Tag Archives: Ignorance

Monday Morning Moment – Gently Confronting the Conflict Generated by Reductionism (You Want to Know this Word)

Photo Credit: Quote Master

Today, I want to talk about reductionism – how we reduce a whole person into one part – one facet that we take great pleasure in mocking or deriding. Thinking highly of ourselves in the process. Don’t miss this! Here we go.

Pierce Taylor Hibbs is a writer, teacher, and gentle theologian. I came across a piece he wrote this past week, and it has brought such clarity to a murky subject. The piece is “Reductionism: the Disease that Breeds Conflict”.

Don’t let that big word reductionism put you off. Hibbs will define it, but first, let me give you a scenario or two where we have seen this in action (and when we might have added to the fire of such a situation). We’re at a party of peers. We feel comfortable to just say what we think about any number of people, policies, or processes. No filters. What kinds of things pop up in those conversations? Mind you…they all are met with heads nodding (or shaking), laughter, and attitude. Mocking derision even.

Who are we in this conversation? The chief propagator of said comment. The amused and agreeing audience. The one uncomfortably close in character or worldview of the one being mocked. The one not necessarily close to the subject of putdown, but not comfortable with the putdown…or the people enjoying it.

Now…the definition of reductionism before we weigh in on our conversation topics. Hang in there. it’s so worth it. Pierce Taylor Hibbs on reductionism:

“Reductionism is the stepchild of our desire for mastery (complete control), which emerged from the ancient evil of autonomy Autonomy is the idea that you’re completely and utterly independent…You want full control. The thing is, you can’t have that. . . you know, because you’re not God. You’re limited by nature. That’s how you and I were made. But we’re so stubborn that we don’t accept limitation. We refuse to think we can’t master our own lives. So, within what John Frame calls the fantasy world of autonomy, we chase after mastery, and when we can’t get it (again, we never will get it), then we pretend to have it with . . . reductionism…If we can’t master our lives, then we can simplify them and make it seem as if we’re in full control. We can reduce the complexity of our own lives, the people in them, and the problems that surround us. We can take, in other words, an issue or person with a thousand dimensions and pretend that there’s only one dimension. That’s reductionism. Put differently by my friend and teacher, [Vern Poythress], reductionism happens when people “reduce the world to one dimension of the whole. . . . But reductionism is poverty-stricken, not only in its threadbare endpoint consisting of only one dimension, but also in its explanatory power.””

Reductionism, in short, is when people make something a lot simpler than it is. They do this for the sake of convenience, or egoism, or to build their own self-righteousness. There’s no shortage of motives, but I can’t think of any that are wholesome. And note what Poythress ended with: it lacks explanatory power. Read: it doesn’t actually explain much...In our frustration we reduce people, problems, and situations to manageable bits (ignoring swaths of information) in order to convince ourselves of our own mastery. You can start to predict why this is so destructive.”

Reductionism hurts people because it flattens them. It takes a human life (or a situation, political topic, etc.) and crushes it down to a single dimension, ignoring all of the others. That not only fails to align with reality (reality is always more complicated than we could ever dream); it insults people by making judgments based on that single dimension.”

OK…here we go on the topics “reduced”:

Vaxxers/non-vaxxers. Maskers/non-maskers. Cool/Not Cool. Liberals/Conservatives. Republicans/Democratics. Pro-lifers/Pro-Choice/Abortion. Boomers/Ageists. Patriot/Isolationist. Racists. Privileged. Stupid. Misogynist. Hurtful. Offensive. Homophobe. Sexist. Small-minded. Evangelicals. Enneagram or other reductionist labeling.

We can reduce a person into a box of one word or phrase. What is up with that? Nothing good. It’s handy for a laugh at a party or a sympathetic ear who “gets” people “like that”.

