Why are the nations so angry?
    Why do they waste their time with
futile plans?

The kings of the earth prepare for battle;
    the rulers plot together
against the Lord
    and against his anointed one.
Psalm 2:1, 2
“It has been clear for a while that the
world is at an inflection point.” – Former American President, Barack Obama,
June 6, 2017 at the Montreal Board of Trade.
It is easy to suggest that our world has seen
a rise of angry nations and angry people. Three recent attacks in the United
Kingdom (Westminster, Manchester, and London Bridge) have many politicians,
community leaders, and religious leaders, around the world asking questions
about how we stop such appalling assaults. Many are speaking out in political
forums, press releases, and social media, seeking to bring calm and suggest
ways to end the blood-shed.
Into this atmosphere came the strong voice
of Former American President, Barack Obama as he spoke to the Montreal Board of
Trade on June 6 of this year. (I will refer to Mr. Obama as President Obama to
show respect for his previous significant role.) Much of what he said had also
been said in an address to an audience in Chicago at the end of his presidency
on January 11, 2017. Both speeches were reminders of the fact that President Obama
is an inspiring orator.
In his speech in Montreal, President Obama repeated
his belief that the world is at a significant “inflection point.” He referred
to the rapid rate of globalisation, the speed of technological change, and the
nature of world politics as evidence that “for some time” it has been clear
that this is true. He joined other world leaders in expressing condolences to
the people of London and the United Kingdom as they mourned with those affected
by the latest terrorist attack on, and near, London Bridge.
The former president
then moved to the heart of his message. He stated that these actions on the
world stage can cause nations to retreat into isolation and nationalism as they
seek certainty and control. In a world that is highly connected through social
media, it is possible to surround ourselves with people who look like us,
people who share our political outlook, and people who will never challenge our
assumptions. We retreat into bubbles within neighbourhoods, university and
college campuses, places of worship, and social media feeds, seeking certainty,
agreement, and control of our corner of the world. President Obama believes
that such isolation is unhealthy for the proper development of democracy. In
Montreal, he stated that,
“If democracies begin to
doubt themselves and we violate our principles because of fear and uncertainty
then we can’t expect the progress that is just now starting to take control
around the world.” He believes that we have been at such inflection points
before and that we must continue to uphold the principles of democracy and
justice in a tainted world. He encouraged his audience to “do more to bridge
the gap between rich and poor nations.”
He then said one of the most significant
things any politician could say at this time of global unrest.  President Obama stated,
“We’re in an environment where we are only
accepting information that fits our opinions rather than basing our opinions
off the facts we receive, and evidence and reason and logic…” That hits all of
us hard. I know I have that tendency, and I suspect that you are not immune to the
tendency as well. How many times do I find myself scouring the internet for information,
opinion, and interpretation that supports my views? How much time do I spend
listening to the opinions of others compared with the time I spend shoring up
my position? How much do I smile when a view different from my own gets reduced
by public opinion or sustainable facts? How much do I seek to avoid ideas that
go against my “well-founded” views of the world? As President Obama said in his
Chicago address, “None of this is easy.”
I wonder if we can’t
all become better scientists, theologians, and philosophers. These three
branches of knowledge seek to find truth. They observe the world, make
hypotheses, create ways of testing the hypotheses, analyze the data, draw
conclusions, make statements, listen to critiques of the work, and repeat the
process. What if every one of us made fearless inquiry of the world around us? Mark Noll and others have pointed to the “anti-intellectualism of the
evangelical mind.” The words of President Obama seem to point toward an
“anti-intellectualism of the social media mind.” I believe we can turn the tide
of anti-intellectualism by genuinely seeking truth in all its forms through
systematic inquiry.
“None of this is
easy.” Even as I quote this powerful speech given to the Montreal Board of
Trade, I am aware of whole sections of the speech with which I have not
interacted. In the convincing philosophies of men like President Obama, I will
still struggle with portions of the message. Perhaps it is those sections I
most need to hear.
Last night, a small
group of church members and myself were led through the practice of Lectio Divina as we read Psalm 2. It is
an appropriate Psalm for these times. One person drew my attention to the last
line of the Psalm, “But what joy for all who take refuge in him!” The “him” in
this sentence refers to “God’s royal son,” and is an alternative to placing our
trust in “the nations.” These words remind us that there is a person in whom we
can place our trust. Will we trust in the nations, political leaders, news media
outlets, or social media stars? Or will we seek to use our minds to fearlessly
inquire into the nature of this royal son of God? Will we make intentional
inquiry into the creator of the universe? Using my intellect means using all my
intellect for all the inquiries of life. What joy awaits those who take refuge
in truth. May the royal son of God give us refuge as we seek the truth.

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