I was enjoying Thomas Friedman’s latest book. Then I heard him speak. He’s certainly bright and interesting, but his comments helped me recognize a serious blind spot. He’s not offering optimism as the subtitle suggests but peddling avoidance. I want my money back.
The first sign of avoidance is his resignation to the pace of his life. He traces the accelerating rate of change to the pivotal year 2007 and the release of the iPhone, the launch of social media, and a host of other globalizing technologies. And, he claims to be fine with it, but really, he’s hiding in plain sight. The title itself suggests being subject to circumstance. Even his free time hinges upon someone else’s tardiness. Hence the title.
The second sign of avoidance is his mere description of the way things are. It’s one more time I’ve paid Captain Obvious for his research. It’s one more journalist cataloging cultural shifts, blithe about whether such changes are good or good for us. He avoids the only present-day heresy, judgmentalism.
What’s worse than avoidance?
On the other hand, I’m not a fan of media tantrums parading as conviction, and with an air of expertise. We’ve arrived at an the age when everybody is somebody, so no one is anybody (Gilbert & Sullivan). When your conclusions all line up with the networks and editorial boards, when you have zero tolerance for the minority report, then you might be a lemming.
Why does every disagreement get so personal?
For many people, opinions are tied into their salvation. If I’m on the right side of history, then I’m okay. It’s theological–even religious. Consider the zeal. Notice the vitriol over social change. A position which was common sense yesterday can be labeled bigotry today. Get on board or be ostracized. What’s the source of this urgency? Opinions have merged not only with one’s present moral standing but also with one’s ultimate security.
In my role I’m exposed to a lot of people’s big moments. In such revealing circumstances, one universal truth often emerges: we cannot remain indifferent to our brokenness and guilt. Today, social issues are the place where people seek absolution. When they give up on making peace with God through the grace of God, they leverage any perceived injustice for their own moral standing. When theology no longer shapes social mores, social mores shape theology.
“Never be wise in your own sight” (Rom. 12:16).