Years ago, in my other life as a university president I noticed a phenomenon that repeated itself time and again.
1-When I talked for a while about academic quality, inevitably, someone or more than a few would say, “Dr. Rogers doesn’t care about Christian spiritual development.” I’d think, What? I always said our commitment to quality flows from our Christian worldview. I was just emphasizing our need to develop our academic program, not taking a stand against anything else.
2-When I talked for a while about spiritual development, inevitably, someone or more than a few would say, “Dr. Rogers doesn’t care about academic quality.” I’d think, What? I always mention integration of faith and learning. How can anyone think I don't understand or care about other important matters? ...And so it would go.
People assign motives, even positions, based on their perception of what I didn't say at that moment.
Something similar is happening now on social media. I've been criticized, assigned partisan views I don’t hold simply based upon what I did not say and may not believe, or on what someone didn’t see me reference in other posts. At times, it can be "condemned if you do" or "condemned if you don't."
Recently, we witnessed via viral video the tragic and terrible death of George Floyd, killed senselessly and needlessly by coercive force applied by a Minneapolis police officer. This is sin. It is more than sad; it's sickening, and it is part of a pattern of similar injustices against Black men or teens perpetrated by American police officers. This must be discussed and we must find our way toward change that roots out racism and illegal police procedure.
In response this past week, peaceful protests took place in dozens of American cities, which are lawful and needed. Unfortunately, people of some ilk yet to be fully understood, apparently from both the Far Left and Far Right as well as locals running amok, took over protests and turned them into riots featuring vandalism, larceny, looting, arson, and violence. Businesses were damaged and destroyed and some lives were lost.
So what should we talk about? 1-the killing of a Black man for no reason by law enforcement officers, an egregious pattern of racism in this country, 2-the wanton lawlessness resulting in the destruction of property owned by people who had nothing to do with the racist killing of a Black man by police.
Here again, if you post about race killing and not the riots, someone or more than a few, will say, "You don't care about riots," or vice versa. Or if you post about both, someone or more than a few will say, "You aren't prioritizing the right matter and you're being side-tracked." I admit all three perspectives are possible, but I also believe it's possible to talk about these social pathologies sequentially or in an integrated way without being guilty of uncaring or missing the point.
People rush to judgment, particularly on social media. If you don't say what they want to hear, then you are judged.
Undoubtedly and admittedly in terms of full disclosure, I've been guilty of this along the way too. But I try not to do so, because to do so is not good critical, independent thinking, which we desperately need.
If anything, this tendency to rush to judgment is worse than it used to be, another outcome of growing polarization and hyper-partisanship in our culture.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020
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