It is not reality. It may be entertaining, but it furthers the accepted divide between people. It degrades not only the subject of the derision but the audience, as well as the person speaking. Hibbs suggests a solution for those who want one:

“Reductionism is killing us because it’s killing our conversations. It’s killing open, receptive dialogue. It’s polarizing the nation, even the world. For our part, we have to start identifying and assaulting reductionism whenever it crops up in our conversations…But what are we supposed to do instead?…We need God and other people to understand not just the world, but even ourselves truly. We need two things: humility and a withholding of assumptions.” – Pierce Taylor Hibbs

He goes on in his piece, giving specifics of how humility and withholding assumptions work together to soften the elements of conflict, even to the possible healing of rifts. Hibbs is a Christian theologian and speaks eloquently of the life of Jesus in his people in the call to a ceasing of conflict. Not just avoiding conflict, but confronting reductionism. Whatever your faith, his counsel is sound in acknowledging the sting of our current biting and devouring social culture. And resisting the temptation of engaging in it…but not be just keeping silent and existing the conversation. Definitely worth our consideration.

Photo Credit; Janet Mock, Audi Quotes

Why Do We Have to Make Others Wrong to Be Right? – Lolly Daskal

Personality Tests: Why Are We Obsessed with Labeling Ourselves? – Sara Abdelbarry

[The above video is fascinating. Wow!]

Bullying: Scoffers, Mockers, Ridicule, and Scorn in the Bible and Today – Kelly Ann Christensen

5 Friday Faves – The Grounding Nature of Music, Finding Our Voice, Ignorance Remedied, Performative Allyship, and Friends in the Fray

Welcome back, y’all. Let’s jump right in. Oh, and there are a couple of lengthy faves, so be aware and choose with care. [The words helped me; I hope they help you.]

1) The Grounding Nature of Music – No matter our preferences, there’s something both soothing and settling about music. Whether a college fight song, a rally call, or national anthem, we are drawn together by a common loyalty…a community, no matter how diverse, that agrees on some one thing.

Nathan Mills (of Beyond the Guitar) makes a commitment to his Patreon supporters of two arrangements a month. He has made good on that for a long time now. I think about his community sometimes – those 200+ patrons that help to support the music Nathan posts on various music platforms. Benefiting the thousands who listen and watch.

Whatever social significance his music has in this chaotic world of ours, Nathan brings some of us together to enjoy, reminisce, take heart. A quietening in our thoughts. A respite in a troubled time.

I would never have thought arrangements of TV, film, and video game themes rendered on the classical guitar could have such an impact. Thanks, Nathan. Keep making it happen…music for our souls.

His most recent:

Uncharted 4 – “Nate’s Theme”

The Last of Us

2) Finding our voice – I haven’t been able to write much lately. So many voices already out there…so necessary just to listen, sift, and determine action. A friend on Facebook pointed to this post, and with permission, I’m sharing it here:

