Note: The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent The K.I.N.G. Movement or its supporters. They are the views of the author alone.
This picture is America.
You’re probably wondering: ‘What in the world am I looking at?’ or ‘How is this America?’ When I first saw this picture, I was confused myself. This diverse collection of animals, somehow awkwardly protruding out of the body of a wild beast produces a sense of discomfort and general confusion. Even more so, the group of men in the back are seemingly incapable of taking the reins and controlling the beast add an extra sense of fear.
This is a 16th century painting by Pieter van der Borcht the Elder titled, ‘The Difficulty of Ruling a Diverse Nation.’ It serves as an allegorical piece, representing a much larger concept. The principle is that there is too much pain, toil and confusion where there are a multitude of ideals, worldviews and opinions; especially within the borders of a nation. The large beast represents a nation as a whole, with the animals growing out symbolizing various opposing views. Most interestingly, the men on the side consist of political, religious and social leaders, who all seem to be lost and confused.
Right now, America seems to be more divided than it ever was. People are torn against each other on almost every ethical and moral idea there is. Despite the country being a melting pot of cultures, talents and dreams, disputes have created a society resembling the toil and discomfort felt by the beast in the image. People are divided on science, politics and religion. Every issue which breaks the surface is faced with tremendous altercation. Whether it be the presidential election, gay rights movement, or black lives matter campaign, there seems to be a lot more hurt than growth. Even the death of the gorilla Harambe has caused social media to turn upside down. From the outside I’m sure many would think, ‘What in the world am I looking at?’
Is there a solution? You might be thinking to yourself that people discovering new perspectives and standing up for what they believe is a good thing. In no way am I saying we should all believe the same thing, nor am I implying that there is something wrong with diversity and a diversity of views. What I am asserting is that there are faults in the core concepts of how we opinionate and interact with others, these are what bring about issues.
A key issue in society’s way of thinking is that every situation which occurs is turned into a false dilemma. This means that opinions become polarized, resulting in two sides being formed, implying it is either option A or option B, with no middle ground i.e.: Republican vs Democratic, pro-life pro-choice, pledging allegiance to the flag vs kneeling for it etc. The societal individual is not pushed towards drafting an opinion on logic and intuition, rather they are pushed into choosing a side, which means they turn to hatred for the other side of the coin. So imagine not only different animals growing out of one beast, but having all those animals hate each other.
This false dilemma is also common in Christendom. We often as Christians get drawn into believing different theological extremes, such as worship, pre-destination, baptism etc. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis warns about this when he said,
“[The devil] always sends errors into the world in pairs--pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one.”
This doesn’t imply that there isn’t absolute truth, or that there is no specific way in which we should conduct ourselves. The bible is very clear on doctrines which are key to our Christianity, but issues which are cultural or merely food for thought, should not be held tightly to as extremes. Be passionate about what you believe in, but discern all sides and avoid hating the opposite view.
Without a doubt that you are a product of your experiences. Even those who swear by the most heinous acts of violence or evil, do so because that is what they assume to be correct. We all believe differently because of what we have been exposed to. Therefore, let us introduce others to what we have experienced, and vice versa, in order to truly gain a logical understanding rather than holding on to traditions and extremes.
"Tolerance" is a term which has caused major issues. We have claimed to be more tolerant, but is that the truth? Nowadays, tolerance translates to nothing more than “You can believe whatever you want, I just won’t confront you about it.” The major issue in this is the fact that it creates generalizations in the minds of people and allows them to fester. The lack of dialogue due to ‘tolerance’ prevents the clarification of these stereotypes. By preventing healthy discussion, people become callous towards what they believe is wrong. As a result, when there is intellectual confrontation, pride and anger is released as individuals seek nothing more than to disprove the other person’s view.
The times in history most potent with ingenuity, discovery and growth have been those where academic discourse and critical debate were encouraged and frequent. We are barren of that today. The age of enlightenment, renaissance, ancient Greece and even ancient Jerusalem in the time of Jesus had something interesting in common. They all promoted public discourse. The desire for wisdom and accurate thinking lead people to share their point of view, in order to find truth, not fight for their side. The modern enforcement of tolerance has prevented this, as phrases like ‘to each his own,’ have resulted in a lack of discussion over a fear of offending someone.
The current era of subjectivism places so much value on the individual opinion that it foregoes any need to think logically. Just because you have a right to an opinion does not mean everyone’s opinion is right. Because of this, you should not become an intellectual hermit and avoid discussion. These individuals are often insecure about their beliefs and therefore fear cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is a negative feeling we experience upon realizing we made a bad decision or something we thought was right wasn’t. This is common, as many times when people argue, they find illogical ways to rationalize just to make sure they are not considered to be wrong. Therefore, we cling hard to what we suppose is correct and never waiver, because WE ALL WANT TO BE RIGHT.
The New School of Athens
This image is the iconic School of Athens painting, comprised of a collection of the world’s greatest philosophers of all time gathered together. These men all debated in the name of reason, and not bias in order to push their perspective on the world and our minds. Although they had theories on life, they ultimately valued truth over being right. The Socratic method was common during this time, which is public debate between individuals by where the viewpoints of others are criticized by looking for contradictions, in order to create the most logical point of view.
Gone are the days of philosophical greats. The chances of you being the next Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras or Socrates is slim. Even the odds of being a leader in social or scientific innovation are not in your favor. However, you have the unique blessing of living in an era potent with ideas and worldviews. A wealth of knowledge is at your fingertips, so embrace thinking critically and empower those around you.
What we need is to seek truth, not seek to be right. We must become vulnerable and express our opinions and have them criticized in order to align ourselves with what is best. This applies to all people and all issues. However, for Christians this is one principle that is key. Before knowing Christ, we likely followed the ways of the world and listened to our heart on what we should do. However, Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”. In knowledge of this we must come to God and expose ourselves to the truth. Ephesians 5:13 says “When anything is exposed to the light it becomes visible.” Until we align our lives with the will of God and submit to His authority, our lives will be void of truth. We cannot listen to culture over what is right, we must look to God and His word.
Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” This verse highlights everything mentioned. We must not adhere to tradition and what we think is right, but we must discern according to the Bible, a sword that splits into our soul and convicts us of truth.
I cannot end without expressing an issue I have found; most Christians are not critical thinkers. We are Christians because we grew up around it or because it seemed like the easy option to take. Being a Christian is great, but know what you believe and have a reason behind it. Jesus never cared about quantity, he cared about quality. He steered away crowds by challenging them, because He knew that to truly be His disciple you had to have proper faith in Him. If you are a Christian, know the theology behind your beliefs and become positive influences in the world, not negative judgers. We are not exempt from any of the ills mentions throughout this blog.
This is not geared to force you to believe anything, but to encourage you to think about what you believe in. We must look beyond the surface of the drama in the media and look at issues for what they truly are, not what they appear to be. Use discernment, be an advocate for healthy debate and push others to think critically. We do not have to live in a world filled with the toxicity that Pieter van der Borcht represented in his painting, we have the potential be an intellectual and diverse community that moves forward together.