Charles Barkley--yes, that former pro basketball player Charles Barkley-- is starring in a docu-series on TNT. It is called American Race (click here for TNT's link to the series). And if we pay attention to the example set by Barkley, we will find a key part to the solution of our nation's problems.
I've seen 3 of the 4 parts in this series. What is key in this series is found in what Charles Barkley does. He finds opposing groups and he goes to listen to them. He also provides some insightful comments on what he has heard. But, again, the key is that he is listening to people. One episode is about the relationship between the police and the Black community in Baltimore. There, Barkley goes to listen to the perspectives provide by those who represent both sides. He doesn't hide his views; but neither does he hide when people yell at him in anger because of the experiences they have had.
In the next episode, Barkley looks at the conflict between Sharia law and a Texas city. The city council voted to ban the enforcement of all foreign laws in response to a mosque that was trying to settle internal disputes using Sharia law. What does Barkley do? He listens to both sides and tries to bring them together. After listening to people from both sides, he provides his own insights. His insights should be listened to.
In the third episode, Barkley examines the racism prevalent in the film and television entertainment industries. He examines the stereotyping that exists in the available roles for actors and actresses and how those roles promote racial stereotypes. He talks to a casting director, consumers of tv shows and movies, actors who are trying to get jobs, and Norman Lear. He talks to all sorts of minorities, that is minorities in America, such as Asians, Muslims, Latinos and Blacks.
I've not seen the final part, however without even Barkley's insightful comments, his going out of his way to listen people from different sides is really what the doctor should order for our nation.
Our nation is not only divided, we all too often seclude ourselves from groups that scare us or make us feel uncomfortable because they are different. So we divide ourselves based on race, religion, economic class, and political ideology. To illustrate the problems this causes, just try to provide an opposing opinion comment on a website that is strongly affiliated with a group and watch the sparks fly. The hostile responses show that too many of us want to live in gated communities where we can feel safe with our own and keep outsiders away from our door.
We could attribute our self-seclusion to tribalism and some of the talk on the web is that tribalism is normal. And once that is accepted, then all of this division becomes sanctioned and is thus removed from an ever growing list of our nation's social problems. That is because we must be able to change an unwanted situation before that situation can be considered to be a social problem.
But if people are going to use tribalism to explain their desire for segregation, then they need to own all that comes with tribalism. Tribalism isn't just about mere group belonging, it is about having a high degree of loyalty to one's group. As that intense loyalty grows, then a person loses their objectivity when assessing their their group's faults and the merits of other groups. Soon, group loyalty trumps commitment to principles and morals so that what is right and wrong is determined by who does what to whom. For Christians, this means that they begin to passionately embrace moral relativity and reject Biblical absolutes.
With this growing sense of group loyalty comes the belief that their own group has nothing to learn from others. What follows that is the inability and/or unwillingness to listen to others. And that is what is destroying this nation. Each group, instead of listening to each other in order to understand each other and collaborate on how to solve problems, competes in order to win and gain control over others. And guess who supports who is in control now. It is always those who believe in the rule of force because their tribalism makes them believe that what is right and wrong depends on who does what to whom.
In going the extra mile to go out and listen to those, even those who expressed anger at him because they disagreed with them, Charles Barkley provided a path for others to follow. It is a path that leads us to the front doors of those who are different. This path allows us to meet, or collide, with those who oppose us. But most of all, it provides an escape from our self-destructive tribalism by allowing us to come face to face in order to listen to each other. Who would have thought that a retired basketball player would have shown us such an important path to take? Perhaps how our tendency to judge by appearance is so inadequate is the point of Barkley's docu-series. And just perhaps, that shows why we need to listen to others.
|This Month's Scripture Verse:|
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5