Audio version read by yours truly😊 cement-or-salt-11-2-20-ss.mp3

If you have not watched the Netflix documentary “Social Dilemma” I highly recommend it. My biggest takeaway is that while we presume to be the consumers in the information mall we are actually the merchandise. We are being sold off to advertisers like so many cattle (or tofu) as the wizards behind information dissemination manipulate our preferences to their monetary advantage. It goes on to illustrate how we are managed to physically crave more of what social media is giving, much like chemical dependency and addiction. Speaking into our algorithmically induced echo chamber, our opinions are affirmed by likes, retweets, shares and we are thus validated as individuals. This conditions us to be affirmed or dejected by the reaction of others rather than the validity of our opinion. We become easy prey to an almost subliminally prescribed agenda. Our thoughts become set in concrete, unassailable and apparently (to us) the norm. We don’t interact much with those on other wavelengths in the spectrum of ideas except to rant. Their algorithms, thus viewpoints, are also native to their group. It is easy to reject another’s perspective when you don’t have to look them in the eye while disparaging them. So everyone is becoming hardened and informed only as far as their bias allows – unless, of course, one is persuadable and makes an effort to explore alternative mindsets.

Even more sinister is that the information we are allowed to see is tailored to the narrative of those who have bought off or own the platforms. These are the elite, the enlightened, the powerful. Some dissenting perspectives are labeled as dangerous and therefore ‘justifiably’ suppressed. Even one of the top newspapers in the country was recently not allowed to post a controversial news story. Censorship like that is not only irresponsible but alarming, as information (or disinformation) informs the opinions of so many. It becomes frightening as one begins to wonder what else we have not been allowed to know. For our own good, of course! What other ideas are imperceptibly propagandized? Never has information been so readily accessible yet so elusive. How can a person possibly know what is really valid? Dialogue perhaps, which is being obliterated.

Not only adept at altering perception, the media is also expert at propelling emotion into public consciousness. Frustration, skepticism, and distrust lurk through our citizenship casting dark shadows. Emotion replaces reason. The big one now? Fear! The prevailing mood reminds me of stories of terrorized Brits during the German bombing raids. True, there is a pandemic, but it is seems like the media is intent on generating hysteria to get clicks. The intensity of alarm is directly related to the methods of reporting and politicizing the situation. The uncertainty about the virus certainly warrants caution, but irrational terror is counterproductive. Sparse ‘reporting’ of the progress we are making on treatment and the lower death rates results in fear-mongering. When I make this statement I think of the person I saw driving alone with a mask and rubber gloves – stunned that someone would be so terrified that logic and reason were abandoned for imagined protection. Manipulating emotions is an effective tool for controlling behavior.

We cannot assume that relationships are as they always have been.

As believers we need to be prepared to counteract the repercussions of anxiety and the entrenchment of unassailable opinions in our own spheres of influence. We need to remember when we are interacting with people that the constant underlying concern about the future has worn on their souls. Distress, anger, depression, outrage, and insecurity lie beneath the surface of every interaction – often not very far beneath. We must resist being dismissive or insensitive to the concerns of our neighbors, our friends, our family. We cannot assume that relationships are as they always have been. ‘Quick to hear and slow to speak’ is a good rule of thumb. Opinions on how to proceed through the pandemic and politics are closely held viewpoints. Be abundantly thoughtful about how the other person is looking at things, and do not be offended if you are put into an uncomfortable box because of an alternate outlook. Remember that opinions are formed in the slipstream of social media, and subsequently people are emotionally bound to their conclusions. Perhaps even you! Your relationship may now take second place to pandemic or political protocol. Their protocol! Allow wisdom to dictate response. Be unoffendable! Overcome!

Politics, religion, and pandemic – topics you should but probably won’t avoid. Be factually persuaded of your opinion while maintaining an openness to new information and perspective. Our viewpoint is secondary (or probably even way further down the list) to how we love. “This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance. Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails. Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.” 1 Co 13 jbp

Choosing that kind of love takes the grace of God, a strong and well exercised will, and lots of forgiveness. It’s not for the chocolate soldier. I share with you what I am learning – painfully. Our calling, if we choose to follow it, is to be salt and light. “Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” Ph.4:5