Struggling to write lately.
Most days now I just feel myself wondering if my heart and soul belong in this world anymore? Every shocking post I read or attack on others or news story.. hurts. I start to see people with a lens I never would have before. It hurts to see friends called out as racists when I know their hearts and that just can’t be. It’s hard to see calls to abolish police, especially by such young people who just really don’t have a concept yet of the world they are creating. It’s hard to see those who want to pretend racism doesn’t exist when it clearly does. It’s damn hard to also see the rise in hatred for our military. What scares me the most is the realization that we are actually creating a world that is MORE black and white. We paint people with such a wide brush. We all seem to find ourselves suddenly on one side, or the other, of a line drawn in the sand. There is no room to question or to grow or to change. You either stand with something 100% or you are wrong.. no room in the middle. Not just about race or police. But politics, faith, love, quarantines, borders, you name it! We have just become a nation drowning in the extremes. In the drowning, many of us feel like we are begging to be thrown a life preserver but somehow feel we have to prove our hearts deserve to be rescued from the water.. and we can’t. Because we don’t fit on either side of the line. Not the black, not the white. The “gray” among us are drowning. Because we stumble and we don’t always know what we feel fully. We, the gray, are learning and listening and trying and praying and pausing to learn and hear truth. How do you prove that? Prove that you cry for the police who are being hunted down for the uniforms they wear, regardless of the heart that beats beneath it — even as you weep reading story after story of racism, and the inequity that is costing the lives of black Americans at an astonishing rate. The narrative will tell you that if you don’t scream for the hatred of all police and hold up the banner of defunding them, then you are, by default, part of the problem. Same for gun control. Or politics. Or borders. Vaccines. State government. Violence in sports. Parenting. Public school or homeschool. Pharmaceuticals or Homeopathic. You can’t be unsure or pause to understand…choose a side or you are just, well, wrong. (Being called wrong would be the most gentle thing you will be called.)
I’m tired. I’m scared for the nation of extremism we are watching form right in front of us. I’m scared for the hearts, like mine, that take it all in too easily and become too quickly overwhelmed. I worry about how my future grandchildren can possibly grow up into healthy adults who learn, who form opinions, who love people, just as they are? For future generations, this Nation of Labels, will have presorted every human they meet as “friend” or “foe” before a conversation is had or a relationship started. I am scared at the amazing level of hate and disrespect our young adults have right now and spout so freely. I’m scared these younger generations have learned it is easier to swim with the current — so they won’t be labeled “wrong” — and their raging opinions are not formed from any solid foundation of truth or life experience.
For so many years the cries for “love everyone” and demands for acceptance of.. ourselves, our fellow citizens, people of other faiths or backgrounds, people for who they really are and not a presumption.. have rung out across this land. This is no longer what I hear.
Hate and more hate seems to be creating a deafening roar that is shaking the very foundation of this country. I’m not doing well within the shaking. I don’t think I am the only one.
We are creating a vortex of hate that seems to be growing stronger as it pulls in the gathering darkness.
We will reap what we sow.
That truth should terrify us.
What you sow, you will reap in time.
That should terrify the future generations.
I want to believe in better days and hope for the future. I still cling to God’s promises because I know feelings lie. But it is so hard.

3) Ignorance Remedied – It’s definitely a work in progress.

Over the last few weeks, I have had to confront my own ignorance on hugely important matters. Relating to racial bias in our country and its detrimental fallout to a minority people in our population. Blacks, African-Americans.

I had the privilege of a great education. Scholarships (on need more than merit) and post-graduate opportunities. On topics of race and racism, I’m weary of having to process the reality of “I just didn’t know.”

Here’s one example (I posted earlier on Facebook):

#Juneteenth – I grew up in the South. My high school was integrated in the late 60s. I don’t know what I was thinking in those days, but it never seemed to occur to me that white and black children going to different schools might be wrong. My mom grew up very poor. She went into labor with my older brother while picking cotton – delivered him in a cotton shed in the field. She raised us to be color-blind, thinking that was the most loving way to deal with the racial hatred she had seen as a child. She was the most Godly woman in my life growing up. She didn’t know that being color-blind somehow would make us look past people…somehow.

It took me 5 sittings to get through the Netflix documentary “13th“. Now I’m very suspect of revisionist history, so considering those things taught in school, I try to get as many takes on it as possible…to find what might have really happened; what might have been true. As gripping as this film was and as much as it gave me, I had to pray through it for God to separate out the truth from the political twists.

“13th” taught me things (which I have since researched) I was never taught in school – even all those years ago. About slavery, about laws biased against blacks, about private industries who profit off of those incarcerated, about how people who can’t afford bail and refuse to “take a plea”end up in jail for months (years?) without a trial. People who may be innocent but remain jailed…because they are poor.

I learned again how costly a felony is. Don’t get me wrong, if a person commits a crime at the level of a felony, he should get a punishment that fits that crime. Just when is the payment finished? When he has done his time in prison? Paid for his crime as required by the court? No. A felony conviction lasts forever in most states. “Collateral civil consequences” are many, including the right to vote.

I am still learning. My Bible has seen much more wear in the passages on justice, mercy, and love. I think of the parable Jesus told about a Good Samaritan who cared for a man robbed and left on the side of the road. That man would have left him untended if tables had been turned…they were enemies. This is the kind of love Jesus taught and modeled for us.

This is the kind of love I want to have for people not like me. Jesus had that love for the sinner I am.

