Choices

By Dr. Jim Ferguson
I am Trinitarian in my faith, but also philosophically. I maintain that four choices are often too many and two are not enough. Three seems about right to me. My wife Becky says I can find three options for almost any situation.

My father was a Navy officer and perhaps it was my upbringing, but I learned that bullies must be faced or their tyranny will just worsen. From my picture, you may notice that my nose is crooked. It’s been broken several times, but the coup de grace came from a hockey stick in high school rather than schoolyard lessons and my pugnacious nature.

All my life I’ve held that in a confrontation your choices are fight, flight or surrender. In other words, you can fight the bully or injustice.  You can avoid difficult people or run away from duty. Or you can surrender your principles and go along to get along. Fortunately, we live in a peaceful part of a mostly safe country and don’t have to confront bullies very often. However, they do exist in the workplace, on politically correct college campuses and in politics, the workings of the polis or state.

Perhaps President Trump understands Democrat and media bullies, though the counter-punching street fighter from Queens is sometimes perceived as just boorish or indelicate. But war is not a genteel endeavor, and make no mistake about it, we are at war. I guess Trump doesn’t know he’s supposed to just take abuse and not respond. Recently, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos incredulously asked the President why he objects to the lies told about him and his family. After all, George W. Bush just took the media’s abuse and left office with an approval rating in the twenties. If Trump were that unpopular the still operative coup d’état would have already driven him from office.

I don’t seek confrontation, but I won’t run from it, nor will I compromise my principles. Recently, this Trinitarian philosophy was challenged with perhaps another option that can be used when gutter snipes like George Stephanopoulos or bullies like Adam Schiff confront you.

Since I’m now semi-retired, I find that I have more time for family, friends and reflection. And I’ve discovered book clubs. In fact, I’ve found that reading and discussing a book in a group is far better than reading it alone. I’ve adopted a friend’s mantra that goes, “None of us is as smart as all of us together,” and I learn from the perspectives of others.

Actually, with all the chores I have to do on our small farm, I sometimes wonder how I got anything done when I was working full-time. But, I manage, and I now find time for two Christian and one secular book clubs and discussion groups, instead of making hospital rounds.

The German philosopher Hegel developed a type of discourse which came to be known as the Hegelian dialectic. In this conversational interaction someone presents a thought or a thesis. Then someone else presents a different perspective or anti-thesis. The two sides go back-and-forth and finally come to a synthesis or conclusion which then constitutes a new thesis. However, to find common ground or synthesis, the two parties must have mutual respect for one another. In the political war roiling around us there is an absence of respect.

One of my book clubs is anything but traditional. Becky and I meet another couple every Tuesday morning on Skype which works surprisingly well given that the other couple lives in north Georgia. We just finished a thought provoking book by Vince Vitale and Ravi Zacharias called Jesus Among Secular Gods. Vitale noted that discussions too often proceed from disagreement to devaluing those who differ with your perspective. And tragically, intolerance soon arises which sometimes leads to overt or covert violence.

Just picture the verbal gladiatorial matches on cable TV which fortunately don’t usually lead to broken noses. I can’t say the same about confrontations with Antifa or tyrannical bullies in politically correct collegiate crowds who demand safe zones to protect themselves from the microaggressions of differing perspectives.

In the 12th century, theologian Peter Abelard said, “By doubting we are allowed to question, by questioning we arrive at the truth.” In our “drive thru” culture of 10 second sound bites and 10 minute doctor visits, there is scant time for questions and seeking the truth.

Jesus disagreed with group think of the Hebrew theocracy of his day. He didn’t run away from controversy and he certainly didn’t modify his fundamental principles. He courageously challenged the Pharisees and legal experts, not with violence, but with what Vitale describes as “sacrificial disagreement.” And though he had less than genteel words for the establishment (read Matthew chapter 23) he nonetheless continued to love them and ultimately sacrificed his life for sinners like them and me.

“To whom much is given, much is expected” (Luke 12:48).  I have been given life, awareness of the Way and a sense of wonder of the Creation. I have been given time, and love and enough of everything that is really important. As a result I am challenged to listen lovingly and sacrificially to those whose opinions are different than mine. This is tough for a man like me who thinks that some deserve and might benefit from a busted lip. Jesus called out religious reprobates, but in the end he loved them and calls us to do the same by “turning the other cheek”

(Matthew 5:39).

I read an interesting explanation of the Master’s oft quoted advice. Jesus refers to the right cheek being struck, and since 90% of humans are right handed, a blow would be expected to land on your adversary’s left cheek. However, an insult is often delivered with the back of the hand or a glove, and would be delivered to the right cheek.

I may not be able to “love” those I consider reprobates, but I can extend charity to them. Perhaps President Trump should turn the other cheek to insults and Adam Schiff, along with the media, should examine their souls and give up their destructive hating.

But I’m just a doctor, a Christian and a blessed, thankful man. What do I know about life and the political intrigues of Washington’s elite?

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