The Problem

I had an epiphany this morning: All of my frustrations with politics, religion, blog comments, road rage, and any other venue where people seem to be inordinately contentious and cruel stem from one underlying fact about our current society.

We have forgotten how to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Adam's latest blog on sexuality has brought out commenters in droves, and the comments have (again) brought out some of the worst in people.

Obama's decision to have Rick Warren give the invocation at his inauguration has sparked disproportionately impassioned comments despairing over his political maneuvering and judging him to be manipulative or flip-floppy or [insert negative connotation here].

Even the stupid debates over who likes what sort of coffee descend into the immediate assumption not only that your opinion is right and everyone else's is wrong, but moreover, that your opinion is right and everyone else is an idiot.

I wonder what the world would look like if we held our own thoughts and opinions a little more loosely. I wonder what it would be like if we started on the assumption that our opponent's views were just as likely to be valid as are our own views. I wonder what it would be like to discuss and even debate issues while making an intentional effort to validate the true or useful or good points that the other side was making - if we gave our opponents credit for their opinions. I wonder what the world would look like if we didn't always jump to the assumption that people are manipulative or conniving or have dishonorable intentions or have hidden agendas.

I'm tired, people. I'm tired. When did we stop putting in the effort to see good in all people? When did we stop trying to be civil? When did we stop thinking about people as people, and instead start thinking of them as punching bags or political parties or simply means to an end?

I am certainly in a place of advent right now. I believe so strongly that God in Christ has begun the work of restoration and reconciliation. And especially on days when those things feel so far away (and so impossible!), I need to cling to the faith that while the winter may be dark, Christ is indeed coming soon.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife, and discord cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!


  1. so well said, melissa. there is a sermon in here. nevermind. this IS a sermon. and a darn good one.

  2. I agree with Traci, well said! What gives me hope is the fact that my students read and were able to discuss a text that challenges just the negative attitudes that you're talking about. Take a minute and read David Foster Wallace's commencement address at Kenyon College in 2005. While my seniors in high school enjoyed the speech's sarcastic edge, they also grasped the underlying idea that it's your choice to be negative or positive in your day-to-day interactions with others. How apropos!

  3. Good thoughts, as always.

  4. I've always liked to think of bloggers as modern-day pamphleteers. I agree that it often doesn't lead to good discussions. Merry Christmas.