I remember when the first shock of pandemic shut-downs hit and the “quarantini” meme was popular. I enjoyed a moderate quarantini or two as well, so don’t take this as a point of shame. Quarantinis were a cute gimmick for a while until they became gaudy. Some people continued to self-medicate to take the edge off pandemic anxieties and circumstances, but guess what. More than a year later, we’ve gotten stronger and more resilient. I sense an undercurrent of those who are tired of self- medicating, tired of how the alcohol makes them feel, and tired of how it impacts families.
Other people absorbed the shock with a more acceptable form of self-soothing which I like to call agreement therapy. I love a good session of agreement therapy as much as the next person. Sometimes I take my anxieties to a specific friend just because I think she will agree with me. It feels good to find those who support my own emotions, reactions, and views because I feel less alone. It feels good to make sense of the world by building upon a view most pleasing, or else most terrifying, depending on whichever most motivates the passions. It feels good, but like quarantinis, agreement therapy is a way to take the edge off, not a way to navigate our entire lives. I sense many are tired of self-medicating with agreement therapy; tired of how it makes us feel in the long run, and tired of how it impacts friendships, families, our communities, and nation. We are prepared for sobriety.
Romans 12:2-3 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
When I think of sobriety, I think of the ability to face a challenge and the ensuing emotions with a clear mind. True words are hard to face sometimes but we can’t agree ourselves around truth. In the end we can’t argue ourselves out of reality, we will eventually reach a dead end. Truth may come as harsh reality when it later reveals itself to our observation.
What is written in Timothy specific to church ministry reflects the general human tendency toward agreement therapy;
2 Timothy 4:3-5 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
Although Christians don’t revere worldly information as sacred, most will agree truth is morally superior to lies. Rumors regarding things outside of scripture can be terribly damaging. What Timothy points out as human nature regarding our core faith is clearly evident to me in other areas of life as well.
Why do intelligent and well-meaning people embrace fringe ideas? How do we become convinced there is a conspiracy at large, of which we are somehow selectively aware? How is confusion and distrust so deeply ingrained that we shun the discourse of other perspectives? We tend to bend our itching ear to what engages and feeds our desires and our ear misleads us. We are tired now. We are tired of the way it is tearing us apart. The good news is that we are stronger now. We are ready for the next healthy step; ready to stop self-medicating our itchy ears using agreement therapy, and ready to seek only the highest standards of truth, however difficult that may be to face. We are ready.
No more browsing the web in search of agreement therapy. No more cultivating an exclusive circle of like-minded friends. Instead, let us strive to agree ALL with one another in unity. We have the strength to expect and seek out the highest degrees of truth.
Phillipians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.
Christians and non-Christians alike, submit and scrutinize your views against the highest standards. Measure the information in its proper context. Do your best to ensure that the information is as close to the original source as you can get. Seek out and be open to learning from authoritative information even if it conflicts with your views.
Here are some practical tips from my experience in the science communication world;
-Be wary if what you are reading makes you feel a rise in self-righteousness or a rush of fear and outrage. This a possible indication of sensationalism which is a dramatized distortion of reality. Factual data don’t usually have such an emotionally addictive effect in people.
-If it looks and feels like all the other scammy videos, then it probably is one.
-Expect answers that are uncertain or not absolute. Often, information that best reflects reality has answers that are not concrete or that depend highly on circumstances.
May we simply, honestly ask ourselves – what do I WANT to believe, and why? Our itchy ear desires usually come from a place of real-life experiences and good morals. And yet, that can makes us vulnerable to misleading persuasion in some areas. I exhort us all to seek out challenging information that conflicts with our passions. May we all hear with sobriety after diagnosing and putting our itching ears in place.