Thursday, 26 January 2017

Trump, Internet Wars, and Things Falling Apart

Years ago I had to read a book called 'Things Fall Apart' by Chinua Achebe, which I actually don't remember at all except for the title, and a little bit of the poem that the title came from: The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

I feel a bit like that today. Is Trump really the president of the United States of America? Are there really people who think he's basically a good guy with bad press, and is going to make everything better? Are there really people who think all Muslims are potential terrorists, that the risk of terrorists or drug peddlers justifies turning away homeless and desperate refugees? Yes, I know some of those people.

But then can it still be possible that there are people who deny the personhood of an unborn baby, and think anyone who is anti-abortion must be anti-women? People who think the burden of nine months of pregnancy is too much to expect any woman to HAVE to pay in exchange for the life of a baby? People who think you can criminalize those who commit infanticide, but not those who perform abortions? Yes, I know some of those people.

And yet, when I go online and start reading people's feelings and thoughts and opinions and stories, and follow Internet wars on different issues, things can seem blurry. Sometimes it just makes me think everyone is crazy, especially when I read comments (the dregs of the Internet). But often it gives me empathy- I can understand why people believe those things. Often out of fear, insecurity, and from buying into strident angry memes, blogs and articles. Out of a particular belief so strong that everything else seems unimportant, or a distraction. Or out of an emotional reaction to a bad experience from their own past. Or often out of an unwillingness to judge, or fear of identifying with fringe elements. And very likely (maybe subconsciously) out of a need to seem politically-correct to your world, to 'your' people, the team you identify with. Our view of how people perceive us can influence so much.

So then is nothing true? Or is everything? When the people you identify with fail you, or seem to have blind spots, and the people on the other side have good points, even while stridently rejecting truths you believe in, whom can you trust? How can you live with this constant stream of argument, debate, invective, and varying perspectives on EVERY possible issue? What can you hold on to when everything and everyone seems to be going crazy?

1. You could dig in your heels, go with the dehumanizing of every perspective that is not your team's perspective, and mock or demonize the other side mercilessly. (I don't recommend this.)

2. You could read as much as you can, and make up your mind on every issue. But this is exhausting, and you could still be wrong. You're limited, and you could very likely be wrong- plenty of people must be.

3. You could ignore everything that makes you uncomfortable, say it doesn't affect you, and lose yourself in one of the many forms of escape our world provides- hours of  TV shows, or Dota, or food, or career goals, or making more money, or spending more money, or playing or watching sports. There's something for everyone.

4. You could pick ONE principle by which you measure all opinions, perspectives, beliefs, and actions, and not only choose where you stand on that issue based on the ONE principle, but live your life according to that ONE principle.

I choose the fourth way (even though imperfectly), and the ONE principle I choose is LOVE. But how do I guard against counterfeit versions of love? One could say all they live by is love, when they mean the warm but fleeting feeling they get that could lead them to pet a puppy, but condone infidelity, perform a random act of kindness, but go back to a selfish, materialistic lifestyle. How do you know whether authentic love should lead you to support gay marriage, or defend the truth that every child needs a mother and a father? How do you know whether authentic love should lead you to tell women with crisis pregnancies to consider abortion, or to warn them about how traumatic abortions can be for them, that they are already mothers, and that you will love and support them through pregnancy, and after the baby is born too?

There is an answer. Love is not just a principle, but a Person. He has a name and a face. He is both Love and Truth. Because those two things go together. Love without truth isn't love, and truth without love isn't truth. Jennifer Fulwiler wrote a great piece 'Good People, Bad People, Truth and Lies':

Without God — or, to phrase it another way, without objective truth — we are sailors without a compass, trying to rely on gut instinct to navigate troubled waters. It might work out some of the time, as is evidenced by the number of nonbelievers who are indeed “good people” most of the time. But it leaves us vulnerable to the legion forces that try to steer us off course, and it makes it almost impossible to weather a great storm. If we don’t know the truth about who we are, why we’re here, where we came from and where we’re going, we’re on shaky ground to begin with; and when we deny the existence of objective truth on matters of what is good and bad, what is right or wrong, we lose control of our own lives. [Read the rest here.]

He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17


Everything is falling apart- families, nations, morality, political systems, our sense of security, and peace of mind. Nobody can say that our world is doing well. But I believe that if we cling to Him, cling to love; hold on to Him, hold on to love; if we regularly evaluate and change our lives and our beliefs by holding them up to His standards, then in the midst of the craziness, we're going to be okay. Because only the things done for love and in Love will survive. Everything else WILL pass away. Trump will pass away. Everything we build our lives on, consider valuable, argue about, and fight for will pass away. Except love. It is only when we lose touch with God, that it's easy to lose touch with truth, and often with love.

