Dose of Truth

We have a lot to learn

Tim Richards

The Washington Post recently featured an article by John Greer and Mary Catherine Sullivan entitled, “How Politically Divided is the U.S.?” The June 7, 2022, column challenges the assumption America is more divided than it has ever been.

To develop a more objective measure of the nation’s common thinking, the Vanderbilt Unity Index (VUI) was created in 1981. It attempts to objectively measure how divided we are as a country.

The VUI tracks the country’s unity by examining national harmony in the following five categories: presidential disapproval, ideological extremism, social trust, congressional polarization and civil unrest. Each area is measured four times per year.

Using a scale of 0-100, America was most unified in the second quarter of 1991 when the VUI reached 71.3 as the nation stood solidly behind President George H. W. Bush in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War. The VUI score was above 70 in 12 quarters since 1981. Surprisingly, the VUI fell below 50 just three times during that period. However, Vanderbilt acknowledges the nation’s trust in political institutions has eroded significantly during the last 40 years.

In the July 12, 2022, “Our Daily Bread” devotional, Bill Crowder observed, “It has become sadly ‘normal’ to attack not only the opinions of others but also the person holding the opinion.” Crowder related how he was surprised when theologian Richard B. Hays authored a paper in which he forcefully corrected something he himself had written earlier. In, “Reading with the Grain of Scripture,” Hays’ critique of himself demonstrated remarkable humility by acknowledging he too was still learning.

The book of Proverbs is a collection of short wise sayings, primarily collected by the famous King Solomon. A nugget of wisdom each of us would do well to remember is contained in this statement by the famous “wise guy.” He wrote, “A wise person will hear and increase in learning, And a person of understanding will acquire wise counsel,” (Proverbs 1:5, NAS2020)

Solomon was correct when he encouraged us to be listen to others. His statement makes this point; we should be eager to learn from those who know more than us. We can learn from everyone, including those with whom we disagree.

Solomon was not suggesting we should change what we believe merely to keep the peace, but that we must never be so sure our opinion is the only valid one that we refuse to listen to others who have a different point of view.

Crowder continued, “No one is ever hurt by maintaining a teachable spirit.” Humility and a consistent desire to learn new things are required if we are going to be lifelong learners. Just as importantly, pride and the certainty that we are always right can prevent us from listening to ideas which challenge us to think in fresh ways. Rejecting others’ opinions without honestly evaluating them may be tempting, but it is never wise.

Tim Richards

has been a pastor for 37 years, serving five churches, including his current church, The Refuge in St. Louis, which he founded. He and the congregation minister to those who are hurting and do their part to expand God’s kingdom. Tim and his wife Kelly have five children. “A Dose of Truth” which he has written for more than 25 years appears in 13 newspapers. His book, “Thriving in the Storm: Discovering God’s Peace and Perspective in Turbulent Times,” is available from Amazon. Feel free to contact him at iamtimrichards@yahoo.com. Photography is another of his skills. Pastor Tim’s photos may be viewed at https://flickr.com/photos/pentaxpastor.

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