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The Intellectual Laziness Of The Easy Answer

EasyAnswerSloganA political season for me is on par with buying a used car or getting a root canal.

They are all necessary but unavoidable evils.

And each is a genuine pain in the…well, you know.

In politics, the way extremes emerge, agendas are touted and leaders are lampooned grates on my nerves like a classroom of first graders simultaneously scraping their nails on blackboards.

It appears that ignorance of every stripe puts on disguises of every style to promote idiocy of every sort.

Some seasons are worse than others. Few have ever matched the current one. The onslaught of insults to my intelligence from all points on the political spectrum is the stuff of Guinness world records.

What irks me most is the oversimplification of complex issues. The utter absence of thoughtfully-formed answers and the polarization of our collective community is absurd at best and potentially catastrophic at worst.

What stuns me even more is the irrational exuberance with which we as a people accept this unpalatable Pablum.

Of course, the political parties are like dogs marking territory when it comes to their ideas. If the thought doesn’t rise out of their ranks it simply cannot be embraced no matter how much sense it makes.

We’d rather be stupid with our own ideas than right with someone else’s.

Weary as we are of a do-nothing political system and a drifting moral consensus, it’s just too easy to blindly and blithely swallow the easiest answers that requires the least intellectual energy or imagination.

Give me a slogan to hang onto, a catch-phrase to chant or an enemy to demonize and I will be lulled into the insanity of believing that simply by repeating the mantra I am actually part of the solution.

Honestly, when is the last time you heard a sane, substantive, intelligent give-and-take debate on the issues that weigh on contemporary culture? Have we reached a point that we can no longer explore the difficult issues of our day with civility and respect? Are we beyond the point of humble compromise for greater good?

Easy answers are never based on a realistic assessment or contemplative consideration of the facts. They are mostly cheap cop-outs. Great for media sound bites or political sucker punches, but inconsequential in solving any real dilemmas.

Just because something is a popular opinion does not make it an informed one.

There are no easy solutions or pat answers to the:

  • Personal and economic debris left in the wake of a natural disaster
  • Political dissension left from the collision of polemically disparate world-views
  • Ethical dilemma posed by competing belief systems or conflicting moral codes
  • The gray areas left along the fault lines of church/state or public/private

When we adopt the stance of opposing teams over the divisive issues of our day, we have lost hold of the reality that we live in the paradox of a fallen world. When we accept paradox we understand…

  1. The problems are far more complex than we’d like to admit. They involve people–real people. So they are as diverse and complex as are the various parties involved.
  2. The answers are far more involved than we’re willing to face. We seem to want some sort of magic wand waved over the ideological canyons separating us that will fix the problem and make everyone happy.
  3. The solutions are far more demanding than we’re willing to accept. Real solutions require real involvement. The fix requires getting our own hands dirty. Such answers place demands on the “us” part of the “us-and-them” dichotomy we are so fond of drawing.

As believers in Jesus especially, we must see things from a very different perspective than that of the world around us. We belong to the right-side-up kingdom in the middle of this upside-down culture.

We have to begin and end with Jesus.

His seemingly lopsided value placed on the disenfranchised and marginalized challenges our protective notions of rights and rules. His commitment to an invisible Kingdom runs counter to our nationalistic leanings. His passion for redemption and healing cut across the grain of our fondness for exclusion and isolation.

It is time for a more considered approach. One based on humility, justice, and mercy as Jesus defines them. It is OK to admit we don’t have all the answers, we all have a part to play and there is no silver bullet.

Imagine the answers Jesus could reveal for the calamities of our societies if we simply tried these three things:

  • Identify–authentically connect with people who are ACTUALLY facing the problems we are THEORETICALLY discussing. In this approach we say, “I want to understand.”
  • Be humble–Face the truth that none of us is infallible, all of us are valuable and together we can find credible ways forward. We hold firmly to our convictions, but with this mindset we say, “I could be wrong.”
  • Embrace community–understand that the highest goal is not to be right but to be redemptive. Experiencing and embracing community that unites instead of dogmatically clinging to ideologies that divide. This is where we simply admit, “I don’t have all the answers.”

You see, the “clear” answer–especially when it is the easy one–may or may not be true. It often is a thin veneer covering our unwillingness to wrestle with the inescapable uncertainty, perplexing duplicity and constant inequity of life together as a people.

Easy answers are most often easy because they are lazy.

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