So that means taking time off from the constant stream of news and opinions on the Internet and TV to BE with the One who is Love. When's the last time you were really quiet? No phone, no Facebook scrolling, no taking in of new information? Choosing to know Him means choosing the silence of prayer each morning. It means allowing Him to calm my mind, and to give me clarity and courage and love. It means choosing love in my daily interactions with the people around me. It means speaking the truth at the right time, even strongly and passionately, but ALWAYS lovingly and courteously.

Love does win in the end. In the meanwhile, let's keep fighting the good fight.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Dr. Beth on the Chronic Singleness Disorder

Dr. Beth, 8 (pad and pen in hand): Can you tell me your name and the sickness that you have?

Me: My name is Humility and I suffer from chronic singleness. What can you do for me, Dr. Beth?

Dr. Beth: Well.. I need to ask you. When you watch shows about couples, do you feel sad for yourself, or good for the other person?

Me: I feel good for them, but I also feel bad for myself.

Dr. Beth: Hmm, okay well, I see... I think that's a little... what do you feel more?

Me: Depends on the time of the month.

Dr. Beth (looks confused): Huh?

Me: Never mind. Moving on. What can you do to help me with this problem of chronic singleness?

Dr. Beth: (places a finger on her lips thoughtfully) Well.. (succumbs to a fit of giggles)

Me: Keep going.

Dr. Beth: Okay. I have.. I have sent you, well, not sent you, I am going to put you into a volunteer school to teach kids.

Me: Okay... but what's this got to do with...

Dr. Beth: You'll be working with another teacher..

Me: Oh!

Dr. Beth stops and stares at me, smiling suspiciously.

Me: What's this got to do with my chronic singleness?

Dr. Beth: You'd have to be come friends with the teacher.

Me: Uh huh? Tell me more.

Dr. Beth: (Big smile) He's a male.

Me: Oh, is that a fact?

Dr. Beth: (nodding and smiling self-consciously) Yes.

Me: Is he a good Catholic?

Dr. Beth nods yes.

Me: Does he love the Lord?

Dr. Beth: He's a volunteer!

Me: Oh. Okay. Where do we go from here? Why is he still single? How come there's not a lot of girls already trying to marry him?

Dr. Beth: (shrugs) They don't really care.

Me: Is he not really nice?

Dr. Beth: He's nice! Some girls just don't see it in him. Coz they treat him badly. He's been encountering lots of girls which have been mean to him. But (big smile) I don't think you'll be mean.

Me: Uh.. nooo.

Dr. Beth: So that's why I'm putting friends with him.. with you. So.. well.. um.. yeah..

Me: I thought you had a different plan which involved lots of possible guys.

Dr. Beth: No. Well.. there's a website. And you just told me you wanted to pick someone from a whole guy.. line of guys..

Me: No! What? I didn't say that!

Dr. Beth: Then?

Me: I want to meet them, not just pick them from a website!

Dr. Beth: Ok. So um I'm going to order some guys.. not order but ask them to come here.

Me: How do you find them? I still don't understand that part.

Dr. Beth: It's a website, dear.

Me: How come? There's so many nice girls out there. How come they haven't met any of those nice girls?

Dr. Beth: (Shrugs) I dunno. How am I supposed to know other persons' personalities?

Me: Tell me about that whole personality thing. You were telling me something about personalities. Like, that's how you found them?

Dr. Beth: What?

Me: You said something like you checked my personality and then you checked their personality...?

Dr. Beth: Yes. (Picks up Mother Teresa peg doll) Mother Teresa here, she put everything on my... (pause) something that you put into the computer, and it helps.

Me: Like a USB?

Dr. Beth: Huh?

Me: Like a flashdrive?

Dr. Beth: Yeah, a flashdrive. So, uh, it stores everything, and then I have a website, everyone has their website, of um, Look For Me. The website is called Look For Me. (Big smile, pleased with herself.)

Me: Really? Lookformedotcom?

Dr. Beth: Yes! Have you looked at it?

Me: I have not looked at it as yet.

Dr. Beth: I'll download it for you. So Mother Teresa here has downloaded all your information, just by kissing you on the cheek.

Me: Wow. Impressive.

Dr. Beth: I know. She's very cool. Thank you. Yes. So, as I was saying, you will need to... (long pause)

Me: That's it?

Dr. Beth: You'll have to come to me tomorrow at 2.

Me: Thank you.