Increasingly Stupid

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid. . . . The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. (Proverbs 12:1, 15)

If these proverbs are true (as they are, of course), then we are living in an increasingly stupid culture. (I apologize for the bluntness of the language, but I am simply quoting God’s Word here. Those of you with small children in the home likely don’t encourage use of the “S” word, but God is not so delicate, especially when dealing with adults in danger of falling into folly!)

Consider Solomon’s point. The surest way to grow in wisdom is to open yourself up to discipline, correction, and advice. The alternative is to persist in the stupidity of limited perspective, assuming you are always right. The plain fact of the matter is that we are not always right—not one of us—and so we must remain open to criticism. We all approach every issue with perspectives and prejudices we’ve inherited from our family, community, and (sub)culture. We have deep-seated assumptions about God, humanity, ethics, politics, and every other topic—including less controversial subjects like sports or food. There is an interesting thought experiment, by the way: consider how different your favorite dishes and teams would be if you hailed from another continent! No doubt the same would be true of our political and cultural perspectives. We are all products of our time and place.

What Solomon suggests is that we should seek to transcend time and place. By opening ourselves up to correction, and being willing to broaden our perspective, we will grow in wisdom and understanding. This happens supremely as we submit ourselves to the Word of God, the only perfectly wise book in existence. But even then, unless we’re careful we will read the Bible through our personal and cultural lenses, which might lead us astray. Thus, we need to open ourselves up to correction from believers living in other places (the church global) and times (the church historical). We can learn so much from reading a North African writing at the turn of the 5th Century simply because he’s not an American writing in the 21st Century!

God’s Word is quite clear here. We must positively invite correction or we will not grow in wisdom. We should enter into dialogue with those who disagree with us assuming we still have much to learn. While we might not change our minds on the topic, we will undoubtedly come away with a more nuanced view—a mark of wisdom. To assume, on the other hand, that you already know best on any given topic is to condemn yourself to a lifetime of stupidity.

A final point: In our increasingly polarized times, this means we must take great care to ingest a diverse diet of perspectives on culture and politics. I recently read that, whereas media used to be driven by geographic concerns (i.e., the Chicago Tribune tended to be about, y’know, Chicago), in a 24-hour cable news cycle, it is now driven by demographic concerns. Different media aim at different groups to confirm for their audience what their audience already believes. That is a recipe for increasing stupidity. As the church, let’s lead by example in a better way!

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