Category Archives: Research

A Walking Eyeball?

The instructor for my Wednesday Bible study could be described with one word: evangelist. Her heart and soul is filled with desire to bring others to Christ, to the point of overflowing. She sincerely loves Jesus like few I’ve ever seen.

I am simultaneously inspired, envious, and saddened at my own lack of the same.

Unlike her, I don’t feel the same pull to evangelize to non-believers. As such, I can’t help but ask why. Am I lacking in my own faith? Am I not focused enough on his voice and his word, so in the end he has no (or little) use of me?

Some of you will be rolling your eyes at me, I’m sure. Me questioning my strength and faith is nothing new, and some of you have expressed (for years), that I’m silly to doubt my faith.

Let me assure you that I don’t doubt my faith. My questions derive from my need to strengthen it. How can I do that if I don’t ask questions and seek out where I’m weak?

So back to my question. Am I lacking in something, because I have neither the gift nor desire to win lost souls to Jesus?

Or do I have neither, because Jesus has other plans for me?

One thing I love about both Jesus and Paul are their surgically sharp use of exaggeration and rhetoric to make a point.

In this case, how Paul describes the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. Because of its imagery, verse 17 in particularly has always stuck with me: “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?” The first part makes me think of Mike Wazowski in Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.”

Silly imagery aside, it’s the perfect vehicle to make a point, or as Rush Limbaugh used to say, “Being absurd to illustrate absurdity.”

Paul was illustrating the absurd notion that all our gifts should be the same.

Thus proving my own absurdity for believing I (and my gifts) are lacking, simply because my life, gifts and desires don’t mirror others.

So what then are my gifts? What does Jesus intend for me to do if it’s not to evangelize to the lost?

All I can do is ask where my passions point toward instead of where they don’t.

In the simplest terms, I love the Bible, God’s Word. And what I hate is when people (Christians especially) twist scripture to mean the exact opposite of what it says, or when they ignore certain passages in favor of others in order to give themselves license to act a certain way.

That’s not to say I shouldn’t point the lost to Jesus. Quite the contrary. That is the ultimate goal of all within the Body of Christ—of which I’m a part. I’m simply not an evangelist whereby that’s my main and singular goal. Perhaps my job instead is to encourage and help those who do.

So does my passion make me an apologist instead, perhaps even a critic?

I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t know ten percent of what I should about scripture… I know just enough to be dangerous. Yet lately I’ve been in a studious mood both with the Bible study as well as reading non-fiction by those far more knowledgeable about scripture than me.

Or maybe I’m not an apologist so much (at least not yet) as I am a student. Either way, that’s where I belong in the Body as of now (because that could always change). And who am I to argue with God that I’m an ear instead of an eye—figuratively speaking?

Brain Food

Everyone approaches Jesus a little bit differently. Some approach him with the heart, others with the head. Many of us use a combination of both, which is important, I think. The most important part of God’s law, after all, can be summed up with “Love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.”

I can appreciate those who search for and find Jesus with their heart. I, however, am not one of those. That’s not to say I’ve never felt God’s presence, or that he’s never comforted my heart when I needed it. He most certainly has. Yet I still seek him with my head first. I long to know him as much as I enjoy feeling his presence. I want him to teach me all about himself, and for him to show me all of his creation and how it works.

So when I saw the book at my church by Lee Strobel called “The Case for the Real Jesus,” (Zondervan, 2007) how could I, in my insatiable intellectual curiosity, not pick it up?

This one addresses five attacks on Christ’s identity, namely that the resurrection never happened, Jesus never considered himself the Messiah, the early church suppressed other, equally valid and important gospels, that scribes tampered with the Bible, and how Jesus dying on the cross for our sins is a “barbaric concept that would make God guilty of cosmic child abuse.”

I’m on page fifty-three so far, and it’s feeding my brain. Hence the title of this entry. Lee Strobel, like me, approaches God with logic, rational arguments and digs for concrete, verifyable evidence for Jesus. His approach is similar to Dennis Prager, another one of my favorite biblical/religious scholars, but that’s a side topic…

Strobel takes nothing on faith alone. Everything he believes—or chooses to believe—must be verifiable. Like his other books, he brings us along on his journey of discovery, to ask the difficult questions knowing that such a journey could end up changing all his notions of who God is. That’s a hard road to travel, because few people want their beliefs—especially long-held beliefs—to be proved false.

It’s often a matter of pride, that fear. Who likes to admit they’re wrong or perhaps been deceived? I know I don’t.

