We live in a sound-bite society.
National politics, and the results of many of the debates, speeches, etc. have been reduced to comments like "I'll bet you $10,000."
Headlines of articles grab our attention, but also often sway the reader toward the author's or news agency's viewpoint. It's either pro- or anti- climate change, for instance.
Breaking news and social causes are now driven by 140-character, near-instantaneous tweets.
People bid farewell to others from a faith group or religion based on a publisher's abstract of a book without even bothering to read the book first.
Lowe's will drop sponsorship of American Muslim, while a family advocacy group in Florida condemns the show because it fails to show the "fanatical" side of the religion.
Tragic shootings, deaths, and public trials are now judged in minutes or hours.
The response to this is that now we expect justice just as fast, and somehow think that we understand a situation based on a headline. The expectation of Due Process by the public is accelerating, wanting to save or condemn someone immediately. Can this even be called Due Process?
Opinions and beliefs are reduced to certain litmus-tests. A stance on abortion. An affirmation of "inerrant" or the gender roles of male and female.
Judgments occur quickly on many matters because people already "know" what they believe and are filtering these headlines into their existing, although changing, worldview.
No area of life is safe from sound-bites. We are all opinionated. But are we all willing to listen, to recognize our opinion as just that?
I believe it is important for us to understand this tendency, to scroll through Facebook statuses filled with memes, trolling pictures, and peoples personal takes on life and to jump to a judgment on the person. We need to step back, to ensure what we do is not a misuse of the very things we are critiquing or supporting!
What is the solution? I believe it is patience and contextual understanding. How often do we hear a politician respond to a public outcry that their words were taken "out of context?" In academia, on almost any subject, there are tons of criteria applied to the theories or rules that exist that bring context (and exceptions!) to something regarded as absolute!
While getting my theology degree context was very much stressed to ensure we did not "prooftext" a passage. Prooftexting is when someone who already has a view or belief simply goes and pulls verses or passages indiscriminately from the story in which they are found. The result is usually that a passage is being used in a manner that is dubious as to its actual meaning within the particular context of the passage.
Prooftexting is not limited to theology or philosophy. It is real and easily found in our daily life. We can choose to acknowledge only the science that supports, or denies, climate change. We can only use statistics that show how capitalism, or socialism, is good or evil. Any complex issue with varying views in which evidence is not unilaterally supportive of one solution will have this tendency.
I truly believe we must beware of our own prooftexting.
I think our current society loves to prooftext, using sound-bites, in any given arena. I almost can't stand to listen to the Democrats and Republicans talk past each other, using rhetoric and catchy sayings to promote a view of an issue that is based not on solving the problem, but winning more power.
When ethics is at the mercy of the economy, have we not lost our patience for the fact that things are complex and take time to solve?
Do we really think that one particular modern system (capitalism or socialism), party, religion, denomination, local church, social order, demographic, ethnic group, or person really has everything figured out?
Then why do we live like this? That our way is the best or only way? Somehow, if we can just use Scripture, book quotes, sound-bites, and simple qualitative measurement to support our view, we can be even more certain?
There is another way. It starts with our attitude and approach.
We have to give up trying to control the sound-bites.
We have to yield to the fact we do not know it all, even if we are pursuing to know more each and every day!
We must be willing to listen, truly listen, to others.
We must be slow to discredit another's view simply because it is different than our own.
We need to use humility in our conversations, even if we vehemently disagree with the other person!
We need to love one another, valuing the inherent value in each human life.
Let me be the first to say I know I must work on this humility, particularly when I see others prooftexting or using what I deem to be a faulty argument!
But also let me be the first to say I am ready and willing to work on love. To sift through the tweets, headlines, doctrines, political systems, and opinions toward the context of our lives.
I truly believe we need to step outside ourselves in this manner and recognize that we are all human. We are all in the same condition.
When we can value each other not on what we say or do, but simply on being here together at this time, this is love.
A love I believe has been demonstrated, and initiated to us by a loving God.
We are created, redeemed, and called.
Even if you choose not to believe the same as I do we are still humans.
Equality is not based in what we do, but simply because we are.
Lets not let sound-bites fuel division or spark our wanton desire for control.
Rather, lets allow context to grow understanding and solutions in the spirit of love.