How I came so late to the understanding growing in me now is a puzzle. I am about as conservative politically as a person can get without becoming a person you might find loathsome. Some of you anyway. For those who, like me, might have grown up, just somehow not figuring out that we were missing hurting people on the side of the road because we turned aside (those others who passed, not like the Good Samaritan)… there is still hope for all of us.

And I’m pretty positive the Good Samaritan wouldn’t have identified with our favored political party…whichever it is. Jesus made sure to describe him in a way that he had nothing to gain.

There is everything to gain, however, in seeking God’s face in this painful place we find ourselves. My city (Richmond, Virginia) is a mess right now. We have policemen friends who are excellent people. We have black and brown friends who are hurting. We have seen the deep wounds in our city cut by “bad apples” and inciters, haters, and criminals.

God calls us to love all people, even our enemies. Not in just word but in humble and wholehearted deed.

This is #Juneteenth – never knew what it was until this week… https://calendar.eji.org/racial-injustice/jun/19…

If you judge me…God knows my heart. If we judge each other, we come under the same judgment. We have to figure out how to listen and learn from each other and stand with those who hurt, without supporting those who still want to hurt (even when their “righteous” double-speak sounds more like hatred). They need Jesus, too…

Photo Credit: Facebook

3 Things Schools Should Teach About America’s History of White Supremacy – Noelle Hurd

4) Performative Allyship – What a phrase, right? A good one to understand, and activist writer Holiday Phillips brings it to light.

“To understand performative allyship, let’s first look at what real allyship is. An ally is someone from a nonmarginalized group who uses their privilege to advocate for a marginalized group. They transfer the benefits of their privilege to those who lack it. Performative allyship, on the other hand, is when someone from that same nonmarginalized group professes support and solidarity with a marginalized group in a way that either isn’t helpful or that actively harms that group. Performative allyship usually involves the “ally” receiving some kind of reward — on social media, it’s that virtual pat on the back for being a “good person” or “on the right side.””

Performative Allyship Is Deadly – Here’s What To Do Instead – Holiday Phillips

Phillips spurs her readers on – how to avoid just reacting but rather to act in ways that are sustainable and increasingly impactful. She does emphasize that any allyship is better than none.

She gave me hope.

[Phillips talks about BIPOC – Black, Indigenous, and People of Color – I didn’t know that acronym so if you’re like me, I saved you a step in looking it up.]

Photo Credit: Flickr, John Englart

Outrage Isn’t Allyship – Common Traps in the Quest for Racial Justice and What To do Instead – Holiday Phillips – So helpful!

5) Friends in the Fray – These last two weeks have been heavy. I wish it was a Friday where we could talk about summer thunderstorms, or family visits, or just plain excellent news. We fortunately do have some of that, but to get through the heavy, I am thankful for friends in the fray. Those who stand with us with gentleness and understanding, without judging, and bring us along in areas where we are struggling.

Who are your friends in the fray?

Local pastors Jared Burwell and Rayshawn Graves have been those sorts of friends in these days, posting often on their social media pages – here and here, for example. In the video below, and Rayshawn encourages and equips us to lean in rather than pull back.

Photo Credit: Rayshawn Graves, Facebook

 

Friends in the Fray – Jennifer Benson Shultd

Granted – Adam Grant – also recommends resources in this post

Tim Keller’s 8 Qualities of a Healthy and Prosperous City and Community – Brian Dodd

Stevenson: “”We Have to Find Ways to Create More Equality, More Opportunity, More Justice” – Harvard Law Today

That’s it! If you read this far, you are my hero. Thank you. Until the next time, blessings!

Bonuses:

Monuments all over our country are being vandalized or brought on. Here’s one in South Carolina that might have been well-intended but speaks to the strange nature of our country’s civil war:

Photo Credit: Angela Sanders, Facebook, Ft. Mill, South Carolina

How Poverty Changes the Brain – Tara Garcia Mathewson

Frances Frei: How To Build And Rebuild Trust

What Can You Do When You Are Flattened by Depressions? – Plan for It – Daryl Chen

200+ Highly Recommended Black-Owned Businesses To Support

The Blessing

 

Photo Credit: Frank Sonnenberg