White men turning 70 this year grew up in a world that was so different from this one. When they were children, the only people they saw on TV were white. The only people they started kindergarten with were white – they were in 3rd grade when Brown v Board of Education was decided, and most still completed their public education in segregated schools. When they went to college (if they did), everyone there looked like them: not only were they white, but mostly they were men! This was also true in many trades; a white man who graduated from his white high school went to work with other whites. Unions were a white domain.
They were grown men when they saw “colored people” begin to go to the same colleges, particularly prestigious ones; they were graduated before they began to see women go. They were 35 when they saw the black player become a first-string NFL quarterback! (How laughable now that white people thought black people couldn’t compete on the same athletic level….)
All of this comes from an article in Forbes magazine, called “The Last Jim Crow Generation,” and it gives us pause when we realize how much the world has changed in 70 years.
But the thesis of the article was that at least for some white people, particularly the men, of that age, there is a huge temptation to retreat from the world we are in now, where women outnumber men in college and outrank them in grades and test scores. Where black men outnumber white men in sports. Where people of color are assumed to be able to do any job and it’s LGBTQ+ people for whom we are fighting about access!
That’s not to say that all is well on the racial front – it’s most certainly not. But the author (Chris Ladd ) makes the point that this just might explain the success of “alternate reality” media, conservative radio and TV where unpleasant (to them) facts never get mentioned and some kinds of stories seem to need nothing but a rumor to produce an enormous amount of coverage.
Could it be that for some people, this alternate world is just so much more comfortable to believe in, they are not willing to exit it to be in the world that really exists?
That might seem rude but I guess the scriptures would say we almost all do that. Humans are pretty good at constructing the reality they want to live in, and at ascribing to others the characteristics we have contempt for (hence, racism, prejudice, discrimination, tribal warfare and war in general).
Of course, the same can be said about religion. I get that. Especially when, say, Christian scriptures, which are at minimum 2000 years old and many much older, of course represent cultures that no longer exist, and seem to describe a God who are so very different from us, and who wants from us what seems like very difficult things. And this is even more true when such a God is represented by some clerics who turn out to be hypocrites and often blatantly greedy, lusty, criminal war-loving ones.
Still, in Romans the Apostle Paul writes that the God we worship is the Creator of earth and humanity. The characteristics of God can be known by what God has created, but humanity has failed to give God thanks for what God’s made. What’s worse, Paul writes, is that even after God has shown God’s character (creativity, beauty) to humanity, we “exchange the truth about God for a lie, and worship and serve the created thing, rather than the Creator” who made it.
This perversion of thought, this construction of a world without the God who made it, has consequences on the way we think: it makes our thinking futile and our minds dark.
And useless thinking and dark minds do an awful lot of damage.
This makes sense to me!
I insist on trying to find out what’s true in this world. I resist being pulled into an echo chamber where everyone agrees with me, even though it is so pleasant. I understand the risk that I will buy the lies because I like them…but the consequences of living in an unreal world can be disastrous. Someday the folks in the right wing media bubble will find out that immigrants are not the problem, that tax cuts don’t solve everything and that the president is no genius. (And yes, the left wing bubble will find out that businesses who are asked to pay for everything, will just leave. And that borders must be defended.) I sure hope we can find these things out before we start new wars.
But at the same time, I’m warned by Paul that I just can’t find out what’s true if I pretend there is no God or that God’s not involved. Paul instructs us that giving thanks to our Creator resets our perspective, so that we can see what’s true. Attention to God and the story he has placed us in, God’s story, sets our worldview right, so we can make better decisions. Staying in a relationship with God reforms our point of view, so that we can think.
And since God made light, staying in connection with him is the only way to keep our minds from going dark again.