“WE ARE PROMOTING CONFLICT in every aspect of our society,” said Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) recently at a major education conference. He added…
“On TV, let’s get the extreme left and extreme right … to start yelling at each other. I’ve been on these shows, I know what they want. I’ve stopped going on a lot of them because I don’t have any interest in participating in screaming at somebody. That’s the society our kids are coming up in … constant stress and anxiety and conflict and fighting.”
I agree with Congressman Ryan’s summary of a major societal problem that I can’t imagine anyone could reasonably dispute. But his solution—and that of others at the conference—I’m convinced won’t work. The proposal offered is something called SEL—“social and emotional learning”—an effort to teach emotional and conflict management skills to children as part of elementary school curriculum offerings.
The polarization of society—the dialing upward of rage and combat—isn’t something I believe can be reversed through better education. The name-calling and vilifying—the hate- and fear-mongering so alarmingly prevalent—isn’t really the result of some deficiency in public education. It’s a moral and spiritual deficiency, so that if anything, it’s a shortcoming in home/parental education prior even to kindergarten.
Peace, tolerance, understanding, patience, openness to the views of others…these are skills and virtues rooted in the message of the Bible. Yet even Bible information can become the basis for conflict and argument and “generating heat instead of light.” So it must go even deeper than simply knowing the Bible message. Character—integrity, kindness, peace-seeking, genuine love and acceptance—comes from the Author of the Word and the Source of all these virtues. So only through connection with that Source can the problem of societal conflict be fundamentally changed for the better.
Yes, the war between good and evil has been going on for eons now. But in recent decades—even in the last one alone—the conflict between the two has become far more open and bitter. So increasingly, verbal and physical violence is modeled as the accepted and preferred way to settle disagreements. Civility and courtesy are virtually absent from the daily shoutfests of TV talking heads and the hate-filled bile of talk radio hosts.
The only current solution has to be a personal one—a determination to daily and increasingly connect with the Source of Good Character. That is the best we can seek, as we wait for the ultimate solution—the silencing of all conflict and shouting when the Prince of Peace returns to reclaim His hijacked Earth.