The Holy Spirit nudged me awake before the crack of dawn yesterday and as usual when that happens, I tried to ignore Him and go back to sleep.
It was 4:12am, fercryinoutloud.
But keeping my eyes closed doesn’t prevent me from hearing the persistent invitation of the Holy Spirit and in the silence of a sleeping house, His quiet whisper can be even more intrusive than Patrick Swayze singing “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am” on repeat.
By 4:26am, the increasing activity of my mind was impossible to ignore, so I stopped being stubborn, slipped out of bed and went downstairs.
By 4:45am I was sitting on my loveseat with a fresh brewed cup of coffee and a Bible, being stared at by three confused and sleepy cats.
I have a few Bibles, but by (what I now believe is) non-coincidence, the new year had prompted me to start reading a chronological Bible. If you know anything about Biblical timelines, you know the Book of Job was written early, around 6th century BC, so that means in a chronological Bible, Job shows up MUCH sooner than he does in a traditionally arranged Bible.
Meaning that yesterday, at 4:45am in the morning, I found myself reading the Book of Job. Specifically, the part where the Lord “answered” Job. Chapters 38 through 42.
I’ll say right now, Job 40:3-4 is among my favorite passages, but I’m jumping ahead.
In chapter 2, after Job has lost everything, and I mean e v e r y t h i n g, three friends come to him and give us an example of what to do for a friend who is suffering when there really is nothing we can do:
“Then they sat on the ground with Job seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him because they saw how much he was suffering.”
Because, sometimes, there are no words.
After seven days and seven nights, Job starts talking to them; actually, lamenting to them. His friends reply. They spend 35 chapters slugging through Job’s suffering, all he has lost, why God would do this to him and Job lamenting about how he wants to talk to God and ask Him Why? Why? Why would He DO this!?!?
Then, in Chapter 38:1, God shows up in a storm and “answers” Job’s questions:
“Then the Lord answered Job from the storm. He said: “Who is this that makes my purpose unclear by saying things that are not true? Be strong like a man! I will ask you questions, and you must answer me. Where were you when I made the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.”
“Excuse me? Are you lookin’ at me? Did you rub my lamp? Did you wake me up? Did you bring me here? And all of a sudden you’re walking out on me? I don’t think so, not right now. You’re getting your wishes, so sit down!“
Combine my Disney Genie/God comparison heresy with scripture and my paraphrase goes something like this:
“You wanted to talk to me? You don’t think this is “fair”? You want answers? You want me to explain myself to you? Here I am. And I have a few questions for YOU. Did YOU create the earth? Did you…“
Question after question in verse after verse, each one another confirmation that God is God and Job is . . . not. and then,
“The Lord said to Job: “Will the person who argues with the Almighty correct him? Let the person who accuses God answer him.”
Then Job answered the Lord: “I am not worthy; I cannot answer you anything, so I will put my hand over my mouth.”
That right there. Emphasis mine. One of my favorite passages of the Bible. Job 40:3-4
Why did I take the time to write this and go out on a potentially heretical limb to share it?
Because I believe that:
We may struggle and face dark days ahead, but no matter how bad things get, God is SOVEREIGN. None of what’s happening right now is out of His control or even surprises Him.
God has a history of redeeming situations that satan means for evil and using broken people to accomplish his greater purposes.
I recognize that people who are suffering seek God exponentially more often and more intensely than those who are safe and comfortable and satisfied and successful by the world’s standards, like the story of the rich man in Mark 10.
So. No matter what happens,
when the Holy Spirit leads me to someone who needs encouragement or help, I need to pray and ask Him to equip me to be His hands and feet and eyes and ears and voice because I can’t do it on my own
when worry creeps into those quiet moments between awake and asleep, I need to pray and ask God to remind me that He is sovereign and He is with me and I can trust Him.
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C.S. Lewis
The use and/or abuse of inflammatory language is one reason I don’t rely on anyone else’s explanation or interpretation for accurate, objective information. I search for and read/watch original sources rather than trust articles and videos which summarize, interpret or ‘splain them.
(And yes, “splain” is an inflammatory word, a derivative of mansplaining, but it’s genderless condescension. I said I don’t rely on inflammatory words for accurate, objective information. I didn’t say I never use them.)
