Just this week, Democratic congressmen “boycotted” a committee meeting because it was not enough to just vote “no” on a cabinet nominee, and students at Cal-Berkeley rioted simply because Breitbart’s editor was scheduled to speak on campus. Even at the state Capitol, the number of groups thinking it necessary to chant and shout to the point of distraction is increasing. What are we to make of this and what should we do?
When I see adult politicians act like children who take their toys and go home because they can’t get their way, and I see crowds who would rather shout vacuous bumper-sticker sized slogans than engage in serious debate, I can’t help but think of what Solomon said: “When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest” (Proverbs 29:9 NASB). If you want to identify who the fool is in a situation of “unrest,” this verse would suggest that you look for who is either raging or trying to make fun of the other side.
The fool is reduced to rage or ridicule quite simply because he is a fool. Biblically speaking, fools lack wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, a deficit trifecta when it comes to dealing with a wise man who, biblically speaking, has what the fool lacks. It’s an unfair “competition” when it comes to the competition for ideas, so the fool has to resort to creating unrest by rage or ridicule.
How did we come to this point, and what are we to do if what we believe and stand for is likely to become the object of rage or ridicule?
The answer to both questions centers on courage. We arrived at this point because we lacked the courage of our convictions, and we will not rise above our current circumstances until we begin to stand on our convictions.
Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn, in his 1978 commencement address at Harvard, appropriately entitled “A World Split Apart,” said:
A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today. The Western world has lost its civic courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, in each government, in each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. . . . Must one point out that from ancient times a decline in courage has been considered the first symptom of the end?
A lack of courage will eventually bring us to an end as a nation and, conversely, only courage will bring an end to the chaos in our nation.
What courage looks like depends on the circumstances. It could be as simple as calling or emailing your elected official about legislation that will impact your values. It could mean having the courage to show up at a hearing when a policy is being debated or even speaking publicly to the issue as a citizen. It could mean not supporting a friend for public office just because he or she is a friend, goes to your church, or is involved in some organization with you if your friend is not likely to stand up for your values. It could mean educating yourself well enough to simply ask good questions that might make someone think when he or she makes foolish, even contradictory statements.
Courage isn’t just boldly sticking your finger in the other person’s eye; it just means not disappearing before that person’s eyes when it matters most.
In the face of rage and ridicule, what we need is courage. A lot more courage. A pastor friend of mine routinely closes his emails with, “Lord have mercy. Church have courage.” Courage will indeed be needed to cure our chaos.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.
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