Yet I also know, like Strobel, and even in Matt Walsh’s book I discussed in a previous entry, the truth matters more than anything. It does not change or become a lie simply because we chose to ignore or disbelieve it.

So do any of the above attacks against Jesus and Christianity have merit? You’ll have to take that journey of discovery yourself. As of now, for me, my brain is full. It’ll be hungry for more in the morning, I’m sure. Luckily, unlike real food, brain food doesn’t add literal fatty pounds to my belly.

The Liberty to Walk Away

I’ve expressed a few times lately that we need to look for what the Bible doesn’t say as much as what it does say. This is another such time.

One statement I’m hearing a lot lately is, “If you love your neighbor, you would do X.”

Ever since I heard it the first time, it’s been eating at me. What’s so bothersome about it? Is it not scriptural? After thinking about it for a few weeks, I finally understood.

The entire statement is absurd.

Nor is it scriptural.

How’s that for an audacious statement? Read on, and I’ll explain why.

The most obvious one is what the scripture in question actually says: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” What I call the biggest little word is missing: If. Meaning there are no qualifiers attached.

Loving one’s neighbor can take many forms, and yes, that can include doing X if someone asks us to (the key word being “ask”). Yet there are things we must never do.

One is to use force or the threat of force to make sure people do something or act a certain way—such as through local or federal authorities.

The worst part of the statement is it implies that anyone who doesn’t do X doesn’t love their neighbor. As such, it’s an attempt to shame people into compliance. That’s coercion, the other thing one must never do.

Liberty is defined as:

• the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views

• the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved

• a right or privilege, especially a statutory one [such as the US Bill of Rights]

• the power or scope to act as one pleases

But what does the Bible say about liberty as well as loving one’s neighbor? Are they mutually exclusive, or do they go hand-in-hand?

The story of the Good Samaritan is the oft-cited example of loving one’s neighbor (Luke 10:25-37).

The Cliff-Notes version is a man is robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Three people encounter him: a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan (it almost sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn’t it?). Only the Samaritan stops to help him.

So now we need to look for what’s not said. In this case, no angel (nor God) came down and demand of any one of the men to stop and help. The story also doen’t include any authority forcing the three to act, nor do any of the men complain to the authorities to force the other two to act. They all had the option to walk away. Including the Samaritan.

Mark 10:17-22 has been sticking with me lately:

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (ESV)

The key statement is in the last verse: “He went away sad…” Yet the verse, “Jesus looked at him and loved him,” is equally poignant.

Jesus loved him, and because of that, allowed him the choice—the liberty—to walk away even as it may have broken his heart to do so. He told the man the truth, and with conviction, which is important. But again, looking for what isn’t said, he didn’t threaten or force the man into changing his mind with local/worldly authorities, or coerce through shame.

We are called to be just like Jesus, and that includes giving people the liberty to make their own choices, to walk away without us piling on threats or shame as they do so.

So in answer to the question I asked above, loving one’s neighbor must include liberty, no “ifs” about it. We can’t do one without giving the other.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (ESV): “and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”

Apathy

Either I’m not getting enough Sun, my hormones are completely whacked out, or it’s a combination of both, but I’m suffering from a severe case of apathy.

I’m not sad or depressed, but I can’t seem to find a reason to care about much of anything more than what I’m required to do for work and family. I’m either in automatic or neutral, and don’t care enough to change gears even when I know I should.

I keep thinking I should be concerned, but I’m not. Mostly. Actually, I am concerned, but not enough to do anything about it.

Part of why I’m writing it down is so that maybe, just maybe doing so will push me out of this odd mood I’m in. Sometimes seeing what I’m thinking and feeling on the screen helps me to find a solution to whatever is bugging me.

Change o’ subject (sort of):

I’m thinking of changing the name of my blog again. This time to “Dear God. I Have Questions.”

Two reasons for this.

Once again, I volunteered to write several devotions for my church’s yearly Lenten devotional. Eight, actually, which is the most I’ve volunteered to write so far. In one of them I admitted I don’t love or trust God as much as I know I should. I take much of my faith for granted, and worse, when it starts to matter, I hide it away, afraid.

Many non-religious accuse religious people, Christians especially, as following blindly, never asking challenging questions. For some, that’s probably true. I’ve heard enough stories where church leaders have punished people in a variety of ways for daring to challenge their beliefs or orthodoxy.

