Sound-Bite Culture

In the last presidential debate we had here in America, the candidates had very little time to speak. I was watching this and wanted to scream at Tom Brokaw a number of times. It’s almost as if he wanted to do anything to make sure an actual discussion of the issues wouldn’t break out. How is it that any candidate can explain their economic policy in one minute?

Now you all know that this isn’t a political blog. I won’t deny that I have strong political opinions and I do pray about this election, but I think what happened that night is simply an indicator of the way our culture is going and to an extent, it affects all of us. At the time, I currently have a number of philosophical issues I’m mulling over in my mind and I find it hard to sit down and really focus on one. Focus is not a gift of mine.

This sadly affects us in apologetics also. Our culture expects answers to come quickly and frankly, a lot of issues just can’t be solved on that timescale. I used to belong to a church and we went out one night a week for witnessing. One night before we go out, our pastor is speaking and then with the crowd suddenly says to me “Okay. You’ve got 90 seconds. Explain to us the problem of those who’ve never heard.”

Friends. That is a real problem and there are many answers to it and I think they’re worth debating back and forth, but I think anyone with an answer would agree, excepting universalists, that you really can’t answer a question like that in 90 seconds and even a universalist might want time to explain their case instead of just saying “Everyone will be saved.”

Today, I’m at work and a co-worker comes to me and wants to know what I believe as a Christian and he tells me that his church teaches that if you’re a good person and you don’t really do anything bad (I had to qualify that one immediately) but don’t believe in God, you go to Hell. Meanwhile, if Hitler repents on his deathbed, he goes to Heaven. He wanted to know if I agreed with that.

I did.

So then he asks me how it can be just for someone like that to go to Hell. (Isn’t it interesting? It’s always just to allow people to go to Heaven who are sinners, but it’s never just to allow sinners to go to Hell.)

I decide that we need to start at the beginning and start talking about the nature of God. I go through some of the attributes of God and what they mean and then point out that if that is true, and this question must be understood within the Christian framework, then it would follow that all sin is divine treason against a holy and perfect God wanting to kick him off the throne.

My reply that I got? “But you still haven’t answered my question.”

I’ll also note I did not take long in explaining this. I’ll be surprised if I took three minutes tops. I believe the question of Hell needs to be answered and there are answers, but you can’t answer a question like that in just three minutes often. Is it any wonder we don’t get to discuss fundamental ideas because we can’t discuss foundational issues enough?

Now we get interrupted. I’m the kind of guy that if I’m interested in the conversation, we can be interrupted and I can come right back and see you when I’m free and pick up exactly where I left off. I start talking to him again about this topic and the next thing I hear is “Well, I don’t remember reading about Hell in the Old Testament.”

Okay. We’ve switched the goalposts. All of a sudden, we’re on the topic of the origins of Hell. That’s fine. I can handle it. I start then talking about the Essenes and the intertestamental period and the Apocrypha. Unfortunately, this guy didn’t recognize any of this stuff which I found revealing. It makes me realize we are getting just soundbites to argue with when the issues underlying them aren’t understood at all.

But, lo and behold, here comes an interruption again.

When we get back together, again, I’m continuing but then I hear, “Wait a second. Why are you as a Christian reading non-Christian books?” Wow. Where did that come from? Again, I was happy to answer the question. I didn’t get much time and shortly afterwards, it was time to clock out which means the next day I work with this person, the topic could go anywhere.

Our culture is getting dumber simply because we can only think in those kind of sound-bites. We don’t know how to analyze issues deeply. We don’t know how to ask questions any more. All we know is how to feel things. We have become the gods of our own universes. It seems that if we cannot grasp an idea immediately, it cannot be true.

It’s going to have to start with us also. I have to improve my focus as well. I’m a product of my culture in some ways also. I believe learning truth is worth overcoming this problem though. Do you?

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