This begins a series of posts dealing with just how the “culture war” mentality is damaging our public discourse and causing us to believe things that are simply not true.
I AM BIASED…AND SO ARE YOU
It is important that we own our biases when we begin important conversations, so here are a few of mine. First, I believe our political system has become horribly broken…in so many ways. I probably do not need to go into those examples here. Suffice it to say that, because of this, I simply do not trust political motives. So, once it becomes apparent to me that your “heartfelt, thoughtful” position on an issue is mostly about winning the next election, I admit that I stop doing the kind of deep listening we most need these days.
Second, I believe our culture places way too much emphasis and importance on national politics (where very few of us live) and not nearly enough on local politics (where most of us live). I admit to having little regard for a person’s opinions about people he/she has never met living in a place he/she has never been about an issue with which he/she has no experience. These are the realities of national politics.
Third, as a peacemaker, I know I have a clear bias against extreme voices. And yet, in this day of social media, it seems those are often the only voices we want to hear. Those are the voices that get the much-coveted “clicks” and “follows”. My bias against them colors my conversation about them. I own all these biases and recognize all the ways they color my thoughts and my words about the “culture wars”.
WHAT I MEAN BY “CULTURE WARS”
“Culture wars”, to me, mean something more than merely advocating for positive change. I am all for advocacy, even activism, when it is thoughtful, purpose-driven, and aimed at changing people’s hearts. To me, that advocacy becomes “culture warring” when our engagement with each other shifts, leaving no further room for listening or learning or curiosity. It is a way of engaging with each other that foregoes any kind of collaborating or negotiating.
By “culture wars” I mean using political or economic or social powers to force others to behave the way I think they should behave, irrespective of what they want or believe. As a metaphor, “war” signals the end of listening or coexisting. It shifts to a kind of aggression and conquering mindset, seeking to bring the other side to a humiliating end. The implication is that there must be a winner and a loser, that one side has value and the other side is absolutely and completely devalued. As a metaphor for our motivations in our public discourse, then, it is horribly flawed. And it leads to horribly flawed messaging, with lies and mischaracterizations on every side. As with all wars, it makes moving forward as a pluralistic community virtually impossible.
The point, then, of this series of posts, will be to identify the lies inherent in ALL SIDES of our current culture wars. Because these lies are misleading us. They are causing us to engage with one another in ways that are doing damage to the fabric of our communities, our families, and our friendships. And in each of those cases (communities, families, friendships), when we lose our connection to truth, it leaves us with nothing else to build on. If we do not have truth, i.e., if we believe the lies of the culture wars, our hope for any sense of community and moving forward together is gone.
I will begin, then, by identifying the lies. I will call them out, one at a time, and I will suggest an alternative truth to each of them. In that process, perhaps we can find a more productive way of engaging each other…one that can actually move us forward together. Stay tuned.