But back to the post…I wanted to see what kind of reaction those 98 words evoked. The comment count showed there were 4.3K comments, but when selecting the option to see “All comments” the thread indicated only 2960 comments were available (that’s an example of shadow banning, btw)
While reading through the available comments, I was prompted to look up another definition.
I have a personal aversion to groupthink, so the potential negative effect of an echo chamber is one reason I make sure I intentionally and consistently seek out and include listening and processing alternative interpretations and conclusions.
That said, if those alternative interpretations and conclusions are built on secondhand sources – or no sources at all – they lose credibility with me.
Over and over, I see facebook posts by seemingly kind people instructing friends who [they perceive] believe differently than they do to “unfriend” them.
This week, I saw a post from an HR consultant on LinkedIn, declaring they would not work with anyone who [they perceive] believe differently than they believe.
I have more than a few problems with this increasing cancel culturereaction to diversity. And by definition, I believe the word diversity is accurate.
I included [they perceive] because
perception isn’t always accurate, the issues facing us today are incredibly complex and most people aren’t myopic simpletons.
1. Perception is subjective.
Our perception (a way of understanding or interpreting something)
is skewed by our
perspective (a particular attitude toward or point of view)
Consider the possibility that we have more in common that it may appear at first glance.
people who believe and act differently than we do, actually want and value the same things but differ only in their strategies for pursuing those shared goals?
people who believe differently than we do are intelligent and informed about facts, but differ only in their interpretations and conclusions about those facts?
the labels we use to describe people who believe differently than we do actually dehumanizes them and prevents us from seeing them as unique individuals, much less understanding or empathizing with them?
our perception of the “other guy” is wrong? What would we find out about them as human beings if we didn’t unfriend them or refuse to work with them?
2. When an issue truly is “clear” or “simple” there isn’t extensive controversy over it.
Time and time again, I see people completely disregarding conflicting ideas as invalid or irrelevant in their efforts to justify and validate their own view. I’ve said this before:
Dismissing alternative viewpoints doesn’t strengthen your argument or your credibility.
It weakens the first and erodes the second.
If our reasoning can’t stand on it’s own merit and stand strong against questions or counter arguments, it needs some work. And if our reasoning needs work, we might consider listening to the alternative viewpoints as a first step. Allowing them to challenge our assumptions and help us come to a deeper understanding of what we believe so we can explain it. Respectfully.
It’s so. much. easier to call someone by a label instead of by their name, to cut off communication with them and instead surround ourselves with the comfort and familiarity of people who think like us, but we can’t hear different voices if we block ourselves off from their source.
3. Disagreement doesn’t mean people are uninformed, uneducated, racist or brainwashed.
Statements like the ones below assume that people who hold alternative views about the causes of, and solutions to, the problem of racism are only listening to a few well known celebrities “instead of” rather than “in addition to” their friends – and to the alternative views of a significantly larger number of not so famous people with diverse backgrounds, education and credentials:
“…if you are listening to them instead of the black people in your life on a daily basis…You’re doing it wrong.”
“If you’re a white person…quick to post a video of a famous black person agreeing with you, but won’t read a book from a black person with a PhD in their field disagreeing with you, then you aren’t trying to learn, you’re just weaponizing black voices to confirm your own bias.
“If you genuinely want to be part of this conversation, please stop only listening to black voices that prove your white opinion right.”
there are so many of these alternative voices, coming from so many sources, growing louder every day that it’s impossible for us NOT to hear, much less ignore them?
these thoughts and opinions are not just coming from black celebrities but from all walks of life, from multiple socio-ecconomic classes and some with PhDs of their own?
people aren’t just watching youtube video clips and sharing pithy word images?
people are actually reading books, studies and articles – written by authors from both sides, listening to podcasts, interviews and debates AND having authentic, vulnerable conversations with friends who not only don’t look like they do, but also friends who don’t think like they do?
SO. MANY. posts and comments about leaders that are flat out mean and hateful.
I’m reminded of a blog post I wrote back in 2018:
…duplicity was the unacknowledged elephant in the room when the internet-infused courage of this person deflated like a day old birthday balloon during real life interactions: what happens online, stays online.
Except, it doesn’t.
