I spent a few days in Utah a few months ago, and along with seeing, at last, the city where my mother was born and visiting The Arches, which are solid (dare I say “concrete”?) proof that Creation cannot possibly be “an accident”, we got to talk with some of the locals. When they heard we were from Canada, they would express shame about President Trump.
That’s a sad state of affairs. The concept of “my country, right or wrong” seems to have evaporated in the Trump administration: I can’t think of any other instance where people from a country have apologized to people from other countries for their leader.
Admittedly, the people we talked with were either friends whom we knew to be political “progressives”, or people like artists and gallery staff , who were already unlikely to be Trumpites: but something one of these people said really struck a chord.
“I have relatives who like Trump, and I want to shake them and say, ‘What’s wrong with you?’”
What’s wrong with you?
Therein, lies a key to the current division in society: contending that there is something “wrong” with someone because they disagree with us. If we treat someone as wrong because they don’t see things our way, that does three things: it puts them in the position of having to defend themselves; we set ourselves up as their judge because we’re “right” and they’re “wrong”; and we neglect this key piece of Scripture …
Give no offence, either to the Jews, or to the Gentiles, or to the church of God: just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
— 1 Corinthians 10:32–33
According to Paul, who had a pretty fair track record with such things, the way to lead someone to your point of view — in his case, turning people towards Christ, but the principle applies anywhere — is DON’T OFFEND THEM.
And really, is there anything more offensive than taking the standpoint that the other person is wrong?
For another thing, thinking of someone as wrong is only a short step away from deciding that they are evil, while you are good.
Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me ‘good’? No one is good but One, that is, God.”
— Mark 10:17–18
Well, that let’s you and me out, doesn’t it?
The thing we need to understand — and is incredibly hard to understand — is that by and large, everyone thinks that the things they do, think and say are right. Some might see that through the filter of serving God, and some might see it through the filter of “what works for me” (a definition of being a psychopath), some might believe they’re doing it to defend their country; but basically, they’re not ill-intentioned.
Am I saying that “right and wrong” is fluid?
Not at all: “right and wrong” is spelled out by God and very much an “either/or” thing. So by accepting that people might think they’re right, but come at the question from different points of view, we can move the conversation forward. Ideally, the conversation should go along these lines:
Here’s how I see it.
How do you see it?
What does the Word of God have to say about it? Let’s find out together.
(Pause to flip through the Bible and concordance.)
NOW … here’s how I see it.
What do you see?
It’s not for us to determine whether another person is right or wrong; good or evil. If “no one is good but One, that is, God,” doesn’t it stand to reason that no one is evil, except Satan?* People can be influenced by the serpent, and some more than others; but we don’t get to determine how much they’re influenced and whether we’re not influenced in some way, ourselves.
Of course, it helps if we have at least that common point of reference — the Bible — with our opponent, and that we’re both willing to defer to The Great Arbitrator to reach the truth. But as I’ve said before, in this post-Christian era, we may not even have that.
And, mirabile dictu, that opens up a whole other conversation and opportunity to spread the Word.
But frankly, asking someone “What’s wrong with you?” ain’t gonna do it.
*No, I’m not saying Satan is an opposite-and-equal to God: God created him, God bats last and we already know that God wins.