…where what looks like the beginning of a conversation quickly turns into a virtual UFC fight.
…where disagreements are taken as personal affronts to one’s morals, motives, and mental capacity.
…where the really discouraging – even disturbing – thing we see is that so many with vastly opposed views are unable to communicate with one another, much less collaborate.
Rivalry and collaboration don’t mix well.
When we vehemently defend one fallible person and everything they say/do, we’re pigeonholed by the political ideology/platform they represent, narrowing our own frame of thought and exposing ourselves to a biased, subjective perception of the truth. Just the act of labeling ourselves also affords others the opportunity to define us and our beliefs. And if we’ve developed a hatred of (or just a bitter rivalry toward) those representing the opposition, we’ll eventually find ourselves immediately discounting everything they say – even when it’s the truth.
This is the stuff that breeds division and hinders free thinking and cooperation.
The news media? They don’t help us. A little drip from the faucet here or there might be okay. But it’s depressing when it’s on at full tilt – it’ll drown you. And too much of one slant on the news borders on brainwashing.
The truth becomes blurry when we look at it through the lens of bias.
Dr. Del Tackett, theologian, gave a perfect example of two opposing groups viewing the same truth differently:
“I recall a championship football game between Tennessee and Auburn (my alma mater for my master’s work). Near the end of the game, the Tennessee quarterback threw a pass into the end zone. The wide receiver stretched out parallel to the ground to catch the ball. At the instant he did, the Tennessee players and half of the thousands of fans in the stands immediately saw it as a touchdown. But the interesting thing was that the Auburn players and half of the thousands of fans in the stands, and yours truly, at home watching on my television, immediately saw it as incomplete, that the ball had touched the ground before he caught it.”
Tackett says “The point is that we have a tendency to see what we want to see. This is true for believers as well as unbelievers and we need to be aware of it.”
A disturbing example I’ve seen making it’s rounds on Facebook is a Fox News video clip of Hillary discussing why kids join gangs. She says a gang is like a family where kids find a sense of belonging, and that we must offer other positive alternatives – “positive gangs” – to attract young people.
Conservatives say her statements are stupid and crazy.
But synonyms for “gang” are “group, club, team…” And we use these words everyday.
My husband once heard a pastor/missionary from an inner-city church in Miami speaking at a conservative church who said the exact same thing as Hillary. He lamented that a street gang member who’d attended his church for about a month left church to return to his gang because he didn’t feel the same sense of family at church that he felt in his street gang.
My church also encourages special interest groups so that people feel connected “to something bigger than themselves.” They also have an entire youth ministry built around the idea of connecting students to God and to one another. The first words on the webpage for the ministry are “You Belong…”
We all have an innate need to belong. Ironically, the very act of identifying with a political party, even a particular candidate, gives one a sense of belonging.
If we want to be aware of the truth which surrounds us, we have to remove our blinders.
Please hear me on this: I’m not a Hillary fan, nor am I a fan of Trump. But that doesn’t mean that these two people are not competent and intelligent in their own rights. They both give me reason to worry. (But I will vote for one of them.)
If Donald Trump (or another prominent conservative) had said the same thing, conservatives would’ve found the statement profound. And liberals would’ve similarly shredded him to pieces. (Proof positive: the reaction to Melania Trump’s plagiarized speech)
And the wheel goes round and round. Attacks constantly abound from left to right, right to left, with different pieces and versions of the same stories being spun.
If we don’t open up our own field of vision to get the whole picture on the truth (about anything) then someone else (most likely fanatics at the far ends of the spectrum) will always try to spoon feed us their truth.
Truth doesn’t discriminate…we do. The truth just is.
So that we don’t develop tunnel vision, maybe we just need to check ourselves once in a while, by making sure that we’re still open to conversation, to hearing ideas from even those who disagree with us.
Because disagreement shouldn’t look like a slammed door; it should look like a table. And shouldn’t the truth always be welcome at the table – no matter who brings it?