Yet that’s far from biblical. In both the Old and New Testaments, God and Jesus encouraged questions and seemed to enjoy being challenged (as long as the questioner was genuine in wanting to learn). For example, in the Old Testament, Jacob literally wrestled with God–and would have won if God hadn’t cheated. In the New Testament, never once did Jesus condemn anyone for asking questions. Sure, he was tough on the Pharisees, but he also knew their motives; their questions were meant to trap him, not to learn.

I want to focus my blog on studying God’s word to strengthen my relationship with him, and hopefully show others that to be a Christian actually means to ask a lot of questions, to challenge our current religious thinking, and yes question what the Bible says about certain subjects we find objectionable or problematic (while at the same time knowing that my understanding of said scripture is what’s flawed, not the scripture itself).

I also hope that by increasing my time of study, it’ll kick me out of this apathetic funk.

Fewer Rules, Higher Standards

More on Leviticus (sort of).

Along with describing the rules of animal sacrifice, Leviticus shows just how much the Jewish people were required to do with regard to cleanliness, disease diagnosis and control of its spread, and also criminal punishment (see Leviticus 24:17-22).

Then Jesus comes along and turns much of that around. We are no longer required to make animal sacrifices to atone for our sins, or expect an “eye-for-an eye.” Instead, Jesus became that sacrifice, so it’s no longer necessary. That’s not to say we don’t have to ask for forgiveness or atone for our sins in other ways, however. If anything, what God requires for forgiveness is a bit more difficult. Instead of sacrificing an animal, we have to sacrifice our pride, ourselves. It’s a sacrifice of the mind and heart that requires (gasp!) humility.

Aside: Does that mean we give up who we are and become mindless automatons? Not remotely! God wants us to continually seek him out, ask questions, sometimes, yes, even struggle with him when we’re angry or frustrated. That’s how human relationships work sometimes. What we must never give up, however, is trust. Although we may not understand what God does (or doesn’t do), we have to trust that he knows what he’s doing, and will always have our best (and eternal) interests in mind.

Many of the laws laid out in Exodus (the Ten Commandments) and in Leviticus, include punishments that were based on a person’s actions, whether murder, thievery or adultery to name a few.

While Jesus told us to forgive other people’s sins (accepting the legal consequences of those sins, whether they be murder, stealing and the like is a different conversation), he also changed the standards.

No longer are we guilty of murder if we literally murder someone; we are guilty of murder when we hate someone. We ‘re no longer guilty of adultery if we sleep with someone other than our spouse; we commit adultery when we lust after another man’s (or woman’s) spouse.

Not only did he raise the standards, it’s also God’s way of telling us yet again (because he also states this many times in the Old Testament, too; the New Testament is just a bit more emphatic about it) that sin always starts in the heart, not when we commit the act. If we refuse to entertain sinful behavior in our heart and mind, we can’t act on them:

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” ~ Philipians 4:7-9 (ESV)

Next up: How the verse above can be misinterpreted.

I Done Did It Again

I dove into another Twitter discussion with a few atheists about how God condoned slavery (specifically Exodus 21:20-21).

I initially tried to say that the Hebrew word used in those verses was “ebed” which translates to servant and/or slave, and that they were considered more indentured servants than slaves as we define them today. Yet the last part of verse 21 does say, “…since the slave is his property.”

Part of me wanted to argue against it, but I had to admit that yes, God did allow for the owning of slaves.

Does that mean he condoned it, though? It could be argued, certainly.

So then comes the next question. If God allowed for and condoned slavery, does that mean slavery isn’t bad? It’s a question that deserves an answer. I think I got a glimpse after thinking about it more last night, but that’s a discussion for another time, because I need to do more research (although you’re always welcome to give your own thoughts in the comments. I would love to hear them).

Part of why I like discussing scripture with agnostics and atheists is they challenge my thinking, force me to study scripture more, and try to understand the background and context of that particular book or passage (because context does matter, sometimes more than the words themselves). After all, I’m supposed to know God’s Word so I can defend it (see previous entry Defend Yourself!).

I often use Twitter to both practice that defense, and discover where I lack knowledge and wisdom.

In this particular discussion, I discovered I lack quite a bit. But that’s not only okay, but good! Few people change their thinking on Twitter anyway, so I don’t really lose anything by losing an argument, or fail to convince someone to my way of thinking. Plus the anonymity helps.

My motive is to learn what I don’t know.

Do I hope my opponents gain a little more understanding, and perhaps even change their mind eventually? Of course, but I don’t expect it.

