If you are not watching the host’s new TV show, at least recording it and watching it at a more convenient time, you are missing something extraordinary. This is an unsolicited and uncompensated plug for good television in the midst of a sea of garbage. The one-on-one’s are typically great Hewitt interviews. Yesterday’s Daniel Silva interview demonstrated how great authors give great insight into our world. But yesterday’s panel was one of the most insightful television segments I have seen in quite some time.
The discussion surrounded what they came to describe as the “internet civil war.” They were quick to point out that the nation seems to be functioning reasonably well, but that on the internet it does appear to be in complete turmoil. They noted the unbridgeable political divide that defines the debate. As they discussed it it became apparent that, at least when it comes to internet debate, everything, I repeat everything, is personal – and it goes no further. If you are personally repulsed by the president then he can do no good. Similarly, if you find him suitable, he can do no wrong. It is a personal evaluation based on a personal response – it’s not just personal, it in personal-squared.
As I thought about the very interesting discussion, it dawned on me that much of this can be laid at Obama’s feet. During his administration everything was viewed through the lens of race. Race is a personal characteristic – not a political one, not an ideological one and certainly not a religious one. Therefore, because everything was about race, everything was about Obama, not his ideas, his governance or his ideology. It began even before he took office. Any disagreement with Obama was immediately cast as racist and therefore became personal. Looked at this way, it is not terribly surprising that we find ourselves in this mess.
But there is something even deeper at play.
The personalization phenomena also reflects the self-esteem phenomena that has swept the nation in the last 50 years or so. Kids are so often raised these days in a fashion that tells them they are the most wonderful person on the planet. If that is true, can you actually do wrong? When you think you are so good, anytime you are challenged in any fashion, it’s personal. If you are that wonderful, you cannot possibly be wrong. Furthermore, if you dare challenge the most wonder person on the planet you are not just wrong, you are evil, and thus nothing you can do is worthwhile.
The point is that when everything is personal, things become binary very quickly. People are either bad or good and bad people can only do bad things and good people can only do good things. There seems no possibility that bad people can do good things or vice-versa. This leaves little room for rational analysis, discussion, or thought. expressed that way we also see this internet civil war as a reflection of the decline of Christian ideas in our public discussion. It exposes how Christianity, despite the claims to the contrary by the hyper-personalized Left, is a source of reason – not its antithesis.
Christianity does not view people as good or bad; it views them as both. It should be pointed out that this is something very different than the idea that people make good or bad decisions and thus are neutral, leaning good or bad. Christianity views people as all bad and all good, stuck in a battle between the two. Further, the badness and goodness are apart from us to some extent.
Our inherent badness is the much maligned concept of “original sin.” Strip the idea of its theological complications and tones and it is simply the idea that we are born bad and cannot of our own accord do good. It is summed up quite well in a single bible verse, Romans 3:23:
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
We are not bad becasue we choose to be bad, we are simply born in that state – it is something apart from us.
Our inherent goodness comes embedded in the concept of grace, as summarized in Galatians 2:20:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,who loved me and gave himself for me.
We cannot choose to be good, God chooses to make us good.
Viewed this way, our life is a battle between the badness we are born to and the goodness God is granting us. The battle is between forces apart from us, our choice is not to be good or bad, but to ally ourselves with one or the other of those forces. We are now a step removed from the battle itself and can approach questions rationally, not personally.
This Sunday morning I stand amazed at what a deep well Christianity really is. It does not simply shape our questions and answers as would a philosophy or ideology – it shapes how we view ourselves and therefore allows us to be rational.