24 Questions for Advent: Twelve
How many times can a man turn his head And pretend that he just doesn't see?
- Bob Dylan, Blowin’ in the Wind
There is nothing more frustrating to me than witnessing willful ignorance. Not only does someone not understand, but intentionally avoids trying to understand. Right now, in this country at least, we seem to be in the middle of an epidemic---not just of COVID, but of ignorance. I gave a sermon at the beginning of 2021 (see the Blog entry) that featured observations of Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol about the dangers facing mankind in the form to two ragged and sickly children:
“They are Man's,' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. 'And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it.' cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. 'Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.'"
A Christmas Carol, Stave 3: The Second of the Three Spirits
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'" ― Issac Asimov, author of The Foundation Series
In talking about willful ignorance, I am not asserting that “I’m right and you’re wrong”---that would also demonstrate ignorance---but that we all must be willing to look at the evidence, what has been demonstrated over time, not only in science, but in all forms of learning. We may then disagree on our response to that evidence, and which solutions to support. But at least we can have a conversation with the foundation built upon some common ground. But that is not the culture in which we currently live. We would rather get passionate about defending our beliefs and attacking the beliefs of others than try to discern the truth together.
In another blog entry, I wrote the following:
It is difficult to remain childlike in our awe of what we experience day to day. We can become jaded, cynical, angry and suspicious of any new evidence that challenges what we believe to be true. In times of crisis, whether on a personal or societal level, human nature tends to seek security by holding fast to an ideology, especially if we perceive it is under attack. We become defensive, argumentative, stubborn and unrelenting. We become susceptible to what appears to have become the devil's present-day attack: the idolatry of ideology.
Idolatry is a strong word. But when our system of belief does not open itself to new evidence, or in confounding argument or experience, then it can indeed become an object of worship in place of the Living God. Jesus encounter this in his time on earth. He didn’t fit the belief systems of those who heralded themselves as spiritual leaders. Though He was God Incarnate, they held to what they already understood about God, even in the face of all the evidence He demonstrated in working miracles before their very eyes.
Jesus then said, “I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind.”
Some Pharisees overheard him and said, “Does that mean you’re calling us blind?”
Jesus said, “If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you’re accountable for every fault and failure.”
John 9:39-41, The Message
“Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse,” warned Dickens.
How many times?