Our words and actions, regardless of whether they are online or IRL, reveal something of our true beliefs and our character: “…surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.” [emphasis added] #IreadthereforeIquote
C. S. Lewis
We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. This situation is incredibly complicated. I can’t imagine the stress of striving to make the best decisions in this no-win hornet’s nest while at the same time getting the $#!+ kicked out of me by both the media and hundreds of thousands of armchair commentators.
They have to be exhausted. And yet they continue to put themselves out there every day knowing they’re going to end up a target.
#seepeople and #edify because everyone is #justadifferentkindofbroken
#KindnessisContagious but so is #sarcasm and #criticism
I saw something in a facebook comment yesterday that immediately and instinctively evoked what I’ll conservatively refer to as a negative reaction. It was about members of the coronavirus Task Force and the comment was posted during the live briefing. I tried to let it die in the cluttered recesses of my mind, but it was literally the first thing that came to me when I woke up this morning – much too early. So, in an effort to get a full night’s rest tonight, I’m hoping that writing about it will lead to sleeping in just a bit later tomorrow morning.
Here’s the sleep stealing comment:
“They must be doctor shopping, Fauci, gone, surgeon general home., the lady doctor no longer smiles. She must be on her way out”
Pushing past the primary school level punctuation, I wondered if I was the only one reading this thread who noticed that Fauci was referred to by name and the Surgeon General was referred to by title, but the “lady” doctor was referred to by neither and – although the briefing was packed with nearly two hours of content including her taking a turn at the microphone multiple times – this guy’s comment about her was that she wasn’t SMILING.
Because when you brief the press about a global pandemic, you need to smile.
Stifling my inner Red Foreman, my mind went next to the part of this video about one minute in:
“Do it again, but just this time try it a bit more…smiley.”
“You want me to s-smile?”
“yeah. Just, you know, more…leading lady.”
“The scene gets quite tragic…”
I thought about replying to the comment, but judging by the content of the other comments and replies I already saw and how fast they were being posted (including the bird finger emoji above the lady doctor comment), I had a strong sense that anything positive I might have to say about the “lady” doctor would be of no more interest to this person than her actual name.
Which is Deborah Birx.
And while the commenter was correct in assuming she is a doctor, he also could have referred to her by one of her other titles, like (retired Army) Colonel or Ambassador.
“Birx was nominated by President Barack Obama as United States Global AIDS Coordinator and confirmed by the Senate; she was sworn in April 4, 2014.” Wikepedia
Before she was confirmed as an Ambassador under the Obama Administration, Birx served as the Director of CDC’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS from 2005-2014. From 1996-2005, she served as the Director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
But according to this particular pundit, she and everyone else on the Task Force “have no clue.”
Maybe the people who actually know this guy in real life wouldn’t view his comment about the “lady” doctor not smiling as misogynistic.
But I don’t know him. And this comment – on a PUBLIC facebook post, where anyone can read it – is all I know about him. He summed it up well with his last comment:
Not just for DT, but for everyone who doesn’t overtly hate him.
My facebook feed was toxic, repelling me away.
Post after meme after video after tweet after comment,
reiterating again and again and again and again and again how stupid and intolerable anyone is if they don’t hate
DT – AND everyone who “supports” him.
I think I’ve actually been grieving. genuinely, profoundly sad.
not because DT is the president.
The long term impact (positive and/or negative) of these next four years is yet to be evidenced.
not because people think I’m [insert contemptuous label here] because I don’t hate the same people they do.
I’ve been hated and shunned for being different before. It’s no fun, but it’s nothing new.
I’m grieving because I can’t un-know what I’ve learned about so many people I genuinely liked and respected:
That they have the capacity to be so callously and unflinchingly VICIOUS towards people who believe differently than they do. And not just because of differences – the actual differences aren’t even being acknowledged, much less discussed. It’s the relentless derisive personal attacks on the character of people who believe differently.
This is the one that finally drove me away:
Burn in Hell? Seriously? Burn in HELL?
This person is saying this to their own facebook friends. People they know personally – and supposedly like. This is not the only post like this from this particular person, much less the only post like this from a number of other people in my facebook feed. and I only have about 300 friends. If I actually unfriended every person who demanded that “unfriend them right now!!” if I don’t hate DT or anyone who voted for him, that number would be even lower. I imagine my facebook feed is not the only one contaminated with this virulent stream of bigotry.
