American culture is in danger of losing one of its most cherished democratic principles, the ability to disagree with another person’s ideas. Tolerance and “sensitivity” toward others are now considered more important than cogent debates on the merits of the issue at hand.
Watch any public debate and you will see how quickly the focus of the debate shifts from ideas to people. It’s gotten to the point on some occasions that what masquerades as a debate is little more than a mini-civil war of the groups involved
Postmodern culture transposes discussions of ideas into commentaries about people’s ethnic or racial heritage. Blacks only trust other Blacks, regardless of the nature of the discussion. Whites don’t really believe Blacks or Arabs or Jews, unless and until other Whites make similar statements. Worse, when one person disagrees with another he or she is in danger of being labeled a despiser of the other person’s racial or ethnic heritage.
If I say that I do not agree with a speaker’s religious views I am in danger of being called intolerant, a bigot, insensitive, even a racist. For example, if I say that I am a Christian and, thus, I am not a Muslim, I mean that I disagree with Islamic beliefs about God, the world, the person of Christ, and a number of other theological viewpoints.
I disagree with their religious ideas. I am not attacking people. I do not hate or even necessarily dislike any given Muslim individual or Muslims in general. I certainly do not advocate any harm toward them, nor do I want to curtail their religious freedom.
If I say I am against casino expansion, someone plays the race card and says I am anti-Indian. Yet I am not against Native Americans having or enjoying economic opportunity any more than any other Americans. I just don’t think gambling operations are the answer.
Of course I am not suggesting a person’s demographic characteristics or heritage are unimportant. I’m saying that, typically, one’s race, gender, nationality, or ethnicity has nothing to do with the merits of his or her point of view.
Nowhere in Scripture does it say that our human ecology is irrelevant. In fact, it says God determines the times and places of our lives (Acts 17:26). But the Word also says our speech should be characterized by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
American culture will be better served to remember and revive its democratic heritage, which aligned more closely with Scripture than public discourse today. We need to focus upon what is said more than who said it.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
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