Perhaps the stupidest thing I’ve done routinely in my life is to try to argue the facts with people who do not care about the facts. To this very day, I still find myself surprised at how someone can be corrected irrefutably, and still insist that he has not been wrong—and at how his reasoning can be demonstrated to be inconsistent, and he doesn’t care.
I know it shouldn’t surprise me, for I know that our culture is (and always has been) in an epidemic of dishonesty and irrationality. The immoral man—that is, the one who chooses not to care about what is right—is an amazingly stubborn animal. Some have the policy to admit nothing (I know some like this), while others will grudgingly admit to an error here or there, but then pretend that the errors they have made are inconsequential and mean nothing in the overall scheme of things. (I know some like that, too.)
Honesty makes people feel good about themselves—and apparently, a little bit goes a long way, for there are many people who are only honest once in a while. And in between those occasions, they will lie, spin, and exaggerate as needed to keep up the illusion that they have got a better handle on things than they really do. They seem not to understand why anybody would want to be honest all the time.
But there’s always the hope that the guy whose error you witness is the sort who would say:
“Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my beard.” (Psalm 141:5)
So, do you give it a whirl and let the correction fly, or do you hold back because you recognize that the statistical likelihood of a good response from any random person is fairly poor?
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. (Proverbs 12:1 )
The way I see it, you’ve still got to break a few eggs to make a cake. But when you have a go at correcting people in good faith, it won’t be long until you’ll discover depths of stupidity that you never would have imagined were possible.
I have a friend who corrected me several years ago on a very stupid political belief that is still quite popular today. I still thank her for that periodically, because I’m still thankful for it. I ask her how many other people thank her similarly for her various corrections, and she says “you’re the only one.”
So I asked myself where people learned to be so gosh-darn stubborn in protecting themselves against the truth of certain matters. And you probably won’t like the answer.
I see most of it being learned from political pundits and, perhaps more shockingly, in the churches. It seems that no matter how grand may be the general subject matter of a particular institution, its members just can’t help themselves but to adopt some egregious errors along the way, and then defend them stubbornly, as if God himself had promised them an eternal house in heaven if only they will stick to their errors and lie their way out of having to correct themselves.
That’s irrational behavior, of course, for no religion’s god is reported to reward dishonesty with good things. Yet this is the behavior that makes me cringe again and again. It is endless. …except, maybe, in that guy over there. Perhaps he’ll listen!
How ironic it is that it should be this hard to inspire fans of Jesus that maybe, just maybe, it would be a good thing to be honest and rational about everything. I think that they have failed to grasp a very basic fact about his character. If they don’t see his unswerving honesty and rationality, I don’t know what they see in him.