Tag Archives: social media

In the Vacuum, there is Opportunity: Three Insights for America’s Future

Last October I predicted a close election and that many unhappy with the Trump Administration would hope for the best in a Biden Administration. Well, disappointment is now rife on both sides, with thoughtful women and men thoroughly frustrated with the state of our nation. In this moment is an opportunity for a new centrist consensus of conscience, a reaffirmation of key ideas, and new collaborations across the chasms that social media expands.

An astounding reality confronts me as I travel and speak with people in local communities across the USA. The anger and divisions fueled by the 24/7 news cycle and social media do not reflect the experiences, ideas, and principles of most people that wake up each day, raise their families, and work hard making our world a better. Yes, real political, religious, cultural, and ideological differences abound, but most folks are good neighbors and desire a more peaceful and prosperous future. In my own neighborhood, we have many types of families and diverse cultures and vocations, yet there is a goodwill that extends to all and a desire to help one another.

Political power usually reflects the loudest voices and craftiest image-makers, not the thoughtfulness of most voters. This said, it is stunning seeing how uninformed and poorly-served the public is from most media outlets, with ideology and opinion driving the presentation of cherry-picked facts and the hard work of investigation taking a back seat to talking points published by think tanks funded by elites promoting their narratives. Their goal is power and personal destruction is permitted so the “narrative” goes forward.

Is there a pathway toward peace? Can our deep divisions and suspicions be healed? After much listening, I have discovered three insights for the American experiment in virtue-based liberty go forward. These are not simplistic and the require much effort. If pluralistic and principled liberty is going to survive, here are the necessary building materials for the “road less traveled” ahead.

First, we must rediscover humility before God and toward one another. Humility is not self-hatred or false displays of flattery – it is a disposition that removes oneself from being the center of the universe and deeply listens to one’s neighbors. Humility allows new facts to inform our opinions and the stories of others to enhance our perspectives. Humility engenders peace as people are heard, not just tolerated. We need moral and spiritual awakening in individuals that leads to the transformation of local communities.

Second, we must reaffirm the search for objective truth and stop hiding behind fabricated constructs and narratives that avoid inconvenient facts. Ecological issues are real, but our planet will not die in a decade. Class, gender, and race issues are real, bit substantial progress has been made globally and nationally in the past half-century – we must not allow the agitation of a few to destroy the progress of many.

Third, we must promote bipartisan political dialogue leading to principled compromise and stop assuming lock-step alignment of very public servant with the party line. It is out of forging a third way that new wisdom emerges and improvements are made. There is SO much waste in our governmental systems – let’s have wise business minds helping us balance budgets. Let’s listen to real community activists that demonstrate what works so all can flourish.

It is time for thoughtful people to stop being victims of unelected autocracies. It is time to hold politicians accountable and call on journalists to do their jobs with integrity. Above all, we need to own the future of our nation one conversation and community event at a time.

Why I Have Hope

Someone asked why I am hopeful when so much anger and chaos swirls around us. One answer: Jesus. He is forever one of us through the Incarnation. He is the compassionate one in his maturation and mission. He is our Crucified Savior atoning for our sin and bearing our sorrows, sufferings, and unanswered questions. And now he is the Risen, Ascended and Coming King who is making all things new. He is with us by Holy Spirit is, offering foretastes of the future.

“Nice words, Dr. Self. But I live in the real world and so much is collapsing around me…how does any of this apply to my everyday life? I see moral decay and economic distress, social media meanness, and I wonder what world there will be for the next generations. I get your eternal hope. But what does all this mean for NOW?”

God’s mission of restoring all things has real-life application today – if we trust the revelation and obey his principles in response to grace. Here are some immediate paths forward:

  • We can receive healing from our past and real hope for the future from the inside out as we agree with Scripture that we are NOW “new creations” in Christ. As we accept our identity in Christ as primary, we are able to affirm the best of our cultures and ideas while letting go of unneeded emotional and ideological baggage.
  • The Holy Spirit empowers foretastes of the future: a future with joy and justice, worship and meaningful work, all in a transformed community. With these thoughts in mind, we can apply our energies and skills in our work to make our communities safer, sustainable, and beautiful.
  • We now have the ability for critical thinking free from a critical spirit. Put simply, we can evaluate ideas and evidences, policies and programs while showing love and respect to all – even those that oppose all we stand for.
  • We can forge alliances with people of conscience of all faiths or none that care about a better future. Leaving the anger behind and the untethered from grasping for power, creativity and innovation become possible.

There is much more that Christian hope brings to the world. Humble confidence and hopeful realism infuse our daily lives. We can labor with love for God and our neighbors, knowing that are efforts have meaning and will serve generations yet unborn.

Inversion: Parallel Universes

I entitled this piece, “Inversion” because we have a world in which what was previously morally clear and obviously true is no longer seen that way, especially by purveyors of identity politics and anarchistic philosophies. “Parallel universes” is a phrase that describes the lenses through which people see the same events, ideas and trends…and it is stunning how different these visions are!

Two crises dominate the public square, especially in the USA and the West. The first is anthropology: what does it mean to be a human being, and, what is the future of male and female identity? The second crisis is the foundation of the first one: how do we “know” anything? In a world of competing “memes” and “narratives” where is the room for empirical research and critical thinking? Emotions rule the day and how particular persons and groups “feel” trumps careful research and reflection.

Let’s begin with how we “know.” Philosophers and religious leaders have debated for millennia about the nature of reality and the sources of our knowledge. Much of this was confined to the academy and esoteric circles. Most of humankind wakes up to a challenging world of laboring for daily bread and they do not need a lesson of whether or not their toil is “real.” The importance of events has always been debated, but not the reality itself. Historians love gathering different perspectives; however, all but a few would affirm, “Some events really happened.”

For the past 20 years, we have allowed feeling, political agendas, and image- and social media-driven communication to eclipse careful evaluation. From former President Obama’s fictionalized autobiographies to current debates on climate change, gullibility or suspicion is driven by ideology, not research. The very people that scream, “Science matters!” about climate change ignore advances in science completely as they promote abortion and infanticide. Gender confusion is a psychosocial pathology – science is clear that 99% of humans are born with particular DNA designating them male and female.

We need a return to reason and research, a willingness to subject ideas to scrutiny and adapt our understanding after careful reflection. Such progress will not be politically correct or conform to everyone’s feelings. It will, however, help us solve real problems and promote human flourishing.

Next week: human identity up for grabs.