or five years from now.

As I enter this holiday season, I commit to kick FOMO to the curb. Rather than fear what I might be missing out on, I will focus on doing the next right thing. Taking the next right step. Considering the next right decision.

Will you join me?


 
Refrigerator Magnet Theology

refrigerator magnet
How many magnets grace the front of your refrigerator? One? Five? Twelve?

Refrigerator magnets can be silly, serious, or snarky. They can be cute, corny, or classy.

Refrigerator magnets have also generated much theology that sounds good…but isn’t.

Consider these catchy quotes:

  • God never gives us more than we can handle.
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness.
  • God helps those who help themselves.
  • We’re all God’s children.

Phrases passed down from generation to generation. Easily remembered sound bites with a whisper of biblical wisdom and a hint of Christianity…and a bucketful of error.

Let’s look at these four examples:

God never gives us more than we can handle.

This probably originated with II Corinthians 10:13:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (NIV).

As you can see, the context of this verse is temptation. God always provides a way for us to stand against temptation. But what about other life experiences? Let’s face it, most of us have experienced situations way beyond what we can handle on our own. The key in that last sentence is the phrase “on our own.”

We live in a fallen, sin-sick world. Tragedy strikes. Suffering happens. Betrayal blindsides us. Most of the time, it is indeed more than we can handle on our own.

But Christians are never “on our own.” We have the presence of the Holy Spirit in us to strengthen, guide, and give wisdom. When God allows us to experience more than we can handle ourselves, it’s an invitation to run to the One who provides what we need when we depend on Him.

 

Cleanliness is next to godliness.

This phrase probably developed in response to all the Bible verses that reference being cleansed—verses such as:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9 NASB).

and

“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3 NASB).

But once again, if we examine the context, we’ll see these verses are talking about being cleansed from sin, not from physical dirt. (Although my mother may disagree!)

 

God helps those who help themselves.

This phrase does not appear anywhere in Scripture.

One of the biggest traps we can fall into spiritually is thinking that we must help ourselves before God will help us. The difference between Christianity and every other religion is that we cannot help ourselves into heaven. God has accomplished all that we need for our salvation. Consider Romans 5:6:

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (NASB).

God helps the helpless!

 

We’re all God’s children.

This phrase is more wishful thinking than anything else, because John 1:12 tells us:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (NASB).

Becoming a child of God does not happen by physical birth, it happens when we receive the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. At that moment, we are adopted into God’s family. In case you think this verse is the only way that teaches this, consider Galatians 4:4-5:

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (NASB).

We are all created by God for He is the One who gives physical life. Becoming a child of  God—being adopted into His family—comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Let’s guard against believing a statement because it sounds good or because it has been passed down from generation to generation. A refrigerator magnet is not the best source for sound theology. Check it against God’s Word to know, beyond any doubt, what is truly true.


 
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