I used to marvel at the changes my parents had seen during their lives. Born into an age of horse-drawn implements and hand-dug cisterns, they lived to see space travel and micro-computers. By the time Mom and Dad died, preschoolers were toting cell phones and a few driverless cars were spiriting about the streets of cities.
My parents saw similar changes in other aspects of culture. Music shifted from crooners to shroomers, from pastoral to psychedelic, from ragtime to rap, from big band to heavy metal. Dozens of clothing fads came and went and cars morphed from gas-guzzling dreadnoughts of solid steel to fuel-scrimping concoctions of minimalist synthetics. America went from what they thought was a monolithic reflection of their own views and values to a hodge-podge of religions, politics, culture and sub-culture and micro-culture. Somehow, simultaneously, things shifted from when majority views trumped the Constitution to times when it seemed that the more ridiculous the individualistic perception, the more forcefully it was defended by the courts.
In retrospect, America was never as uniform as Mom and Dad might have believed. They grew up and lived much of their lives surrounded by their own reflections. It seemed they believed that America was white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant, that the Bible was the universal standard of truth, and that middle-class values were the gold standard of the world. Even through the cultural chaos of the Sixties, in the midst and immediate aftermath of riots and mob actions, the shape-shifting Seventies, they still thought that they were the genuine reflection of America and that eventually their silent majority views would prevail.
Of course, during that whole time, a counter-culture continued to gain in political power and influence. This way of thinking rejected traditionally defined gender roles and even concepts of gender orientation; it also rejected traditional concepts of marriage, work, morality, religion, society and global roles. Where others perceived stability it perceived repression. Where others saw principle, it saw exploitation. What others viewed as sacred moral principle, it viewed as rigid imperialistic tradition.
Even though the clash is often framed in terms of moral absolutism, it really isn’t as simple as Good versus Evil, though there are certainly elements of that perceived. What is often going on is more a matter of very different perceptions of what truly is “good.” And, another aspect sometimes voiced but often unseen even by those most affected, is fear. Fear of losing power, fear of being dominated, fear of being forced to accept things that we do not want to accept. Fear of seeing what we disagree with enthroned in power.
Unfortunately, fearful people often become dangerous.
In times such as these, we become so polarized that we gladly embrace lies that align with our preferences and become unwilling to even consider any contradicting evidence. We are so eager to have our own views re-established as dominant that we no longer care about the character of those who carry them forward. We are so tired of seeing our values trampled on that we are willing to abandon the best parts of our own beliefs. We forget about turning the other cheek, returning good for evil, responding with compassion for cruelty.
In such times as these, we desperately need the peace, power and incredible release of loving our enemies. We need to remember that we are called to speak the truth, yes, but we are called to speak that truth in sincere and gentle love. Walking in holiness does not require hostility.