Like a pandemic virus, there sure seems to be a lot of ignorance going around. To many, there is no need to confuse issues with facts, because they’ve already made up their minds. Rather than seeking a meeting of the minds by exchanging information in a mature way, they throw their opinions at each other like teenagers in a food fight. A relative of mine recently said we should not discuss politics as they are influenced by religious attitudes because we each had our own sets of facts, which were incompatible with one another. Also, that we obviously had come to these “facts” as a result of our different socioeconomic experiences, so there was no point in discussion.
Three underlying assumptions can be concluded from that assertion: that facts are relative (rather than there being a fundamental truth); that each socioeconomic group develops it’s own facts; and that agreement between different groups is either impossible or not worth the effort. These assumptions breed ignorance, foster division and break down democratic institutions by both discouraging the examination of “facts” and minimizing communication between socioeconomic groups who call each other names, such as greedy or envious. This is the kind of thinking that produces violence, because if disparate groups can’t come to agreement through reasoned debate, their only option is the use of force.
To me, there’s nothing quite as annoying as ignorance, particularly because it abuses freedom of speech. Advances in electronics technology supposedly gave us the Information Age. But this generation sees data as just more consumer goods, to be chosen or passed over as one’s appetite of the moment demands, like kids in a candy store, picking out what tastes the sweetest or has the brightest packaging. This generation seems to care more for information they agree with than for objective reality. An emphasis on self esteem and personal fulfillment has reinforced this generation’s perspective of reality, so that they pick and choose what information they pay attention to, based on what feels good to them. They don’t really think a lot about it.
Freedom of speech allows us to give voice to our feelings, whether they are based on facts or ignorance. But a more noble reason for freedom of speech is found in the expression of ideas that are substantially buttressed with undistorted, critical thought. Even noble speech has room for disagreement. Not everyone looking at the same information will come to the same conclusion. The wonderful thing about freedom of speech is that everyone may express an opinion. Freedom of speech respects diversity of thought, and does not require one’s opinions or positions on issues to be approved or politically correct before they are accorded the same acceptance as any other opinion within the market place of ideas. But, as in all other freedoms, there are responsibilities that go along with freedom of speech. The reason we may not scream “fire!” in a theater (when there is no fire) is that it would cause people to panic and could result in injuries. Because our laws recognize that speech can be injurious, it restricts such things as libel, slander and defamation.
Not only are we responsible for making sure our speech is not harmful, but we are also responsible to tell the truth as best we can. We are not supposed to lie. Of course lying is something that must be proven. We all are subject to making misstatements due to our dependence on faulty sources of information. But some of us refrain from lying because our conscience warns us not to, while others lie anytime it can be used to their advantage. Lying is the willful act of saying something that is not true, despite knowing what the truth actually is. The art of being a successful politician largely depends upon the ability to make a statement that gives the impression you are saying one thing, while at the same time provides a loophole you can use later to claim you meant to say something else, denying any intent to deceive. Most politicians are so good at this they’ve convinced us that “everyone lies”. Nevertheless, freedom of speech does not include lying. Perjury is still not legal.
No abuse is more destructive to freedom of speech than the careful manipulation of facts, designed to deceive others. The success of such deception relies heavily upon ignorance. Those who feel safe and let up their guard are most apt to be deceived, in the same manner as the distracted and unsuspecting tourist is a prime target of a pickpocket. The deceptive manipulation of information is called propaganda. We used to point to Pravda as an example of it. In this country, we used to celebrate freedom of thought and a diversity of opinion, reflected in our press and news media. But no longer. Now, what we get from the press and news media is pretty much propaganda and pretty much all the same. A lot of information simply isn’t reported. Fortunately, we can counter these omissions by turning to the internet or listening to a few talk shows on the radio. But the kind of person who does that is already interested and already paying attention. A large number of Americans comfortably remain in a state of ignorance, drinking the Kool-Aid given to them by the propaganda machine.