All this blatant cruelty leaves me with these nagging thoughts:
When someone mocks, ridicules or derisively condemns a group of people,
Do they not realize there’s a strong chance they have a personal relationship with someone they would identify as belonging to that group?
And if they do recognize that some of their friends are “those people,” do they not make the connection that they are mocking and ridiculing and condemning their friend? or family member?
Maybe they themselves didn’t mock anyone. Maybe they just liked or commented or shared a post that does.
Do they not realize that the action of liking, commenting and sharing validates the attack?
And that despite the safety pin they wore or posted online, a percentage of their friends know that the only reason they are safe from outright attack from the safety pin bearer is that they’ve remained silent. under the radar. out of line of sight.
Not that silence keeps anyone safe from judgment and ostracization. Because lack of commiseration makes you suspect. The solidarity of those who hate DT is stronger than a red rover line of linebackers who just picked their nose. Nobody wants to risk going near that. Better to stay away. where it’s REALLY safe.
As a result, many of my facebook friends have been missing. Silent. For months.
I completely understand.
Why would anyone want to engage in conversation with someone who thinks they are stupid?
Why would anyone make themselves vulnerable to attack by someone who’s evidenced that they prefer to talk ABOUT them as an enemy than WITH them as a friend?
so. What have I’ve been grieving?
The loss of authentic friendships? or the loss of the illusion of those friendships?
The loss of my naivety? or the discovery that I didn’t know people as well as I thought I did.
Maybe people had misrepresented themselves and I only knew the persona they wanted me to know.
Whatever the reason, the breadth and cruelty – and tenacity – of these expressions of hatred and intolerance have genuinely shocked me.
I’m trying to tell myself that, in the long run, it’s better that I know the truth, not only about what some of my friends are capable of, but also what they think of me.
Right now, it doesn’t feel like it’s better.
All that interpersonal destruction aside, the question that comes back to me again and again is this:
When someone attacks, mocks, ridicules or derisively condemns, why is it that the validation of their opinions and beliefs seem to require and thrive on the ridicule of people who hold to different opinions and beliefs? Are the opinions and beliefs not strong enough to stand on their own merit?
Something has bothered me for a while. When someone says that a certain group of people “thinks” this or “says” that, where does the opinion of that group come from?
If it’s true that only 1% of people are “vocal” on the internet, (via posts, tweets, comments or blogs) does that really tell us what the quiet people are thinking? (I’m not claiming to be one of the quiet ones.)
Even if a person on the internet seems to be in line with my own thoughts on a subject, I rarely agree with the way they’ve stated it much less every nuance of their opinion. Often, there is no nuance, the stand is so extreme it forces polarized positions and the statements are surface level, oversimplified, sarcastic or trite.
The world is bigger than this 1%.
The issues are complex and I have a feeling a good chunk of the other 99% think much deeper than can be expressed in a tweet. So, they don’t tweet, they talk. and listen.
Where there are no trolls and the only seagulls are at the beach.
I don’t say “the left” does or says this or “the right” does or says that. Reformed, Arminian, Atheist, Evangelicals, straight, LGBT, Clinton/Trump “supporters”….whatever group label you can think of, remember the 1% rule.
“The 1% rule states that the number of people who create content on the Internet represents approximately 1% (give or take) of the people actually viewing that content. For example, for every person who posts on a forum, generally about 99 other people are viewing that forum but not posting.” [CLICK HERE to read the full wikimedia content on the 1% rule]
Given our propensity to get our information from the internet, it’s statistically probable that whatever opinion you hold about a certain labeled group and whatever reasoning behind that opinion is based on what 1% of the internet population thinks – and the internet population is only 40% of the world population.
The world is bigger than this 1%. We only think they represent the majority because they are the loudest and most visible.
The quiet people are thinking. And apparently, there’s more of them than we realize. I’m betting one of the reasons they are quiet is that they have no time or patience for the tic-tac-toe futility of the bickering that seems so prevalent on the internet today.
Thank God. Because there’s a LOT of intolerant and judgemental people on the internet who could use a day or two off the grid to regain some perspective.
#seepeople and #edify, because everybody is #justadifferentkindofbroken