Speaking of studying, I have to write five devotions based on certain chapters in Psalms before June 26, and I don’t even have the first one written yet! I did start, but I couldn’t get my most recent Twitter implosion out of my head. Now that it’s out, maybe I can concentrate on writing the devotions and get them done in time.

Defend Yourself!

“I learned a long time ago that anything worth doing is worth defending.” ~ Mike Rowe

Does God call us to follow him blindly and without question?

Some like to accuse Christians of being blind sheep, ready to dive off a cliff simply because God said so. I’ve heard some Christians accuse others that to doubt and question is a lack of trust and faith in God — and could even be considered blasphemous (I was told this once as a teenager when I revealed that God makes me angry sometimes).

In a previous entry, I talked about how God appreciates when we doubt. A friend commented thusly (in part), “Though a Christian may from time struggle with the no fear part of our faith, I believe when we still follow God’s word despite that fear, that God rejoices in our faith, love for him. So submit to His Word!”

To which I respond:

I’m not suggesting God doesn’t rejoice in our faith. Of course he does! Nor does doubt mean we love God less. All I’m saying is God understands and even expects us to doubt. Having doubts is part of who we are in this world. Nor do I recall him ever saying we should never ask him questions, or to never get angry at or frustrated with him (acting out in that anger is a bit different. When God told Moses he couldn’t enter the promised land because he acted out in anger, and as such didn’t give God credit a good example [See Numbers 20]). As if we could hide our doubts from him anyway.

Doubt isn’t always a bad thing, as long as we come to him with those doubts.

Moses argued with God, as did Abraham (which saved Lot and his family). David and Job had doubts. Lots of doubts! Jonah tried to run away, and got angry with God when Nineveh repented. Naomi believed God had abandoned her (as did Mother Theresa for most of her life). Peter argued with Jesus, Thomas doubted him. Paul worked against him, and Ananias felt a little betrayed when he was asked to heal and forgive Paul who had persecuted so many of them.

So what does all that have to do with defending oneself as the title suggests?

Because when we struggle and doubt (and as long as we turn to God with those struggles and doubts) he teaches us where we have fallen short or are mistaken in our assumptions. When we learn through those doubts and struggles, we grow stronger in our faith, and as such can better defend that faith.

God often compares us to sheep, because sheep are stupid creatures. They will literally jump off a cliff following other sheep, never realizing the danger until it’s too late. That does not mean, however, God wants us to remain like sheep. He wants us to be able to defend our faith to those who also question and struggle (including ourselves).

Proverbs 2:1-5 says, “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Emphasis mine).

Other such examples of the importance of seeking God and his wisdom, and for defending our faith:

Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

1 Peter 3:15: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (Emphasis mine)

2 Corinthians 10:5: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

Titus 1:9: “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

In short, yes, we need to submit to God and his word, but by submitting without question or not attempting to overcome our doubts, we can neither grow, understand, or defend our faith.

Thoughts from an NRA Member

I’ve hesitated giving my honest thoughts on this whole “gun control” hullabaloo for several reasons.

I don’t like confrontation. Nor do I like to label myself, and with all the hatred and vitriol against gun owners in general and NRA members in particular, the coward in me prefers to stay silent in the hopes it’ll all go away.

But even this quiet coward has her limits.

This is not a rant so much, but a recitation of facts, both the purpose of the NRA and why I’m both a member and why banning firearms and repealing the 2nd Amendment is a bad idea (now before you say, “No one is suggesting banning all firearms or the repealing the 2nd Amendment,” I can share plenty of statements all over social media advocating for exactly that).

The NRA was founded in 1871 by Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate, because they were “dismayed by the lack of marksmanship shown by their troops.” The NRA then and now “promote[s] and encourage[s] rifle shooting on a scientific basis.”

In 1904, the NRA began “promoting the shooting sports among America’s youth by establishing rifle clubs at all major colleges, universities and military academies.”

In 1934, due to concerted and repeated attacks Second Amendment rights (see the National Firearms Act of 1934 and 1968), the NRA formed the Legislative Affairs Division (now known as NRA-ILA [Institute of Legislative Action] which is the lobbying arm and formed in 1975).

Still today, the NRA focuses on promoting shooting sports, hunting, and education (to name a few) while NRA-ILA focuses on state, local and federal legislation pertaining to Second Amendment rights.

The Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program (established in 1988) is geared toward firearm safety for children. They are taught “that if they see a firearm in an unsupervised situation, they should ‘STOP. DON’T TOUCH. RUN AWAY. TELL A GROWNUP.’”

Now for a bit of American history.

