Dust-Up

By Dr. Jim Ferguson

Recently, two friends of mine on the social media site, Facebook, found themselves in a “dust-up.” The problem arose from the politics of our divided land. About four years ago I joined Facebook because my kids were using it, and I wanted to keep up with my kids and their pictures. Perhaps my girls are becoming “seasoned” like their old man because they still use Facebook. Nowadays, millennials often use other social media sites like Instagram or send hashtags through Twitter.

I’ve watched the Facebook site become increasingly partisan and political in the last six months. Others have noticed this as well, and some have called for “peace” through avoidance of political postings. Fortunately or unfortunately, this is not happening, and perhaps it shouldn’t. In the past, the people’s only voice was the ballot box and through their elected representatives. Sadly these days, the people often feel ignored when the election is over. Some voice their opinion by submitting “letters to the editor” of the local newspaper, but encounter partisan and politically motivated attitudes there as well. Social media gives a voice to the people as they’ve never had before. Now, people have an outlet for their outrage, a forum to express their opinions and their grief, as well as joy.

I believe the conflict on social media is but a microcosm of the civil war playing out across America, and is emblematic of our divided country. As the proverb goes, we are at each other’s throats after almost eight years of Obama’s rhetoric and his failed economic, foreign, immigration and border policies. And as America goes, so goes the world which we now observe in flames as Nero continues to fiddle with divisive platitudes.

Our postmodern era teaches that history has little relevance. Our Founders didn’t believe this and studied history, using the lessons of history to guide their decisions. Because history has become politicized and is no longer emphasized, the politically correct and intolerant crowd in universities don’t understand that conflict is an inevitable aspect of humanity. They demand conformity to their opinions.

People decry the verbiage of this political season. And yet the vitriol of the presidential election of 1800 between the Federalist, John Adams, and the Democratic Republican, Thomas Jefferson, was far worse than the rhetoric of Donald Trump. While I might prefer that Trump focus on the stark policy differences between himself and Hillary Clinton, the cries to silence him is an affront to the First Amendment, a fundamental freedom guaranteed by our Constitution. I was taught “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” The actions of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State have hurt our national security, the prestige of our country and have cost lives (Benghazi). Trump’s words have not threatened our country. I read a book some years ago entitled “Generations, The History of America’s Future.” I was intrigued by the title. The premise of the authors, Strauss and Howe, is that history cycles through prototypical generational cohorts such as The Greatest Generation of WW II or the countercultural Baby Boomers of the sixties. Their 1980s book predicted that America would face an external challenge beginning in 2014. Hello radical Islam and ISIS.

Confronting the terrorism of radical Islam has caused me to also reflect on interpersonal conflicts. Islamists say that you either convert, submit (and become a second class citizen- it’s called dhimmitude) or die. This is apparent in ISIS controlled areas. I have encountered situations and people where I am in conflict. My options are: to run away; go along to get along (submit); or resist what I perceive is wrong or unjust. Most of the time it isn’t necessary to be confrontational, but sometimes if you or your beliefs are attacked you must stand your ground. The Kenny Rogers’ song, “Coward of the County,” comes to mind.

The chants of, “No more war,” during Leon Panetta’s speech at the Democrat National Convention, caused me to reconsider the notion of a “just war.” Experts have debated for millennia whether it is right to resort to war to settle differences. Christ’s teaching is antithetical to war, but Jesus opposed evil personified as the Devil. He also cleared the Temple with a whip, called Pharisees vipers and hypocrites, and similarly referred to Herod in politically correct, but harsh, language. Perhaps the question of war refers to countries rather than each of us. But aren’t We The People the government?

Scholars, theologians, ethicists and government leaders struggle with whether it is “right” to go to war and then what conduct is “right” for the combatants. The Christian theory of war begins with St. Augustine in the 5th century AD, where Augustine argued that a Christian soldier could serve both God and country.  Later, Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century held that war must be waged by the proper authority (state), with a goal to right a wrong, and with the desire to restore peace. The Renaissance School of Salamanca furthered the concept by maintaining war may be the lesser of evils in an otherwise imperfect world. An example is a war against a tyrant (Saddam Hussein) or one fought in self-defense (after Pearl Harbor) or to punish the guilty (Nazis).

Contrary to our leaders, I have never been in a situation where I debated going to war. Perhaps that’s good because my crooked nose will attest to my schoolyard attitudes regarding conflict resolution. The writer of Ecclesiastes said, “There is a time for war and a time for peace.” We can’t always fight, nor can we always run away. Tyrants, bullies and evil must be opposed. We cannot shirk our duty and submit to injustice or that which is wrong. “Freedom is not free.” So you see, the conundrum of a just war applies to each of us and collectively as a nation.

The ancient prophet Micah, speaking for the Master, best summarized our response to “dust-ups,” conflicts and wars: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Now, just do it.

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