About an hour ago – as the pen flies – violent protesters at the University of California-Berkeley managed to force the cancellation of a speech by the controversial conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos. A similar protest and ensuing cancellation occurred a month ago at UC-Davis, though interim chancellor Ralph Hexter later expressed regret for the university’s actions. “A university is at its best when it listens to and critically engages opposing views,” he said.
Make me laugh.
If there is anything that has become more obvious in recent years, and is especially highlighted by the first two weeks of the Trump presidency, is the inability or outright refusal of voices – from both Left and Right – to listen and critically engage.
Weapons of choice these days for dealing with any hot-button topic are filling the streets with volcanic protesters, filling inboxes with profane comments, name-calling, tweeting, and the ever-popular, never-dull slur of comparing your opponent to a certain Germanic madman with a silly mustache.
President Trump’s recent executive order placing a moratorium on admitting refugees from seven nations placed on a terror-watch list identified by the Obama administration has been a perfect case study illustrating the madness. Admittedly, not even Abbot and Costello could have botched the rollout of this policy any more spectacularly than the administration did (unless you’re of the Breitbartian persuasion that Donald Trump is a secret genius who only appears ignorant to send his opponents into apoplectic seizures or to induce public crying).
But once you drill down into the the order, it’s clear that very little of the verbiage and venom you’re hearing has anything to do with its substance. It’s not a Muslim ban (many Muslims even welcome it), it doesn’t dramatically reduce the number of refugees we’ll allow to enter the country compared to recent years, it’s temporary, and it’s not going to light-up the message boards of terrorist recruitment operations any more than they’re already lit-up. (We really must set aside this foolish Obamaian notion that we mustn’t do anything to offend our enemies, or they’ll get angry at us. Niceness alone will not cause an enemy to back down; niceness and having a bigger weapon will.)
Yet none of this you would know perusing the news reports, which are largely filled with rancor and outrage. And sadly, the same vitriol simmers in many of the discussions on this issue which Christians are having. The comment section of many Christian blogs would cause Samson to blush. A megachurch pastor incensed at Franklin Graham for his support of the refugee order has instructed his followers to stop their support of Graham’s Samaritan Purse ministry.
So where is all this hatred coming from? My theories:
Look at the home. The seedbed for civility is found there, but too many kids have absorbed too many harmful lessons watching too many Moms and Dads rip each other apart.
Look at the schools. Discipline and boundaries are not enforced. Authority is not respected. Kids feel safer walking an urban street than many a school hallway. Bad behavior seldom meets bad consequences, and so moseys on up into adulthood.
Look at the culture. A barrage of political-correctness-indoctrination has quite literally brainwashed a generation into seeing only labels, tribes and circles. Though lip-service is paid to the virtue of tolerance, the PC cult has perversely fueled some of worst intolerance imaginable.
Look at politics. Division has been in the American DNA since its Founding. Tories were tarred and feathered. The Jefferson-Adams election turned slander into an art form. There was that little dust-up called the Civil War. However, there is almost unanimous agreement today that the climate in Washington is far worse than it was even a generation ago, when Ronald Reagan and Tip O’neill would share a drink together at the end of a fiery day of political combat.
Look at our souls. Since God is dismissed as a source of meaning for more and more people, they default backwards to other things that seem larger than life. Especially politics. At this point in time, the Left seems particularly vulnerable to the idolatry of Party (the Right has had its moments too). Their Messianic fervor for Obama, their devotion to the sacrament of abortion, their worship at the altar of the Supreme Court, their liturgical marches in the street, and the awestruck wonder of the media are all hallmarks of their religion. (I’m sure within another 24 hours, the Washington Post will have completed its Neil-Gorsuch-Is-The-Anti-Christ makeover. Trump could have nominated Captain Kangaroo and it wouldn’t change a thing.)
So where do we go from here? I suspect that things will get worse before they get better. Because so much of this hatred is spiritual at its core, it’s going to take a shaking of God to stop the madness. In the meantime, those who operate under the cross of Christ and claim to follow him need to step up their game.
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:24-25