The Founders saw first hand what an oppressive despotic government looked like, so they wanted to take as many steps as humanly possible to prevent the fledgling USA ending up the same way.

They wanted the People (and the individual States) to have more power than the federal government. They didn’t want future Americans endure similar or worse oppression. so they took steps to protect their power.

Not only are those steps outlined in the Constitution with the separation of powers between the three branches of government, but also the Bill of Rights.

Aside: Many states refused to ratify the Constitution, because they didn’t think the Constitution as written protected their individual rights. Hence the addition of the first ten Amendments, which are designed to protect both individual and State rights that the Founders (and many of us still today) consider both God-given and inalienable.

The Founders understood that one way to make sure the new government wouldn’t grow too powerful was to guarantee both the States and the People retained certain rights. Those rights included the right to be a part of any religion they choose. They didn’t want anyone forced to be a member of a government-approved or sanctioned religion before they could participate in said government.

As the old saying goes, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” The Founders understood this as well, that speech, especially unpopular or critical speech against the government needed protection.

The rest of the Bill of Rights includes more protections, but my focus is on the Second which states: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

First, here are a few quotes from the Founders with regard to rights:

“[The] Supreme Being gave existence to man, together with the means of preserving and beautifying that existence. He . . . Invested him [man] with an inviolable right to personal liberty and personal safety.” ~ Alexander Hamilton.

“There can be no freedom where there is no safety to property or personal rights. Whenever legislation . . . breaks in upon personal liberty or compels surrender of personal privileges, upon any pretext, plausible or otherwise, it matters little whether it be the act of the many or the few, of the solitary despot or the assembled multitude; it is still in its essence tyranny. It matters still less what are the causes of the change; rather urged on by the spirit of innovation, or popular delusion, or State necessity (as it is falsely caused), it is still power, irresponsible power, against right.” ~ Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story

The right to bear arms:

“The . . . Right of the [citizens] that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defense. . . [This is] the natural right of resistance and self-preservation when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression. . . . [To] vindicate these rights when actually violated or attacked, the [citizens] are entitled, in the first place, to the regular administration and free course of justice in the courts of law; next, to the right of petitioning the [government] for redress of grievances; and lastly, to the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defense.” ~ Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws.

“[S]elf-defense, or self-preservation, is one of the first laws of nature, which no man ever resigned upon entering into society.” ~ Zephaniah Swift.

“[T]he said Constitution [should] be never construed . . . to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.” ~ Samuel Adams.

With regard to who the militia is:

“A militia . . . are in fact the people themselves . . . [and] are for the most part employed at home in their private concerns.” ~ Richard Henry Lee

“Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people.” George Mason.

I could go on, but I doubt I need to, and my fingers are getting fatigued.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what’s behind him.”

While I can’t speak for every NRA member or firearm owner, I am willing to bet many would agree if I changed the above quote slightly to read, “We don’t own and train in the proper use of firearms because we hate those in front of us, but because we love what’s behind us, and because we love our country and the freedoms she represents.”

For more information on the NRA’s purpose and history, see https://home.nra.org/about-the-nra/

For the history of and principles behind the Second Amendment, and where I found many of the quotes above (and where they originally came from), I encourage you to buy this book: https://www.amazon.com/Second-Amendment-David-Barton/dp/0925279773/

Listen and . . .

Listen and . . .

I’m reading “Socratic Logic. A Logic Text Using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles” by Peter Kreeft. I started it a few months ago, but am only about a third through it. Meaty stuff.

I bought it, because I wanted to learn how better to debate and discuss, and that includes knowing when to not engage. The book has helped, although I still fall into traps once in a while, and engage when I shouldn’t. Often those times occur when my opponent isn’t interested in listening and learning opposing views, but to scream at me.

One of my friends on Facebook tagged me with thoughts on a particular video, specifically on whether or not we’re listening enough: I Went Undercover in The Alt-Right

My response:

First off, thank you for sharing, and for tagging me!

He makes a lot of valid points, and I admit I’m constantly tempted to stay within my own echo chamber.

Part of it stems from frustration.

For example, when people malign the NRA. I so desperately want to have a real conversation with those who hate the organization, so I can show them what it means to be an NRA member, and why it’s so important to me. Instead, all I get is, “You have blood on your hands,” and “You love your guns more than your children.” I can’t engage in a conversation that way. No one can. At that point, it’s best to simply stay silent and walk away.

So yes, we need to not only step out to hear opposing views, we also have to set aside our pride just a little bit and ask, “Could my own preconceived notions be wrong? Does their point of view have validity?”

