The Death of Discourse and the Coming Night

I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.   John 9:4-5

One of the biggest things that an entity can do to prevent a fight with another is to talk to that other entity. Talking ‘to’ somebody is different in intent and effect than talking ‘at’ them. By talking to another, one person offers their observations, opinions, desires to the other while that person listens. Then the roles of speaker and listener reverse, the listener now offering response to what the first person said and their own observations, opinions, desires, et cetera. Through this process, two opposing interests can interact and find some common ground upon which they might build trust, and maybe a fledgling relationship that could halt hostility or even establish a peaceful coexistence of mutual understanding and respect. “Talking at” someone is little more than a verbal barrage of demands, talking points, and propaganda, the intent of which is to fill the space with noise so that no other voices can be heard and thus make their positions known. “Talking to” is also known as ‘conversation’; “talking at” is nothing more than verbal warfare, designed to silence the voice of the other.

When people have a conversation on a subject about which they do not agree, but manage to do so while maintaining civility, it is called “civil discourse.” It is the process by which peace has come to warring factions since the beginning. For all the blustering and saber-rattling that occurs in international relations, the fact is that a lot of the real negotiation happens via back-channel communications. What we finally see publicized as peaceful settlements or reduction of tensions between states is usually the product of such back-channel conversations (i.e. civil discourse). Back-channel communications ultimately defused the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Had President Kennedy not been able to communicate in a civil manner with Soviet Premier Krushchev during this period of unprecedented tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, it is a real possibility that those two nations would have finally come to blows, likely sparking some degree of a nuclear exchange. It is said that in 1219, during a Crusader siege of the Muslim-held city of Damietta, Egypt. that the Sultan al-Kamil allowed Francis of Assisi to enter Damietta during a cease-fire, remain there for several days, and preach to the Muslims there. He was received and treated cordially, and allowed to return to the Crusader position unharmed before the resumption of hostilities. I doubt that this visit had much effect on the situation, but who knows? That is happened is a remarkable note in history.

I say all that to make this point: get people talking to stop people fighting. From that, you can derive this corollary: to get people fighting, stop people from talking. What you are seeing in today’s headlines is the death of civil discourse, which has been a protracted murder by strangulation at the hands of that serial liberty-killer, Political Correctness. For decades, free speech has been systematically squelched and suffocated under the guise of protecting people from being offended. It has advanced from being merely an ever-growing list of proscribed words, to proscribed subjects, to proscribed opinions, until we have arrived where we are now in the time of proscribed facts. Truth will now get you a beat-down in the public forum.

Today is the day of the so-called “Great American Eclipse” (only about eight hours from now as I write this), but a greater American eclipse has begun already. With the death of civil discourse comes the end of the great age of American free speech. It has never been ‘safe’ to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ anywhere, even in the United States, but it has never been more dangerous to do so here than it is now. It will become more dangerous with each passing day unless something happens to reverse this tide of darkness. Whereas one could generally expect to be heckled and sometimes abused for preaching or witnessing, it is now more likely that a Christian will be physically assaulted and injured for such an act. The end is surely near; it is closer every day, and because of the lateness of the hour, we can only expect more trouble from the powers of darkness.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

 

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