Indignation

RMNP Bear Lake, Lake Haiyaha, the Loch, the Lake of Glass, and Sky Pond with Marcel and Saul

I’ve spent more time than usual scrolling through my Instagram stories this weekend. And wow. It’s been hard to observe the deeply emotional responses to the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court regarding federal abortion policy. My right-leaning friends’ stories express jubilation. My left-leaning friends’ posts express devastation. But honestly, both sides speak with a sense of indignation that troubles me.

We’re making monsters, or idiots, out of one another. We’re proving ourselves unable or unwilling to believe that anyone could see things any differently from our own point of view. And in the process of cultivating and expressing our own sense of indignation, we’re stripping other human beings of the dignity they deserve.

It’s not limited to discussions of federal abortion policy. Think of the way that our cultural discourse unfolded following the emergence of the COVID-19 Pandemic and subsequent public health policies… or the string of deaths of Black people at the hands of law enforcement officers… or the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election… There’s an expectation to respond quickly, loudly, and with as much emotion as possible. I notice this is happening more and more, as we get deeper and deeper into the 21st Century.

We’re becoming indoctrinated toward indignation. And in the process, we’re losing the ability to carefully consider complicated issues. And, even more troubling, we’re losing the ability to consider others.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to have strong thoughts or feelings. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to share your thoughts or feelings, even if it might bother other people. But I am saying that we’d be wise to cultivate more careful, considerate conversations with one another. Especially when we’re confused by another person’s position. I have deep, intrinsic, Christian reasons for care and consideration. But it also just makes sense, logically, in an increasingly pluralistic society. Considerate conversations could be a survival skill.

Indignation leads to alienation. It reinforces a toxic sort of tribalism. And such alienation and tribalism threatens to cultivate increased hostility and aggression. We’ve already seen it happen. And I expect it will happen more and more — unless we can learn to listen to one another, acknowledge complexity, and tone down our indignation.

So, with this current shift in federal policy regarding abortion, let’s drop the indignation and intentionally acknowledge the dignity of Republicans and Democrats. Men and women and children. Let’s especially lift up people in poverty and people from minority groups. I appreciate (and resonate with) the recent examples of Scott Sauls, Jackie Hill Perry, and Jon Tyson, in providing Christ-like responses to the recent decision from the Supreme Court. Still, I know that there are so many perspectives out there. And they all deserve to be heard. So help us, God.

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