I expect this post to make some people mad.
It’s certainly not my intention, and I hope I’m wrong.
I pray it’s received well and all my readers respond with a hearty amen.
I recently began reading a book called The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is a fantastic expose concerning what is happening all around us in society, politics, universities, and so forth. He addresses the safe-spaces mentality in a straightforward way, charts the path to how we got here, and outlines what we can do about it. The entire book thus far has been a breath of fresh air.
So, let me give you their fundamental premise and then my point.
Lukianoff and Haidt argue that we’ve coddled the upcoming generations too much. The effect hasn’t been neutral. It has actually weakened society as we know it.
They use the example of allergies (hang in here with me). Peanut allergies have risen dramatically over the last decade due to parents not exposing their children to peanuts in the 90s and 2000s. What they attempted to protect them from, they ultimately became vulnerable to. As a result, children’s immune systems were not exposed to peanuts, so they never had the opportunity to develop resiliency against it.
Side note: this is not about peanuts and parenting. I have dearly beloved friends with peanut allergies. Please don’t @ me about peanut allergies. If you need me to, I’ll agree with you that peanuts are the devil’s candy (although I do appreciate a good cashew on occasion).
Another example they cited was vaccinations. Medical research is beginning to see the revival of certain viruses due to the recent anti-vaccine trend. Again, what they attempted to protect them from, they ultimately became vulnerable to. Because immune systems have not been exposed to small amounts of viruses, they never had the opportunity to develop resiliency against it.
Side note: this is not about vaccines. I have dearly beloved friends who do not vaccinate their children. Please don’t @ me about vaccines. If you need me to, I’ll agree with you that vaccines are the worst thing science has ever developed (although my children have had every immunization known to mankind).
Lukianoff and Haidt proceeded to argue their case further by demonstrating how we’ve fostered an entire society that tries to insulate themselves from not only peanuts and vaccines but different ideas. Certain speakers cannot lecture on college campuses, trigger warnings and microaggressions are a thing now, and alternative viewpoints are now deemed offensive and traumatic.
It’s really that bizarre.
So what’s my point? When we do not expose ourselves to certain things, we do not develop the ability to cope with them. As we insulate ourselves, we become weaker, not stronger.
This phenomenon has also reached our churches.
We have coddled our traditional views so tightly that anything outside the norm is deemed as dangerous, wrong, and written off. In Christendom, we tend to take things a step further by appending additional labels such as wicked, evil, demonic, and so forth.
Just look at some of the societal issues we have to grapple with.
Take gun control for example.
Or some theological topics…
Homosexuals and how to minister to them.
The list goes on and on.
Let me be clear… I’ve not shared my thoughts on any of these issues. On some, I land exactly where you’d expect me to. Others, you might possibly be aghast at my views. But the bigger point is how the mere mention of these topics in a list for our reconsideration can elicit a visceral response.
I could, with a high degree of certainty, expound the traditional wisdom we have promoted on these items as believers. A quick perusal of everyone’s Facebook memes prove the point. Yet, our oversimplified Christian responses to these issues tend to prove we’ve not thought about them very much or very deeply.
Because if we are not careful, we can coddle our minds from things we think are not good. And when we refuse to expose ourselves to other ideas, it doesn’t make us stronger, or more resilient, or ready to face the world.
It’s time to radically rethink some things. If you come away with the same positions, then good. More power too you. But an unwillingness to entertain actual conversation is unhealthy.
We’ve got to grapple with these questions in real ways, and we cannot allow Fox News or CNN to craft our answers for us.
Only the Bible has that privilege.