By Dr. Jim Ferguson
“I’m listening” was Frasier Crane’s shtick on his comedy sitcom. I’ve just about quit listening. Not to my wife, which might be dangerous, but to what is advertized as the news. I was once more naive, and believed that events were reported factually. I’ve come to understand this as fallacy. All events are seen through individual eyes and understandably interpreted with a measure of bias. However, events are now reported through the eyes of politics and overt prejudice.
I’ll admit I’m guilty of pre-judging anything Nancy Pelosi says. And the recent utterly disgusting remarks of Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher, reflective of the totally unhinged left, remove them from any future consideration. Unfortunately, I feel guilty if I turn off and tune out. Citizenship has the responsibility to stay informed, and to make a valued judgement requires you to hear all sides of the spectrum.
My minister is doing a series of sermons entitled Who is this Man? The sermon series is based on a book by the same name and explores the nature of Jesus. Much “fake news” surrounds Jesus who influenced the world as no other has done. Thomas Jefferson even rewrote the new testament excluding all the miracles attributed to Jesus. Albert Schweitzer wrote a book called “The Historical Jesus” partitioning Jesus’ life into historical events and otherwise. The Jesus Seminar ranked what they thought Jesus actually said. We do know the following with considerable degrees of certainty: Jesus existed, Jesus was executed, there was an empty tomb, there were as many as five hundred eye witnesses who attested to his resurrection (experts maintain that it is impossible for so many to have such a uniform delusion) and there was very early adoption of the Gospel message, far sooner than a myth which takes generations to develop (The Case for Christ).
I believe definitions are crucial to understanding. However, some concepts are only explicable through shared experience. An example is the color red. You can’t describe it (other than as a flected wavelength of light). It must be a shared sensory perception. I believe love is a similar phenomena. Virtually all of us have experienced some manifestation of this human emotion. However, there are all types of love. I love chocolate. I love my wife. The Greeks actually have different words for various kinds of love. Examples are eros for erotic love, philia for brotherly love and storge for the love between a child and parent.
So why are we still talking about Jesus 2000 years later and what does this have to do with listening? As humans I think we can more easily comprehend love than Jesus Christ or God. The gospeler John offered the best comparative definition of the ineffable: “God is love.” This blanket definition is perhaps the closest we can get, but I believe there is more. I believe that Grace represents all human notions of love and then more. The reason we still talk about Jesus is because He was “In the beginning” and came to earth as another manifestation of God’s transcendent love.
To stay aware, I listen to the “fake news” that emanates from the media and swirls around the swamp that is Washington D.C. I confess I am disturbed by these lies, by my fellow Americans who believe the lies and those who laugh at the attempts of comedy by the depraved Maher and Colbert. I am torn between not listening and just loving my fellow man, and my responsibility as a citizen. Several friends have told me they have just quit listening.
A recent essay in Imprimis on free speech demonstrates my conundrum. The author built her essay around her children’s definitions of free speech. One quoted the First Amendment to the Constitution. Another maintained there should be NO restrictions on any speech (libertarian?). And the youngest child said, “Free speech is saying what you want – as long as I like it.” This sounds amazingly like modern universities such as Berkeley and other delusional alt-left students who masquerade as proponents of free speech and riot to silence any perspective that challenges their own.
Consider the following examples of our government’s use of power to silence free speech. The IRS targeted conservative non-profits, stating that only a few wayward Cincinnati agents were at fault. That’s a lie. The government is full of Lois Lerners. Intimidation through investigation or threat of investigation by government agencies is also real and occurred with the infamous John Doe investigations in Wisconsin. And lastly activists threaten corporations, advertisers and non-profits such as occurred with ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), a group that works to “promote free market policies at the state level.”
So, what is healthy for me, or for that matter, you? Should we withdraw to a monastery as the Essenes did in Jesus’ time or as done in the Middle Ages? Should we hunker down to avoid attacks from the illiberal bunch as some Christians did in Germany during the Holocaust? Or should we “take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them” as Hamlet once mused?
The answer is complicated just like a specific definition of love. I was a Boy Scout and learned the Scout pledge. In the pledge I promised to do my best, to do my duty to God and country. I’ve modified this a bit and added doing my best for my family, my friends and those I serve, including my readers. And to do this I must stay engaged in this world while pledging allegiance to my Master. Furthermore, I see listening as yet another aspect of love because listening to someone demands that you give, perhaps sacrificially, your time and attention to another.
I would never compare listening to my wife as sacrificial love, a term known as agape in Greek. However, it is a form of love. I now consider listening to truly imbalanced people like Maxine Waters, not only a form of duty to my country that honors its ideals, but a form of loving the otherwise unlovable.
Jesus came to earth to teach us about love in all its forms including sacrificial love. The world has never been the same since, and the Good News is He’s listening.