What the Heck Happened?

I am not fan of President Trump. I think he is less than desirable in many ways. I probably make my conservative friends upset by saying that, though Trump is not a conservative in many respects. I was not a big fan of President Obama either. I thought he was deficient in my ways also. That probably makes some of my more liberal friends upset. When I look at that state of our discourse on these things, however; I have noticed that as Americans, we are so polarized that any form of discussion of the merits of these individuals has been obfuscated by our own need to “be right.” Our friends cannot disagree with us without becoming our mortal enemies. We cannot possibly admit that someone we do not like at all had a good day, or did something that we appreciate.

What the heck happened?

I remember hearing stories of Democrats and Republicans disagreeing all day long, and then having a beer after work and being friends. That used to be common in America, but it seems like we have lost our ability to reason and be friends with people we disagree with. This is obvious by the raging hate storms you see on any discussion of politics or religion on social media if you are brave enough to view the comments of a post.

I do not really care much for politics, so my concern is always more focused on the church. Unfortunately, the same attitude is present in the church. People who disagree on matters of belief are so quick to condemn their “opponents” (not their friends who disagree) as heretics. People shun and criticize others because they believe or do things just a little bit different. There is no room for dissent about topics that can be arbitrary and no related to anything important. I do believe there are issues that should separate believers, and that there are required divisions in the big tent of the Body of Christ, but I also think those are few and far between.

What the heck happened?

I have tried to be thoughtful about this. I thought: “has anything really changed?” People have always been self-righteous, self-focused, and self-aggrandizing. I think that part hasn’t changed at all, but the rapid ability to disseminate our opinion has certainly changed with the advent of social media. It allows us to make our own platforms that we can pontificate from, regardless of our education on a topic. We can be jerks (me included!), and we can pretend like our way is the right way. We get to have one way discussions, and make sure people know that we are right.

While that is true, I think the issue is really bigger, because Jesus taught His people to behave differently. To love others. To give to others. To respect others. Even those (maybe, especially those) who disagree with us. How can it be possible that those of us who claim Christ act like we do just because we have a megaphone at our fingertips? The answer, I think, is the lack of the Spirit’s voice in our hearts. The Spirit is the one thing that should prompt us to act differently, to love more, and to be more committed to people than we are to ourselves. I believe the church has systematically silenced Him. Baptists do it out of fear (can you imagine if the Spirit got out of His box in some churches)? Charismatics silence Him by overindulging in emotionalism and fake Spirit movements. The high church Protestants/Catholics silence Him through traditionalism. The Spirit, the influence that should be pushing us to be like Christ, is speaking to those who have no room to listen. Our society is suffering for it. Our friends and neighbors are suffering for it. We are suffering individually for it. Most of all, the Kingdom is suffering for it.

What the heck happened?

We tuned the Spirit out and have become the coarse, nasty, and uncaring society that we are today.  The Bible says that those in the Spirit have peace, patience, self-control, joy, and many other things. Do these define us? They certainly do not dominate our culture, and those who claim Christ have lost that subversive, cross-cultural impact we need to keep pushing the Kingdom forward. Not in the sense that we try and be hipster cool, but in the sense that we love radically. People need to look at all aspects of our lives and see a difference.  Too often, what they see are people arguing and trying to justify themselves and their always right opinions.

What the heck happened?
We stopped listening to the Spirit, and we didn’t even notice.

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