as i drove down a street i seldom travel in our town a few days ago, i saw a billboard with a picture of a man dressed in a suit speaking into a microphone. the caption on the bottom of the billboard said, "you can't explain it, you just have to experience it," along with the name of a church that is, i suppose, led by the man pictured on the billboard. my immediate thought was that this is what is wrong with so much in our culture and with so many christian churches. the suggestion is that it's acceptable, indeed preferable, to set reason aside and blindly follow a strong leader. let you life be ruled by feel-good pop philosophy and unthinking acceptance of the most irrational beliefs and all will be well this school of "thought" asserts, and many are willing to fall prey to just such an unthinking approach to the most important decisions we make in life.
we've seen this sort of absurdity play out in this year's presidential election. one candidate can make the most absurd statements, blithely tell lies that are easily rebutted by his own words, imply that our national problems can be blamed on "certain groups," and make insulting remarks about women and anyone who crosses him, and his followers cheer him on. a relative who supports him told me today that he admires this man for figuring out to avoid paying income tax while living in the lap of luxury and refusing, on the flimsiest pretexts, to pay his creditors, telling me that this only demonstrates "how brilliant he is." this relative said, "all rich people do this, and, if i were smart enough, i'd do the same." as long as donald trump says what his followers want to hear, no matter how repugnant his conduct, they support him without questioning his many policy inconsistencies, and religious fundamentalists endorse him while his actions run contrary to the values they purport to embrace.
the strong strain of anti-science, anti-intellectual, anti-education populism in this country empowers those who refuse to examine issues in a rational, thoughtful way and plays into the racism and sexism that has long been the dark underbelly of the national psyche. this anti-rationalism condemns those who challenge the status quo and brands those whose ethnicity, religion, sexuality, or life-style are outside the dominant culture as "others" who are to be feared and ostracized. if "you can't explain it," you need to question it and search for explanations, and, if you can "experience it," there must be a basis for that experience.
may we use our minds to understand, rather than thoughtlessly accepting. may we challenge our own beliefs and those of others until they can be proved. may we embrace learning rather than fearing it or ridiculing it. may wisdom based on reason be our goal, and may we not embrace those who reinforce our prejudices. shalom.