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?


 
Wildlife Warnings and Wild Life Warnings

Warnings - DangerWildlife has been especially wild lately. Although June is barely two weeks old, a decapitated rattlesnake bit a Texas man. An alligator killed a Florida woman. And in Minnesota, an unidentified wild animal killed a five-year-old boy.

Last month a hungry cougar killed a mountain biker in Washington state. And the month before saw a man in North Carolina killed by a coyote. In March, a crazed river otter jumped into a kayak and attacked a woman.

Some blame the increased animal attacks on the loss of wildlife habitat due to construction. Still others claim the problem is often due to people who intentionally draw close to wild animals despite clear warnings.

Whatever the reason, wild creatures should be given wide berth. Still, cautious behavior is wisely applied to more than just the animal kingdom.

How many times have you and I flirted with disaster when we ignored warnings in other areas of life?

Warnings from parents to children. Advice from doctors. Cautions from law enforcement officers. Yet too many of us ignore wise counsel in favor of desire or convenience.

Which brings us to the counsel and cautions found in the Bible, many of which we want to follow…until something else distracts us. Consider this sampling from Proverbs:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).

This verse sound terrific, until we get to the word submit. Submission is a dirty word in our culture, frequently equated with weakness. We say we trust the Lord, but our actions reveal otherwise. Truth is, we trust ourselves more than we trust Him.

In what area are you claiming to trust God, but are not submitting to Him?

 

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12 NIV).

Appearances can be deceiving, or so the adage says. In the moment, a temptation looks good. It looks right. We justify our choices with phrases such as “What’s the harm?” and “It’s only one time.” But sometimes once is all that’s needed to bring irreparable damage.

How can you cultivate discernment in differentiating between what appears right and what is right?

 

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV).

If you’re like me, guarding your tongue is a full-time job. When faced with anger, I want to answer gently. Yet a defensive spirit and harsh words seem to rise up before I can stop them. Of course, I know the result will be increased trouble even as I speak, but my desire to defend myself often overrides my desire to de-escalate the situation.

How can you develop a habit of responding with “a gentle answer”?

 

Those who conceal their sins do not prosper, but those who confess and renounce them find mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Secrets possess power. What we try to hide ends up controlling us. But when we bring that thing—whatever it is—into the light, it loses its power over us. That thing could be shame over abuse committed against us, or guilt over behavior that hurt others. It could also be attitudes of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness that hurt ourselves. The first step is confessing it to God. Sometimes an added step of confession to another person is needed for accountability.

What are you concealing that should be brought into the light? Will you confess it now to God? If accountability is needed, will you find a trusted accountability partner?

 

Wise warnings encourage us to avoid contact with wild animals for our own safety. Wise warnings also encourage us to seek a close walk with the Lord and to keep our distance from sin…also for our own safety.

What warnings will you heed today?


 
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?


 
Israel and the Phoenix

israelWatching the news this week reminded me of the phoenix.

Ancient Greek literature contains references to a phoenix, a beautiful bird that would live for hundreds of years, die in flames, and rise from its own ashes to live anew. Later references can be found in Dante’s Inferno as well as Shakespeare’s Henry VIII.

Of course, the phoenix is a myth. Still, anyone who has been paying attention to the news in recent weeks might have experienced a similar reminder.

IsraelIt’s difficult to not think of a phoenix as we watched the celebration of Israel’s 70th anniversary as a nation. Now, 70 years may not seem like much in light of the history of other nations. Even the United States is a relative juvenile on the world stage compared to many European nations.

But Israel’s birth as a nation 70 years ago is not so much a birth as it is a rebirth. Approximately 4,000 years ago, God promised to give the land to the descendants of Abraham. Several hundred years later, Moses led the fledgling nation out of Egyptian slavery to take possession of their new homeland. That trek should have lasted 40 days. But because of unbelief, the Jewish nation wandered for 40 years before being led into the promised land by Joshua.

Various empires would repeatedly scatter the Jews from their land throughout history. It wasn’t until 1948 that Israel once again formally possessed the land promised to Abraham 4,000 years earlier.

From the moment Israel was reborn, neighboring nations determined to destroy her. This piece of land, slightly larger than the size of New Jersey, became the focus of hostility for all 70 years of her existence and continues today.

Sadly, the rebirth of Israel has also meant suffering for many displaced Palestinians. First, they lost the land they occupied for centuries when the Jews were a scattered people. And second, these refugees have become pawns in a political and religious war, a war in which many of the combatants demand nothing short of the annihilation of the Jews.

It’s a conflict almost as old as time…one that began with the birth of two brothers: Isaac and Ishmael. As Proverbs 18:19 (ESV) tells us, “A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.”

Still, Israel remains. A national illustration of the phoenix, rising from the ashes of history to take and hold her promised place among the nations.

A story is told of Frederick the Great, the King of Prussia in the 18th century. During that time, he asked his chaplain, “Can you prove to me in one sentence that the Bible is true?” The chaplain said, “I only need two words to prove that the Bible is true and that God doesn’t lie. Those two words are ‘The Jews!’”

Israel’s 70th anniversary as a nation proves God keeps His promises to them and to us.

And that’s no myth.


 
Next Page »