August 2010 may go down in history as one of the hottest summers in our lifetime.
It may also be remembered as when American society ratcheted up the rhetoric, intolerance, and hatred. Many have predicted polarizing extremes as being a driving force in the future. The Institute for the Future is one, and we can see how what were once “fringe” groups and opinions have now taken front-and-center. According to IFTF, “strong opinions will meet strong social networks to create intense feedback loops. We can already find, connect with, and collaborate with anyone who shares your beliefs – no matter how extreme you are. Dark innovation will thrive.”
The news services and blogosphere are full of stories of such polarities. And they are bringing out the worst in people:
- The building of an Islamic Center in New York City (Not a mosque, and not at Ground Zero, but in the vicinity). Bishop Mark Sisk of New York shares his thoughts.
- Court ruling on whether same gendered couples may marry (All are equal and loved in God’s eyes)
- President Obama is a Muslim (False)
- Illegal immigration and whether everyone born in the United States has the rights to be a US citizen (Isn’t that what the 14th Amendment of the Constitution states?)
What is the root of all this? I believe it is the increase of the Rich/Poor Gap as well as the growing diversity of our country. This gap has always been with us, but we are able to see images of each other and the issues that affect us more visibly due to technology and 24/7 news feeds. While new media provides new opportunities to organize for giving (such as the grassroots responses to recent natural disasters), new media also publicize economic differences vividly. This triggers violence – not only physically, but verbally. And that’s what I believe we are experiencing this summer.
Those who have “power” and were once the dominant force in politics, religion and business (aka – Anglo-European Protestant men) are now seeing themselves as a “minority” which is threatening to their underlying assumptions that God is on their side. I believe it comes down to that – power and authority. Making the other seem less than human, so that one’s self-identity remains intact and in control.
I don’t listen to Glenn Beck, Fox News, or Sarah Palin. And I don’t follow the other extreme on the ‘left.’ I’m an adult – I can weed out the fiction from fact if I do some research. But what about our children? Bullying is at an all-time high in our society – could it be children are learning from our “national leaders”? What kind of role models do they find in sports, entertainment, political and religious leaders today?
Enough of a rant. My body temperature is rising. I’m going to get an iced tea and read Isaiah 1:17: “Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” and my Baptismal Covenant: “Seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving my neighbor as myself” and “Striving for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being.”
Here are some articles and resources to help put things in perspective:
- Dangerous Religion – an opinion piece by Gary Laderman
- Franklin Graham Forgets “God Has No Grandchildren” – an opinion piece by Randall Balmer
- Christians, Culture and Power – Andy Crouch discussing how Christians can use power in a positive, life-giving way
- Muslims Spread Message at the Fair – how the Muslim community in Minnesota are reaching out to educate others about tolerance
- A great explanation of Liberation Theology from Jesuit priest James Martin posted in the Huffington Post.
Lastly, resources ADULTS need to pay attention to from Teaching Tolerance:
- Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case That Made History – a free video and teaching kit you can receive
- The Spring 2010 issue of Teaching Tolerance Magazine focuses on the new segregation and divisive issues