The tenacity of this prevailing ignorance begs the question, “What changed?” How did we go from a largely interested and informed electorate, resistant to political controls, to a self-absorbed people subject to politically correct propaganda? What changed us from a society that respected Biblical religions as the American mainstream, to a society that sees religion as a crutch and believers as a superstitious underclass? Are we to ascribe these changes to the process of enlightenment? Was this supposed enlightenment the result of discovery reached by reasoned and informed debate? Or was one generation simply propagandized with a ‘new think’? Americans used to want to be independent — left alone by the government. Now Americans feel everyone has the right to expect the government to take care of them.
The schools have been at the forefront of our societal change. They used to teach American exceptionalism, now they teach American selfishness and American guilt. Marriages used to be considered sacred and children were valued. Our culture (as well as most other historical cultures) used to consider homosexuality an aberrant behavior, even criminal. Now homosexuality is just seen as an “alternate lifestyle”. As a society, we now teach our children more about the virtues of personal pleasure and personal fulfillment than of our social responsibilities to the community. The very definition of community has changed to now mean just those folks with whom we most intimately associate. Children have become devalued. Birth rates are so low among native-born Americans that if it weren’t for the influx of immigrants (both legal and illegal) our population would actually be in decline. This all means that an increasing number of United States residents do not relate to our traditions, history, language or culture. They become their own socioeconomic group with their own “facts”.
Our unique ‘Americanism’ is dying out. ‘Multiculturalism’ encourages peoples from all over the world to come here, but continue living in their own culture, speaking their own languages. They come to America without becoming American. We all live in our own isolated, ignorant cultural islands. There is no unity. National allegiance has been replaced by various cultural allegiances. In fact, this trend is exactly what many prominent celebrities want to see happen. Michael Moore, in his film, “Capitalism: a Love Story” likens American schoolchildren saying the Pledge of Allegiance to Nazi kids giving the “sieg heil” salute, while the voice-over narrative asks rhetorically what are they really pledging their allegiance to. Because a picture is worth a thousand words, the viewer of this documentary is supposed to be getting the message that nationalism in general is bad and that American flag-waving in particular is bad. An ignorant mind-set is required in order for viewers to accept that kind of propaganda.
The text of the Pledge of Allegiance is, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands: one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” A person must be ignorant to question what this means. It’s perfectly clear, unless you hate your country. My dictionary defines allegiance as, “Loyalty, or the obligation of loyalty, as to a nation, sovereign, or cause.” Michael Moore certainly looks down his nose at the idea of Americans pledging their allegiance to America — so much so, he likens it to Nazi Germany. But what really rankles Moore and the rest of the godless anti-nationalists, are the words, “under God”. Deeper than the pit of hell, hotter than exploding magma is their anger at the idea that our nation should appeal to God’s authority for our governance. They condemn it as hypocrisy and a tool of deception for controlling the masses.
In Moore’s case, he tries to create the impression that he is qualified to represent the authentic Christian view because when he was younger he wanted to be a priest. That’s supposed to make us feel he knows what he’s talking about. But beware his “different set of facts”. As a young man, Joseph Stalin attended a theological seminary. Did that make him an expert on Christianity? Those who are ignorant of Biblical theology are easily taken in by anyone claiming to be an expert. Manipulating Biblical teachings, Michael Moore represented poor people as being the most loved by God and rich people as just the opposite, making the association that rich capitalists are evil, while poor people are, by definition, virtuous victims.
This dichotomy actually expresses a fundamental concept of communism: the bourgeoisie are bad and the proletariat are good. But many younger Americans have been taught that socialist and even communist ideals are virtuous and noble, while they are blissfully ignorant of our Biblical roots. And in their ignorance, they are open to the communist view, which distorts and misrepresents the essence of Christianity, even though they themselves may be professing Christians.
I have been long-winded enough. Rather than disabuse the ignorant of any misconceptions they may have about what the Bible actually teaches, I will simply state that the Bible teaches that both rich and poor are to be treated equally, without preference (Leviticus 19:15). God judges each of us, not for what we have, but for what we do with what we have. Liberation theology or “Robbin Hood-ism” is simply not supported by sound Biblical exegesis. If the reader wants to try to refute that, I say have at it. Maybe you’ll learn something.