First in a series.
You can be certain that in the last days there will be some very hard times. People will love only themselves and money. They will be proud, stuck-up, rude, and disobedient to their parents. They will also be ungrateful, godless, heartless, and hateful. Their words will be cruel, and they will have no self-control or pity. They will be sneaky, reckless, and puffed up with pride. ~2 Timothy 3:1-5 CEV.
We live in precarious times. “These are the times that will try our souls,” said Thomas Paine. He was speaking of another time, another place — the time of the forming of this nation — but his voice rings out today among the cacophony of confusion and turbulence, nearly 250 years later.
The echo chambers, filter bubbles and silos aren’t working. They are traps designed to build emotion, reinforce bias and deepen the divide and polarization in America. It’s time to try something different, something new, something that moves us closer together rather than farther apart. Or possibly resort back to our history when people would actually have a civil discussion.
At some point, we must learn to talk with each other, not at each other. About religion, about race, about culture, about education, about finances, about politics. Disagree, sure, but with respect and consideration.
Without ranting, without raging, without an agenda, without hatefulness, without fear, without rancor, without hostility. And the key part of the civil discussion is: LISTENING. And HEARING.
It sounds so easy and it seems that any reasonable, thoughtful person would want to join that revolution. Not necessarily so, as I have found the hard way. Friends — and others reading this — it’s time to stop with all the “yeah buts”, “what ifs”, serving up conditions, verbal stoning, personally demeaning rhetoric.
America is broken: Who will rise up to heal her?
The circumstances in Minneapolis are only the latest in decades-long series of events that have been screaming to get the attention of Americans, Christians and other right-hearted people. We must not stand idly by and watch innocent men and women die and watch as America burns, literally and figuratively.
This is the truth: Whether it’s a police officer or a protestor or a rioter, everyone is responsible for his or her own actions. You, me, pastors, leaders, politicians, group organizers, the media. We are Americans first, and we must not be led down the primrose path to encourage, foster or introduce division and discord.
These times should not come as a surprise, though. Whether it’s Thomas Paine, Paul’s writing to Timothy (see 2 Timothy 3) or men like Paul Harvey (watch the stunning video) from his 1965 radio show, nothing is happening in our midst that should shock us.
When America was battling for its independence and freedom, Paine wrote in The Crisis that “the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.”
Indeed, we have some serious discussions ahead or the America we know and have known will go the way of Rome and other countless nations that have crumbled from within.
In the ’40’s and ’50’s student problems were chewing gum and talking
In the ’90’s, rape and murder are the trend. ~Carman from a 1990s song.
Now, we live in an era of school shootings, contempt for authority and a time when people call good evil and evil good. All the while, the civil discourse has turned to incivility! There is no mutual respect. There is no honor. There is no benefit of the doubt. In a March 1 post, I wrote about two politicians in the 80s who were on opposite ends of the political spectrum, yet found ways to become frenemies. Read Civil Discourse No Longer in Vogue when you get a chance.
Whether to stoke fear, division, or merely to increase ratings, many in the media are promoting division and chaos. We live in different times than just 30-40 years ago. Politicians like Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill along with newsmen like Walter Cronkite, Edwin R. Murrow, David Brinkley and Tim Russert would be utterly appalled at the state of the country. Regardless of their personal political, religious or cultural views, they respected America and they knew and understood the consequences of a divided nation.
The division and chasm is alarming today more than ever. There is no middle ground, there is no understanding, there is no effort to reconcile. Frankly, no one seems to want to live in harmony or peace.
America is broken: Who will rise up to heal her? Perhaps the better question is who can heal her? And what must happen to do to fix the problems of the day?
Compromise has become a dirty word, but that doesn’t mean giving up your convictions or values. It doesn’t mean changing the principles upon which you were raised. It does mean you may have to move outside your comfort zone to reach others, and it will mean you may get to see things from a different perspective.
Here are some serious questions for you:
- Will you set aside your agenda and be part of the civil conversation? Listening, without ranting and raging?
- Are you willing to face some tough questions, divergent revelations and consider some ideas and perspectives you may never have encountered before?
- Can you find someone today who will start the conversation with you? Someone with different views from another race with dissimilar ideas? Consider this person before you send an invitation to someone. Not everyone is willing — or even ready — to have the conversation.
- In that conversation, make it about them. What would you like to know? What can you ask that will allow them to lower the barrier and answer honestly?
And, finally, remember: Before you criticize, walk a mile in another man’s shoes.