The suicide epidemic. Vanishing jobs in a mobile economy.
Twitter rage and politics. Nebraska football versus Oklahoma Sooners football.
These are just a few of the compelling topics covered in Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal, a new book by U.S.
Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
In his winsome style, Sen. Sasse diagnoses some of the major
problems plaguing American society today, before he offers concrete and helpful
He begins his book with a powerful story out of Chicago,
when a devastating heatwave in the summer of 1995 cost more lives, by some
accounts, than the Chicago fire of 1871. “Coroners initially counted 465 dead,
but many of the dead weren’t discovered until weeks later, when the stench of
decomposition oozed from homes and apartments.”
Among those most likely to have perished from the heat were
elderly people—men in particular—living alone. No one—no family, neighbors, a
community—went to check on them, as they perished. Some of those men found dead
even sadly had letters sitting by their side, written to their estranged
children, with woeful words reaching out over broken relationships.
“Loneliness.” Sasse says, “Our world is nudging us toward
rootlessness, when only a recovery of rootedness can heal us. What’s wrong with
America, then, starts with (that) one uncomfortable word.”
Sasse notes the many trends contributing toward loneliness
and cultural upheaval. Some factors include our high-tech dependency. Other
factors include the decline of church attendance, and even Friday night local
football game attendance (Sasse himself is the son of a coach).
As a politician, known for being critical of his own party
(Republican) and other parties, Sasse offers keen insight in this area. Talking
about the exaggerated and hateful conversations we see on social media like
Twitter, Sasse says:
“Deep, enduring change does not come through legislation or
elections. Meaning change comes as lots and lots of individual minds are
persuaded and hearts changed. Deep change allows people to change their minds
without needing, first, to “eat crow.” It tolerates provisional and partial
agreements. It’s the logic of neighbors who live side by side. It’s the logic
of the lone-term, which respects the dignity and agency of debate partners.”
He continues, “Warriors view the present moment as
make-or-break for all time—but neighbors do not. Neighbors see today’s
conversation not as the last discussion we’ll ever have, but as a precursor to
tomorrow’s. We can and will visit again. We can continue talking, and
listening. We can be open to future persuasion—and to being persuaded. We need
not win everything by force, and we need not win everything right now.”
We hear that Sasse believes life is about more than
politics. He talks extensively about economics. He echoes an economist’s view
that, in America today, there are the general groups: the rooted, the mobile
and the stuck. In these last two areas, he offers the best insights. In our
hyper-educated age, the mobile economy has led successful people to bounce from
one large city to the next, never really setting down roots or building
community. There are those, conversely, that have few economic options and are
stuck in life.
Beyond these powerful social diagnoses, Sasse offers
powerful stories and anecdotes along the way, along with helpful ideas in the
book. To list a few, he says “set tech limits;” “have more family meetings at
dinner;” “buy a cemetery plot;” and “we need more tribes” (i.e. community). I
will invite you to read the book to hear what each of these fully means.
As Christians, we know the ultimate solution to loneliness
is relationship. Relationship with Jesus Christ and the Body of Christ. In this
new book, Sasse, himself a Christian, has provided a persuasive book that, for
those who take it seriously, could move American society from seeing others as
the enemy. Move us away from seeing others as “them” and toward the idea of
“we” or “us.”
As a social conservative who frequently dines at
Chick-Fil-A, the news that the beloved fast-food restaurant has changed its charitable
giving strategy away from traditional Christian groups hit me hard. In fact,
the news, to borrow a phrase, was not my pleasure.
From Eric Erickson to Russell Moore to others, there is
no shortage of interesting “hot takes” on this hot button issue you can find. While
personally saddened upon hearing the news, I began to observe some eerily familiar
online arguments in this latest “food fight.”
In fact, I have observed a pattern of personalities on
social media that seem to rise up during any given controversy. Who am I
These are the people who enjoy stirring up strife. In our
social media age that rewards spats and disagreements, these folks are truly at
home. If they are not verbally sparring with someone online, their day is not
complete. For Christians, this should not be our posture.
These are people who seem to fight a new outrage every
week. This week, it’s Chick-Fil-A. Last week, it was another issue. Next week,
it will be another. While we can and should be outraged at injustice and
compromise in the world, Christians must learn how to avoid being sucked into what’s
been called the “perpetual outrage machine.”
These folks have something to say about everything. Whether
it’s about war in Syria, profession sports, laws debated in Congress, new TV
programs or just someone’s personal news, these people seem to provide “expert”
comments on everything. While Christians can and should be informed on a wide
array of topics, it does not mean we need to comment on everything.
“Can’t we all just get along?” is a familiar refrain.
These people perceive the growing strife and try to heal divides. While their
peacemaking efforts are noble, far too often these folks get steamrolled in any
conversation, especially online. While we need more people trying to bring
peace, Christians also can heed the proverb that warns us from grabbing a dog
by the ears (Prov. 26:17) and inserting ourselves into every strife that comes
All of the back-and-forth wears people out. It seems
hardly anyone is persuading anyone any more. This lack of civil discourse leads
to people giving up, to becoming disheartened. Many of these folks have either
faded away from social media conversations, or quit social media altogether.
At various times, I myself have fallen into each of these
categories, whether talking about important news like Chick-Fil-A or other
topics. A personality type I am aiming toward becoming is an Ambassador for
Christ. That is to say, someone who represents Him well. To that end, all Christians
ought to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of our calling; in a way that honors
Him and sets us apart in a culture gone crazy with verbal “food fights.”
“Let your conversation be always full
of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6).
“Good morning! How’d you
sleep?” That’s a phrase many of us hear from time to time.
