Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stupid is as Stupid Does

*Note: I am using some information I read online earlier this week in this blog post. I searched for the original to no avail. If any of this information or opinion seems familiar then let me know and I will give proper credit.

I turned 30 a few weeks ago and so I missed the intensity of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam movements of the 1950's, 60's, and 70's. In my limited experience, the recent health care reform debate has been the more contentious, fear-filled, hate-filled, and intense political debate in recent memory. It seems that since the election of President Obama the anger over "government" is boiling over. How much of that anger is genuine and how much is redirected racism is yet to be seen. A new poll released today shows that 67% of Republicans and 40% of Americans believe that President Obama is a socialist. Also, 57% of Republicans and 32% of Americans believe that he is a Muslim. I do not know the reliability of this poll, but in my experience over the last 14 months I would agree with the statistics.

I live in a small town in rural Tennessee. I overhear people at the cafe, at the grocery store, and at church and for the most part their opinions seem to match those in this poll. On Election Day 2008 I overheard a conversation at a local diner that went something to the effect of "He(Obama) won't make it to January." and "There will be killings." At the time I blew these words off as racist rednecks running their mouths, but as Obama's presidency moves on I am genuinely concerned for his well being. I pray for him and his family. This new anger is not limited to coffee shops and hardware stores. I had a good friend from school block me on his Facebook because of my political views. I have lost friends because of the way I think and believe. I have many friends who have differing political viewpoints and I would never consider not being their friend because of it. There is no open-mindedness anymore. There is no compromise anymore. The political and sometimes theological mentality if today is "if you do not agree with me then you are my enemy."

This brings me to the breadth of my post. I truly see this new political atmosphere as a form of ignorance. *There is where that other bog post comes in.* There are two kinds of ignorance. One kind is simply a lack of knowledge. Imagine a child touching a hot stove and burning her/his hand. She/he did not have the knowledge that a hot stove causes a burn and pain along with it. I confess that I lack knowledge about a lot of things. Sometimes this gets me into trouble, but I am always willing to learn what I don't know. I try to be open minded to new and different viewpoints.

The second kind of ignorance is defined by its UNwillingness to learn and engage new and differing viewpoints. Some might call it stupidity or idiocy and it takes many guises; racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice. This form of ignorance can be defined by the phrases "I don't care what you think, I'm not going to change no matter what you say." The majority of this anger towards Obama comes from this kind of ignorance. You can tell people time and time again that Obama is Christian and belongs to the United Church of Christ, but they refuse to believe it. You show them Obama's birth certificate from Hawaii and they call it a fake. You ask people to define socialism, fascism, and Marxism and they call you a socialist, fascist, and Marxist. Many of these people go to church once a week, but listen to Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh 5 times a week.

How then do we liberate people from this kind of ignorance? I truly believe that only the grace and love of God can break this wall of ignorance. The writer of 1 John says that "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love." I don't want to sound too cliché, but love is the answer. We love these people in spite of their ignorant hatefulness. We show them love when they say hateful things. Most importantly we show the young people the fullness of God's love so that we can break the cycle of ignorance. I have witnessed the redemptive power of God's love. It does not always happen overnight, but love will win in the end. I am reminded of the famous words of the Apostle Paul read at many weddings including my own. "And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."

No comments: