I haven’t written a blog post in a long time. I haven’t suffered insomnia much since I moved back from Nicaragua. This morning (3AM) I can’t sleep and here I am starting a post; I’ll let you decide if correlation equals causation.
Today is election day. That may be why I can’t sleep. I may be terrified for our country.
I’m not young anymore. I act childishly, of course, but I’ve now seen many elections, voted many times, and been alive long enough to watch our country moving in a particular direction. I lived outside the U.S. for seven years, which gave me a different perspective on both US politics and the impact the US has upon other parts of the world.
People believe what they want to believe. All of us, consciously or unconsciously, make up our minds and then gather evidence to support what we “know,” rather than looking at the evidence and deciding what to believe. I believe this trend in public discourse has become worse as I’ve grown older.
It isn’t a new phenomenon. Every marriage ever survives or dies based on this behavior.
If you can’t see evidence that controverts what you believe, then you can never say and mean these words: “I’m sorry, I see now I was wrong.”
If you can’t accept evidence that contradicts what you “know,” your mind can’t be changed.
That’s a terribly frightening position to take in life. Frightening for you and frightening for others around you.
If you can’t be wrong–if you can’t see when you are wrong–you are dangerous to yourself and others.
As a Christian, as a follower of Jesus, I believe that life and death hangs on these words: “I have sinned; please forgive me.”
“I have sinned” means “I was wrong.”
I once gave a sermon entitled “You’re Wrong.” Christians have an easier time saying “I’m a sinner,” than “I’m wrong.” I think we rattle off “I’m a sinner” because that’s our party line and we know we have to acknowledge it. The Bible says so. “I’m wrong” proves a harder confession than “I’m a sinner,” because yeah, we’re all sinners…but I’m still right in this argument.
That’s the opposite of repentance. Repentance means, literally, turning around and going in the opposite direction.
But what if I can’t–or won’t–ever see that I’m going in the wrong direction in the first place? What if Peter looks Jesus in the eye and says, “I didn’t deny you!” and then argues for his innocence?
Here’s the thing: You don’t think you’re wrong. You don’t want to believe you’re wrong. Accepting you’re wrong is costly. Acknowledging you’re wrong? Hoo-boy, that’s exorbitant.
No one wants to pay that price.
None of this is new. Adam and Eve both ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When God confronted them–when their guilt was obvious for all to see: hiding from God, newly clad in fig leaves, cores and seeds strewn on the ground–neither said, “Yes, I did that. I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry.”
What terrifies me now is that our political parties have recognized “We will get absolute loyalty from our members when we demonize the other party. When we can convince our members that anything the other side does, no matter how positive-looking, is either inherently evil or else a ploy to deceive people (us!) so that they can commit a more cruel and vile evil, we will never lose a voter again.”
“Fake news” plays perfectly into this. Any appearance that my side actually did something wrong, or even heinous, I can dismiss as fake news. Exaggerated, twisted, taken out of context, wholly fabricated. I can read a news report, I can listen to an audio recording, or even watch the video of an event and still tell myself, “That never happened.”*
No, I did not eat that fruit. No, I did not deny you.
We, our side, were not wrong, because A)You all are liars, and B)You are the enemy. Therefore, even if my side appears to have done wrong, it’s for a greater good, just as when your side appears to have done good, it’s for a deeper evil.
I had a conversation last night with friends and one of them stated, “For people who support this president, nothing can change their minds.” He wasn’t using hyperbole. He meant it literally.
As a follower of Jesus, I believe God still redeems and heals and restores. I believe I will see my son Isaac again. I know God has defeated death.
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
26 and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see on my side,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
When I say I’m scared, I’m scared for us. I’m scared for what we are letting our country become, I’m scared for who we will allow ourselves to be, while telling ourselves we are the opposite.
Deceiving ourselves stands diametrically opposed to following Jesus. Demonizing our enemies is antithetical to the Gospel…making our fellow countrymen and women the enemy and then demonizing them?
Jesus calls us to love our enemies. Jesus calls us to love the poor and the refugee (stranger). Jesus commands us to love one another as he loves us. If those commandments “sound political,” the problem is not with the Gospel, but with our politics.
Politics based on fear and hatred of our enemies, politics that vilify others to win your vote, politics that tell you to hate the people Jesus commands you to love, those are diseased. They may appear to produce results–and even win elections–but they bear rotten fruit. Nothing in the Gospels teaches us that the end justifies the means. Quite the opposite. We live faithfully and leave the results to God.
We love faithfully, and leave the results to God.
Where there is hatred, we sow love, not more hatred.
I know some of my political views may offend you and if so, I appreciate that you’ve read this far…unless it’s just to prove me wrong. I may be wrong; if so, I want to know.
Marcus Aurelius wrote “If anyone can refute me—show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective—I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone.”
More importantly to me, Jesus said “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Ironically, some of those listening to him say these words argued, called him names, and, when they fully grasped what he was saying, tried to throw stones at his head.
“Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Racist names, at that.
That captures my fear: when we hear the truth, will we repent? Or will we go after the speaker with stones? Will I admit when I’m wrong or will I say you have a demon?
The truth will make me free, if I receive it…but not if I attack it.
*”Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening,” Trump said. “Just stick with us, don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.” This was in a speech to veterans regarding tariffs. See video here.