The Seduction of Being Right (3 of 9)

If we are to take social media as a normative indicator of cultural ethos, then it is clear that coherent debate and civil discourse have long become a lost art. When twitter feeds aren’t filled with innocuous banality, they are spiked with gotcha zingers intent on dispatching all opposing views. Meanwhile Facebook, when it isn’t being an echo chamber of tribalistic affirmation, it is a highly charged exchange of ad hominem accusations, straw man inferences, and hyper link elephant hurling.

I can only suppose that we are left to accept all of these convoluted examples of tortured logic as if they were reasonable facsimiles of a well-developed argument . . . but I don’t think so. When I engage in a discussion on social media, my approach is to make my case systematically, using syllogistic reasoning predicated on my presuppositional framing of the issue – then employing the Socratic Method, I defend my position while challenging the veracity of opposing views.

And because I do this, often I am curiously accused of “just wanting to be right” – to which I’m always tempted to retort “of course I do – aren’t you interested in getting it right?” Of course, there’s no mystery here – we choose to believe something precisely because we believe it to be true . . . to be correct. For now, let us leave for another blog, the dubious and careless process most people employ when making such choices. Instead, let us focus on what it means to be right.

right and wrong checkboxReading Luke 18:10-14 we find the story of the Pharisee and the Publican. It’s a perfect example of how a tightly wound orthodoxy will invariably produce a tightly wound orthopraxy – only to make being right an empty exercise of reductive legalism. Therefore, of the two men, it was the Publican, who had actually internalized what being identified as right was about . . . enough to know that it required a more humble and contrite heart.

In this way, the seduction of being right is found in the arrogant presumption of imagining ourselves as better than those who are supposedly getting it wrong. This occurs in the subtlest of ways, often under the pretense of defending the faith – likely, this was the Pharisee’s intention. But if we are to allow honesty to guide us, confessing the limitations of our epistemology – at best, all we can really offer one another in regards to being right is our own presupposed conclusions.

And it is this very honesty I find in this insightful exchange between Peter and Jesus (John 6:66–68) Jesus asks “Do you want to go away as well?” and Peter answers “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life . . .” The particular beauty I find revealed here, is in how Peter isn’t relying on being right, as if it were an intellectual exercise performed in a vacuum – but instead, is honest enough to confess that he has nowhere else to turn but the Lord . . . and that staying with Jesus is the only right thing he knows to do. May this be our humble confession as well – leaving being right to someone else.

And just in case your still tempted to think being right is so important . . .

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