Five unsettling trends: The deep questions will become more intense

Nov. 10, 2022

By Rev. Rick King

Five unsettling trends in the culture and how the church can meet them:
IV. The deep questions will become more intense and important

The midterm election campaign is over, and most of us are breathing a sigh of relief.
In part, that’s because our inboxes and text streams will be mercifully clear of hundreds of pleas for campaign donations. But also because maybe the level of dialogue around issues can rise from the muck of mudslinging we’ve witnessed out of a desire to win at all costs.

You and I can get pulled into intense social media exchanges, conversations with neighbors or family members with whom we disagree about politics, and with holiday get-togethers with some of those people, many of us will studiously avoid bringing up a whole host of topics in order to preserve civility around the table.

In addressing church and business leaders, Carey Nieuwhof has observed that “We live in an era of weakly-formed, strongly-held opinions.” Most of these are the result of how our range of conversation partners has narrowed in recent years, excluding people who disagree with us or have areas of knowledge outside our familiar fields and topics.

But, as George Friedman has pointed out in his book, “The Storm Before the Calm,” political, technological and scientific breakthroughs usually come because people work across disciplines and form new coalitions that move us past the old barriers and previously unsolvable problems.

The local church can be a place where we regularly get out of our comfort zones and knowledge and experience bases. But this has to be an intentional part of our common life. Churches can embrace the practices of being curious, asking good questions, and seeking to understand rather than just making ourselves understood.

The practice of listening will go a long way toward this. And in addition to practicing curiosity, you and I can benefit from learning to listen deeply to what people are saying in their hopes and fears, and to what the Spirit is revealing through these conversations—about ourselves, and about those we’re listening to.

The moral, philosophical and theological questions are more important now than they’ve been in a long time; wrestling with them can be a form of “holy resistance” to the dominant strains of angry, power-driven exchanges or silence and withdrawal from contact with those who are not like us.

As Christians, we can get good at these; after all, Jesus mixed with all kinds of people—and brought them together.