Most people in our nation cannot identify their philosophical perspective by name and would be hard-pressed to articulate any consistent, reasonable, thoughtful process by which they arrive at their conclusions and determine their points of view. The irrational nature of most dialogue on almost any controversial subject reveals an appalling lack of awareness of how confused people really are. Incoherent thinking leads to illogical conclusions resulting in ill-formed opinions.
This is not an issue of intelligence. Even the most brilliant people plod along with no definition to the basic reasons or supportive evidences to support their convictions because they have been led to believe that such things are not important. Mutually contradictory positions do not seem to bother people and conflicting statements about what is valuable are the norm, not the exception.
Therefore, when a tough and complicated issue reaches the public and opinions are polled, it is frankly embarrassing to hear the naïve and underdeveloped conclusions stated with no idea how illogical and inconsistent their opinions are. Consider how that confusion shapes the nature of the discussion of…
…freedom and rights. The conversation does not have to go very far before you realize that there is fundamental conflict between the two in many circumstances. One of the most volatile controversies that divides the nation has to do with how people understand and approach the discussion about abortion. Many see it as an issue of rights…the woman has the right to reproductive freedom and that takes precedence over every other consideration on their minds. Now that most of the debate has been settled about the human-ness of the unborn child (because technology has made it clear that the baby in the womb is indeed a living human being), the conversation has shifted to reproductive rights of the mother being more important than the right to life of the unborn child.
But if the question is asked how that determination was reached, the glassy-eyed stare you get in response lets you know that it is a completely arbitrary assessment. Moral arguments are not allowed, legal and ethical ramifications are pushed aside, and the improbable idea that this is purely a biological decision rules the day. That should trouble thinking people that the rights of one are preferred over the rights of another without any substantive explanation why.
With no basis upon which to sort out such a dilemma, the general response of the culture is to ignore the support of freedom for one and deny the freedom for another on the grounds that…oh wait, on no grounds whatsoever! The confusion results in silence and deference to the loudest voices in the debate.
…truth and tolerance. The big ticket item in public debate right now is tolerance versus intolerance…the rejection of absolute truth and the insistence on the rightness of diametrically opposite positions. No one wants to risk being painted as intolerant so we find a confused nation trying to keep from saying ridiculous and absurd things—“truth is true, and so is untruth!” Haven’t heard that one yet? Well, not in those words, but move into the realm of faith conversations and we would be informed that all religions are essentially the same. For example, we are told that Christians and Muslims believe in the same Deity. In a recent conversation with a young Muslim man, he actually repeated the cultural mantra—“It seems to me that we believe mostly the same things.” Intrigued by this catering to the cultural insistence on tolerance, I ask him to explain further. He then replied, “Well, except for the Christian belief that Jesus is God, we share the same values.” I then had to explain that whether Jesus is God or not does make a dramatic difference in what we believe—and both things cannot be accepted as valid affirmations. We cannot truthfully have it both ways and say “He is God” and “He is not God” and expect to be taken seriously! A less politically correct Muslim man seated beside me on flight in Africa made a point to say before I was even in my seat that we do not believe in the same God at all, insisting that logical inconsistency would not confuse him into saying something he believed not to be true.
Truth by its very nature is exclusive of anything that is not true. But in a culture which values tolerance more than truth, we confuse people by telling them that everyone can and should believe whatever they want because no one has the right to declare one thing true at the cost of declaring its opposite untrue. So a confused population tries to live by that illogical and irrational point of view and often does not recognize the absurdity of that proposition.
…values and faith. Virtually everyone can tell you that the practical policies of the United States demand that there be a separation of church and state, that personal religious beliefs have no place in the shaping of public law and policy. The confusion arises when it become necessary to acknowledge that all public law and policy are based on values and values arise from some standard of measurement as to what is right and what is wrong.
So when voices from the faith community speak up, they are confused when they are told that there is no place for beliefs and faith in determining values. Well, what, we must ask in the confusion is the basis for making value judgments if not personal beliefs? At issue, of course, is not whether values are the result of beliefs. At issue in the current cultural climate is whether the beliefs arise from religious sources, or are the product of “secular beliefs” derived from philosophical premises of people without faith instead of doctrinal presuppositions of people of faith. Both have strong belief systems but one is ruled out of order because the object of its faith is divine revelation and the other is ruled appropriate because the object of its worship is human reason. Who gets to make that call? Is it any wonder why people get confused when such ideas appear on the scene in an arbitrary manner and are fashioned into absolutes by a culture which denies that there are any absolutes?
People try to make sense of the senseless and end up confused. Or they give up trying to make sense of anything and just follow along blindly whichever way the wind of public opinion is blowing at any given time. Apart from the acknowledgement that there is such a thing as truth and that it is knowable, we cannot expect any relief from the confusion that holds our nation hostage to whatever whims and changes are proposed as answers to all that ails us. Confusion and ignorance of what is true confines us, holding us captive to what we are told to believe by any new idea that proceeds from the heart and mind of other confused folks. Jesus made it fairly simple when He said, “You shall know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). Until then, get used to the confusion!