As I write this line, I have no idea who won the presidential election. But I vividly remember what a friend of mine wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday morning. “I estimate that in about a day or so, half of the country will be mad.” I chuckled when I read that and then I grew sad. His words were true, and they stung. We have become such a polarized society. Like Ozzy Osborne sang, “We’re going off the rails on the crazy train.” The question is, “Where are we going?” Naturally, that all depends on who’s driving.
It’s no secret. Our country is facing some very serious, polarizing issues and we are certainly are not a united nation. At the same time, I believe that, as common Americans, most of us want the best for us and our family. I really believe that. I don’t think that anybody literally wants to destroy this country. We all have a dream for a better tomorrow and long for a world of happiness, peace, equity, and opportunity. We just all envision a different path to get there.
The big problem is our worldview or the way we see things. We all view the world through a different lens. There are many reasons for this. Here’s two: First, sometimes, we actually see different things. For example, on our social media feeds, most of us attract people that are like us (that’s why we like them as they validate us). So, if most of your friends have a similar political view to yours, that particular view is mostly what you will see, and you may falsely believe that most of the country is like that.
Second, sometimes, we actually see the same world, but interpret it differently. Let me offer a simple illustration. Take music, for example. We all have our favorite genre of music. Conversely, we also have some types of music that we loathe. A younger generation, when forced to listen to an older generation’s music, will often complain about how “out of touch” and “boring” the music is. They laugh at the simple melody and poor quality. “It’s old fashioned and outdated” they bemoan. In the eyes of this younger generation, old music is not as good as new music. As a society, they believe, we are now living in the pinnacle of music utopia.
Their parents, or grandparents, however, have a different view. The music this generation enjoys belongs to a day and time long gone. Their favorite tunes were on CDs, albums, or worse, 8-track. This generation complains, “You don’t have to have talent nowadays, all you need to do is be good looking, dress scantily, have a few dance moves.” Who’s right? It’s all about perspective. Like beauty, “good” music is in the eye of the beholder. Both generations are products of their environment and shaped by that environment. There is no changing their mind.
As a nation, our society has changed dramatically, and that change has changed people dramatically. Just think about what we’re experienced just this year! I really feel sorry for younger people. We now live in a time of fear, frustration, and uncertainty. We live in a time of distrust. We live in a time of anger and violence. Thankfully, we’ve stocked up on toilet paper.
My grandson is six. He has grown up surrounded with media. He has a computer issued by his school. He also has one of our old iPhones that he plays learning games on or watches Bluey. He has a portable gaming system. He lives in a world of convenience and technology. Like most kids, the last part of his school last year was virtual. His memories of going to school have mostly involved wearing a mask.
“Who is your best friend in school?” I asked. “I don’t have any friends in school” he answers. Seeing the shocked look on my face, my wife chimes in, “They have to wear masks all day and they sit six feet apart with little to no social interaction.” My heart breaks for him as I remember a simpler time of playing outside and having to come in when the streetlights came on. We knew our neighbors and people looked after one another.
Not so anymore. My grandson is growing up in a world where you shop online, don’t know your neighbors, rarely play outside, and where they have more friends in a virtual world that in the neighborhood. An experience like those will affect your world view and your interactions.
But deep inside, we are all the same. We love our families. We want the best for them. We also want to live in a world of peace and opportunity. We just can’t seem to see eye to eye on some things. The big problem is worldview. There is a simple solution. The solution is not allowing your worldview to be affected by culture, but to be driven by something much deeper and more solid.
A friend of mine is a police officer in another state. He told me recently that, during a difficult time in his city, he was working at a local event where a church was meeting the needs of the community and was going to have a Christian worship service outdoors. My friend was there, in uniform, to help make sure everyone had a good time.
Relating the story, he said, “Most people were friendly and really did appreciate the police, but one man just didn’t want me there. It was pretty clear as he voiced loud statements and made hand gestures to let me know he didn’t want me around.”
My friend decided to go over and talk to the man. “I went over, introduced myself, and just said hi telling him that I was glad that he was there and hoped he had a good time.” The man grumbled something about not wanting the police around and walked off.
During the service, one of the ministers shared the story of Jesus. He told the crowd about the love, mercy, and grace of the Lord. He talked about the destructive nature of hate and the power of forgiveness and asked if anyone in the crowd wanted to follow Jesus.
When the service was over, the same man approached my friend. Actually, he was not the same man. His demeaner and attitude were totally changed, and he had tears in his eyes. He had been deeply touched by the words from the minister and he decided to release the bottled up anger and bitterness he had been clinging to for years.
That night, his chains fell off and he found true freedom, forgiveness, and peace. He put out his hand, introduced himself to my friend, and said, “thank you for being here, sir.” My friend smiled, took his hand in his, and said, “It’s my pleasure. Thank you, sir.”
That’s the power of restoration. Harmony is not found in a philosophy or ideology, but in a person—the person of Jesus Christ. As a society, people will be affected by an ever-changing culture which will affect their worldview. So, God’s answer is to take our eyes off the ever-changing culture and put our faith in an unchanging God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Only the power of the cross can break down barriers of hatred and pain. Only the power of the blood of Jesus can turn enemies into friends. No matter who sits in the White House, God sits on the throne.
Dr. Wayne Geiger is Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.