Updated: Jan 8, 2021
I woke up this morning realizing that I felt depressed. The scenes of chaos yesterday in the U.S. capitol were unexpected, unpatriotic, and despicable. If you, my reader, already disagree with that assessment, it only illustrates our problem. One social psychologist commented that although the current President of the United States is a big part of the problem facing our nation, the fact that people follow his irrational ways shows we have a deep divide in our society.
A chasm like the Grand Canyon has slowly opened up where people on one side believe our nation’s institutions can be trusted, and on the other side believe they cannot. Several million citizens do not trust our government, do not trust the main stream media, do not trust their church, or churches in general, do not trust public schools, and do not trust our leading scientists. That attitude has been growing for a decade or longer, fed by insidious voices on the web who spout all manner of totally false “information,” or accusations, and lead people to think they are getting in on the only “real truth” by reading their posts.
Some internet personalities have followers that immediately re-post or repeat the original writer’s “news” or opinion. Therefore it quickly multiplies into “fact” that gets picked up by other reliable or unreliable internet media, eventually the broadcast news. What many people do not know is that often the original writer is running an online business by which he or she gets paid a small amount of money for each “hit” and re-post. Truth does not matter. It is the flow of attention that generates money for the writer, and that is what they care about.
In other cases a genuine political opinion or questionable “news” motivates others to follow the same way and the multiplier effect of repeated postings magnifies their “movement” so readers are drawn into their orbit through the same process. Stupid things are magnified into something people pay attention to. And most of the time this questions our institutions.
There are genuine failures in government, church, and in news reporting. These can be addressed through the open world of public debate and using our rights as citizens, writing, speaking, voting, donating to causes, however we wish. But in the world where there is so much tinder of distrust lying around, it only took one delusional, psychologically unhinged, self-centered, salesman/entertainer who is our current President to light the fire and motivate people to act like a mob, attacking the capitol, the very core of our republic, to terrorize our legislators during one of their most solemn duties, affirming election of a President.
What can you or I do as a Christian, or as a nonbelieiver, whatever we are? The sense of insecurity might make us depressed or angry. Yes, we can write to our congress member or senator, and I will not suggest what we ought to say. We may choose to vote differently next time. I have opinions about that. But what can you and I do as a person of faith right now?
A couple days ago I read in the next chapter after the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke (ch. 3:1-2), “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” Five rulers are mentioned. None of them were chosen by the people. Ordinary people had no power to influence or control who made their laws or how they were taxed. Their sense of insecurity and uncertainty was “normal.” And it was at that time that God spoke to John the Baptist. Where? In the wilderness.
I am going to wait for God to speak to me in this time of wilderness. I want to be all the more prayerful, waiting and listening. I really don’t know what will heal our nation and bridge the divides. In fact, the more confident we are and think we already know the answer, the less helpful that will be. It took John years to come to a place of confidence after prayer and fasting, living in the wilderness.
We as a nation are in a wilderness, without our normal sense of security and stability. I pray that God speaks to all of us. I pray that we are listening intently. I pray especially for those who are in office in Washington. I suspect that for each of them, their job has become more challenging than they expected. Perhaps fear, embarrassment, and humility will teach us all to listen better, listen to one another, and listen to God.
© 2021 Stanley Hagemeyer