Like all conversations and debates, both sides have to be willing to set aside emotions, preconceived opinions, pride, and prejudices. We also need more logic when it comes to discussions and debates, and try not to take any disagreements personally. Until then, we’re all simply yelling at ourselves within our echo chambers. Those outside can’t hear, because they, too, are yelling at themselves in their own echo chambers.

We need to start by asking more questions without first throwing accusations. Anything less is disrespectful at least, cruel at worst. I don’t know about you, but I never once changed my mind because someone swore at me, or called me an awful person because I happen to be a member of a certain group.

Comedian Owen Benjamin has a great video titled, “If you can’t argue the other side, you can’t have an opinion.” It’s just over seven minutes long, but well worth it.

Listening to opposing views is a start, but it’s not enough. I can listen all day and decide not to be swayed by anything, regardless of how logical or factual the opposing argument is. It also takes a bit of humility, and asking, “What if I’m wrong?” Or “Do I see, and can I argue for the other side?”

Still, even if we can argue the other side, in the end we can still reject it. At least then we’ll know our rejection (or acceptance) is based on quantifiable logic and facts, and we can be confident that our decision has real merit.

Once we’re better informed, we can approach an opponent with, “I know exactly where you’re coming from.” It eases any initial discomfort, and real discussion can begin.

Better informed is always better armed, which means seeing (and arguing for) as many sides as possible, both at the extremes and in the middle.

Coincidentally, at the same time my friend shared the video, I was writing a rather ranty entry on my frustration with the never-ending vilification of the NRA. I will add it in a later entry, but after I edit out some of the rantiness. Part of why I want to tone it down is because i sounded a bit whiny and pitious.

I don’t want anyone’s pity, or to argue “ad Misericordiam,” which is an argument based on a strong appeal to the emotions, or an appeal to pity or misery. Appeals to emotion rarely work, especially long-term, because emotions by definition are irrational and fleeting.

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” ~ James 1:19

Is There An Echo in Here?

The easiest temptation on social media is to follow people, blogs, websites, etc. who reinforce what we already believe.

More difficult is to follow those who have near the opposite point of view. The exceptions of when we do, it’s usually to laugh, scoff, or get offended by. We don’t do it to learn, and listen but to argue, sometimes in the hopes of convincing the opposition the rightness of our cause.

Too often, though, the opposition has no more desire to listen and learn than we do. In the end we give up, and return to our little echo chambers filled with people of like mind.

I don’t often read so-called news sites such as Vox, Slate or Salon. I find their news rife with too much bias for my taste.

Sometimes, however, I run into a headline that so intrigues me (and not in a good way), that I have to read it.

This is one such headline:

When I debate or discuss, I make sure I have truth and facts to back me up, otherwise, not only will I fail to convince, but I waste my time and that of my opposition. I don’t argue with emotions, because emotions are not rational or logical. Too often they are baseless, and fleeting. Too often they are based on misunderstanding of a smattering of facts, and can do more harm than good when trying to debate a specific point.

As Ben Shapiro likes to say, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”

You can understand then, why I found this headline befuddling to say the least. Why would anyone give up facts in favor of emotion to win people to their side? It’s idiocy. And temporary.

Out of morbid curiosity, I decided to read the piece. Too many news websites love to write provocative headlines in order to get people to read it (such as me). Click-bait as it’s called. Often, however, the headlines can also be misleading to the point that the article ends up making the exact opposite point.

As a writer, I found a lot of the opinion piece objectionable such as using emotions as a weapon. It implies that the author doesn’t want to convince, but to manipulate. It read less like a professional article and more like a personal journal entry (kind of like this lovely blog entry). The author isn’t trying to make a specific point so much, but exploring his/her thoughts in order to discover that point.

Still, after weeding through the verbosity, I surmised the author’s overall point was not to give up on facts, per se, but to appeal to a person’s emotions with facts instead of presenting facts alone. It’s a valid point, because in this day and age, regardless of what side people take on an issue, they are so emotionally entrenched in their point of view, facts proving their contentions false won’t deter them.

The entire article can be found here.

It’s worth thinking about, and for me will be one heck of a challenge. I don’t argue emotionally. Only facts matter to me, because they’re immutable. Still, I have to see the other person’s emotional point of view, and try to understand it before I can debate a specific issue.

I have to learn how to speak their emotional language, otherwise communication will be near impossible.

If I hadn’t stepped out of my own self-imposed echo chamber, I wouldn’t have discovered, let alone considered the idea.