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When did we stop thinking?

Warning, I’ve got a burr in my saddle today.

I am increasingly concerned about how much we allow others to do our thinking for us. It drives me crazy. Too often, I have entered conversation with another about a worldview or opinion and walk away discouraged. When I talk to someone, I want to know them. I want to know what makes them tick. I want to know what makes them…well, them. It is the only way two people can ever truly know each other. And please hear me, I want to know even if I don’t agree. I really think it is possible for two people to completely disagree and still know and love one another.

That is why I am saddened at the trends of our culture. We live in a culture where lines are drawn, and everyone is seemingly required to define what side of the line on which they stand. One has only to watch social media anytime a hot-button issue pops up in the news. The problem is the lines are drawn by other unnamed or distant sources. It is discouraging to me to hear another state their opinion and, when pressed, simply regurgitate the lines of someone else to support their view. No personal thought…just, “I was told this is what I should believe.” This can be seen whenever we accept the party line of any group we ascribe to without questioning it.

Why can’t we be a culture where I can have a political opinion without automatically getting categorized as Republican or Democrat? Why can’t I be both for gun control and the 2nd Amendment? Why can’t I boldly declare that I am an Evangelical Christian without those around me automatically assuming they now know what I believe on every issue? Why do I as a white, straight, Protestant, middle-class male feel like the horrible and oppressive actions of others who claim the same labels mean that my attempts to love other people will always be doubted, questioned, and even disregarded before their genuineness is truly tested?

(Even, now I hesitate to publish that last paragraph as I know the firestorm of attack it could unleash.)

We, as a culture, have forgotten how to think for ourselves and allow others to do the same, and it has divided us. Our groups have become very important to us…but that feels very middle school to me. I think our ‘group’ is so important to us because we have forgotten how to stand as ourselves. To know and express well-thought-through beliefs in a respectful manner. What if we approached each other with an assumption that we are individuals with thoughts of our own? What if we refused to accept party line answers and pursued actual dialogue with each other? What if we took the time to look with honest and healthy critique toward every belief of groups we claim to be a part of? What if we made up our own minds and encouraged others to do the same?

Am I perfect at this? Far from.

I, too, am guilty of assuming the thoughts of others because of one or two labels they wear. I am guilty of allowing others to tell me what a group thinks without insisting on knowing that they personally think.

But...I do know the times I’ve looked past the assumptions to see the person are the times I’ve truly known someone. For this reason, I have intentionally stayed connected to people on social media who think and believe very differently from me. While this is admittedly not true relationship, their perspectives make me think about my own and ask healthy questions. I look forward to doing more of this in person as opportunity allows.

I believe this could revolutionize our culture, one relationship at a time.

So here goes.

My name is Bradley. I think a lot of things and believe a lot of things…and very few fit into neat and tidy cultural boxes. I have very strong beliefs about certain things, and others are still in flux. I am a cultural mess, and I invite you into it. But…I suspect you are the same, and I’d love to hear more about it.

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