The Never-ending Quest to Be Right

I’m weary from the past couple of days insanity. The election and all of its required hand-wringing is now over, but the backlash from the results remains. I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people insisting that the election was won or lost solely on a particular issue or strategy. The reality seems more likely to be a combination of multiple factors, and such is the nature of life.

Yet folks still insist that they know what turned the tide. They have the inside info. They know the truth.

It’s been ugly at times, this failure to see anything other than their own point of view. It has also been instructive. As one of my students suggested last night, one of the things that contributed to the current national schism is the stubborn insistence that “I’m right; you’re wrong” holds sway in everything.

This has nothing to do with politics, though politics seems to be one arena where the impulse is brought to the forefront. It has more to do with the simple fact that so many of us feel an almost insatiable desire to be right. And I’m not talking morality, or being a good person kind of right; more a I-know-better-than-anyone-else kind of right. An arrogant right that suggests that somehow the individual has cornered the market on the true way the world works, and no one else has. Suddenly, there’s no room for a discussion of ideas and agreement to disagree; there’s only the mantra that the one who’s right must prevail.

Facebook illustrates this so beautifully. Anytime you see a post with over 25 comments, there’s an 85% chance that the thread has devolved into someone asserting their correct view of the universe against others who would refute that view. And it can be about anything: God’s existence, the reliability of science, whether or not HALO is the single greatest video game franchise of all time. If you bother to opine about a subject, prepare yourself to immediately have that opinion challenged.

We’ve turned into a nation of bullies. If you don’t agree, we’ll just hammer away at you until you either change your mind or shut up. Either way, the bullies win.

And lately, everyone is a bully. The Christians. The Muslims. The Tolerant. The Intolerant. The Hippies. The Liberals. The Government. PETA.

As Buffalo Springfield sang, “Step out of line, the man come and take you away.”

Only now The Man is everyone. It’s funny–apparently we defeated Big Brother by becoming Big Brother. We can lay the blame for this at the feet of post-modernism (the deconstruction of the foundational assumptions of modernism, or essentially questioning everything), but that doesn’t explain exactly why everyone has embraced such an existential free-for-all. For that, we should look back to Genesis, into ancient story of mankind.

God told Adam not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam did it anyway, becoming his own arbiter of right and wrong, becoming possessed of his own horrible point of view of the universe. And we’ve repeated that same flaw all the way through our species’ existence. Severed from God’s perspective, we’ve lost all sense of what is Right. We’ve resorted to manufacturing such definitions on our own and descended into chaos. We fight to be right, when we can never be such a thing. We are limited, finite creatures, tainted by sin and captive to our own delusions.

We have God’s Word and His Spirit to guide us, but even then we argue about who correctly understands, who correctly hears. Church history is replete with examples of how we can’t even agree about words on a page, or commands to love and teach others to do the same.

The only thing I take comfort in is that the One who defines what is Right, the One who is just and good and perfect in and of Himself, will one day sit all of us down and open our eyes to what is true. What is right. And in that moment all of us will bend the knee to Him and praise Him as Lord.

On that point, we’ll all agree. And we’ll all be right.

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