If you stop to think about it, we humans spend an extraordinary
amount of time in life dedicated to sleep. Perhaps second only to working hours
(or these days, to screen time), sleep looms large in our daily lives.
What’s so important about sleep? A National Sleep Foundation poll
found that, “among U.S.
adults with excellent sleep health, nearly 90 percent say they feel very
effective at getting things done each day, compared to only 46 percent of those
with poor sleep health.”
terms, we see that sleep is a blessing from the Lord. Psalm
127:1-2 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it
labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman
stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep.”
Yet I know many people who walk around feeling systematically
sleep-deprived. There are many reasons for this. Perhaps your job is at odd
hours, making good sleep hard to come by. Perhaps you have a full house of kids
or people you are taking care of that make sleep difficult. It could even be
feelings of guilt or worry are robbing you of sleep. You may even have a sleep
disorder or medical condition.
What can we do when we have trouble sleeping? Though I’m no
expert, here are few ideas:
- Put away
technology. The “blue glowing light” of screens beckons us away from many
important things, including sleep. I heard someone advise to put our phones and
screens to bed one hour before you go to bed, which can only help.
- Read a
book. Before you pop a sleeping pill, go the old-fashioned way of
reading a book before bed. As a Christian, we believe we must prioritize
reading God’s Word each day. But don’t be afraid also to read some light
fiction, or just a book you enjoy, before lights out.
- Get into a
routine. I know someone who is a self-described “night owl.” This person
ends up staying up late and sleeping in late, and seems always to walk around
tired. The explorers Lewis and Clark said that one hour of sleep before
midnight is worth more toward restfulness than several hours after midnight.
Re-evaluate your schedule, if you are sleep deprived.
- Pray. Christian writers have long upheld the
idea of morning and evening prayers. There is something significant about
beginning each day in prayer to God, and ending each day before God. We don’t
pray to Him so that we can sleep. We pray and “He gives to His beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2).
These are just a few ideas, none of which require medication,
which I have found helpful, to go with whatever ideas you may have.
All this being said, there can be days when suggestions like these
just don’t work. You go to bed and just stay wide awake. And that’s okay.
Whether in plenty of sleep or little, may God show each of us how to put Him
first and how to give thanks in all things.
whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”
(1 Cor. 10:31).
According to a news announcement from
the city where I reside, people can now send an emergency text to 911. No
longer do you have to call 911, you can simply notify them by text.
No more calling to hear a live voice
say, “Hello 911, what is your emergency?” Simply text the location and nature
of the situation to 911, and help will be on the way.
Some days, when troubles or
emergencies come, I forget that I can “dial direct” to another source of
ever-present help: God Himself.
During life’s trials, we are quick to
look elsewhere for help. We sometimes look to other people, friends included,
for help (which can be very good and something God wants us to do). Other
times, we turn to less helpful resources, like self-help books or Google, to
look for solutions.
In her classic Christian work telling
her life story, “The Hiding Place,” Nazi concentration camp survivor Corrie Ten
Boom, recounts a time when she turned to a person to help instead of the Lord. Facing
one of the many instances of injustices that she did, Corrie pleaded her case
to a Nazi, only to be turned away cold.
After the encounter, Ten Boom was
reminded that it is to God she could turn for real help, not man. This is the
same spiritual giant who said, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you
look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at
Today, when problems arise, call on Jesus through prayer. From God’s Word,
we are promised that He will answer. And He may answer your emergency message
even more immediately—and for sure more thoroughly—than 911 ever could.
According to a new LifeWay Research Poll, “around 1 in 12
(8 percent) say they are single-issue voters, while 80 percent say their
support for a candidate depends on several issues.”
was “sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern
Baptist Convention (and) explored the perspectives of American evangelicals on
civility, politics, media consumption and how likely they are to engage with
views different from their own.”
Let’s take a moment to think about single-issue voters.
This concept has most often been associated, in American politics, with the
abortion issue. The survey results said, “half of evangelicals by belief (51
percent) say they will only support a candidate who wants to make abortion
One of the aspects that the poll did not directly appear
to address was single-issue voter positive-versus-negative, as one ethics
expert put it. In other words, some people are “single-issue voters” in that a
candidate being incorrect or in disagreement on one lone issue (e.g. abortion)
can disqualify someone from their
consideration. But they are not “single issue voters” in that the candidate being
right or in agreement on that issue does not automatically qualify that person for consideration.
Translation: If you’re wrong on that non-negotiable
issue, I cannot in good conscience support you. If you’re right on that issue,
depending on other factors, I may or may not support you.
I would consider myself in this latter category. I am a
single-issue voter in that being life-affirming (for the born and unborn) is a
must; not to affirm life is disqualifying for me.
You may or may not agree with this frame of thinking (I
would be happy to hear you out). But consider this analogy. If a would-be
pastoral candidate is qualified in many areas but fails in one or two key areas
(as defined by Scripture), it can disqualify him entirely from consideration.
One truly toxic factor can poison the whole well.
Thinking beyond this seminal issue of abortion, the poll revealed
that many do not share this issue as the top priority. “When asked which three
public policy concerns are most important to them, evangelicals by belief today
are more likely to choose issues like healthcare (51 percent), the economy (46
percent), national security (40 percent) or immigration (39 percent), than
issues like religious liberty (33 percent), abortion (29 percent), providing
for the needy (22 percent) or addressing racial division (21 percent).”
Whether you are a single-issue voter or not, as the 2020
Election looms larger, every professing Christian can learn to show more patience
with fellow believers, as we parse through the urgent issues needing attention
this election cycle and beyond.