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RANDY HUFF: Reading Too Much of The Free Press

Some things are true to the way the world is and some things are not. And to deny this truth is to embrace a deadly irrationality.

The gurus — their ilk burgeoning — who tell us screen life is killing us, are right. And I say so while typing on a (perhaps) more benign version of the killer.

In an obscure satirical book from the 1980’s – A Modest Proposal for Peace Prosperity and Happiness – people were depicted with those old computer monitors in place of their heads. I never finished the book, but one Harold Fickett and one Frank Schaeffer were the authors. Frank Schaeffer, he of Francis Schaeffer paternity, numerous NYT best-sellers, and conversion to something called “Christian atheism.”

But I digress. Screens will do that to you.

Of course we now carry those monitors in our pocket and see the world through the screen. And maybe it is ok. Times do change.

But this change is collapsing our world. I mean this literally. And I also mean it is a leviathan which to wrestle with is to die. We all die of something and we are wrestling this match whether we wish to or not. So here’s my best amateur analysis, knowing vaguely I am in the broad and learned wake of folks like Marshall McLuhan and Jonathan Haidt.

Reading widely in news and analysis and perspective, including the infinite world of common comments, collapses my conceptual world. I no longer know what I believe, or I believe it less firmly. And the zeitgeist rejoices that I believe less and, it is alleged, know more.

What do I know? That the world is full of competing ideas, that what we call atomization expands incomprehensibly in the digital world where everyone is a publisher. Like what I am doing now. I am begging to make sense of it all. And I am arguing for a kind of fundamentalism that will do so.

The world collapses not just because I see all these views, but because I have no tangible relation with any of the purveyors or commenters, to say nothing of the publishers or those who manage the algorithms that manage me. At the end I am left distraught, knowing a bit of what “doom-scrolling” is, longing for peace, stability, sense.

I think for me and countless others this can only lead to a return of fundamentals and yes, fundamentalism. Did I say that again?

Whatever else fundamentalism means it means you believe some things just because. I DO NOT mean you believe in an irrational way, though that is always the accusation.

I mean something like this: knowledge, so called, is oversold. What we believe about reality is always intermingled with faith. Our conclusions will be rattled and shook by countless counter-perspectives. Many of which have merit. Any of which may, if we could see more clearly, may have merit far more than we can know.

But how does anyone sort through the myriad views and discern that which is right? And this does not even address the question of how one determines truth in fact-bases.

Take our most recent former president. The vitriol I see is shocking – and the viewpoints run the gamut. He is either worse than vermin and anyone who disagrees, same – or he is our only hope for stability and hope as a nation (conviction be damned.)

Is this helpful?. No.

I have my own considered views on the subject – should I share them with you now at great length? Again, mercifully, NO.

Wiser people leave this impossible continuum alone. Wiser and more healthy. And, I dare say, more fundamentalist.

Fundamentalism has become it’s own four-letter word, identified with radicals from Topeka or Somalia, meaning, always, an extreme expression of fixed notions opposed to all things modern. Something like that.

But I mean it like this: you cannot survive unless you have some fundamentals that define and govern your life. You have to know what you think is true and live by it or you go crazy. The screen will drag you there, so one of the fundamentals it to get rid of it.

So why don’t I stop typing now? (Good question.) Because I think I can manage a certain measure of screen-dom. That’s one of the fundamental notions that also guides my life. And no, I can’t prove it to you.

The morass of ideas on all things political and cultural is distressing. At the end of the day I am left with what seems true about the world. I believe in God. Of course I cannot see Him or pretend to prove Him to a materialist, or anyone else for that matter. And, perhaps more stretching but also fundamentally, I believe in something I call the “human metaphysic.” And for any readers who have not yet given up I will try to describe this and then be done.

I mean by “human metaphysic” something similar to what is often called natural law: those things we “can’t not know.” I believe these are values that are not up for grabs and if we undo them we undo ourselves. This is the idea of objective moral value. Some things are true to the way the world is and some things are not. And to deny this truth is to embrace a deadly irrationality.

Terms are strange and we should try to be clear and basic with ideas that define life for us. Fundamentalism goes there but has been maligned as something equivalent to irrationality. “I just believe the Bible” can be helpful but needs both context and real human community.

So how do we cut through the mess?

The only answer I know, as an expression of my belief in God, is that all which is true aligns with Him, the infinite personal God who can be known (Schaeffer again, the elder). And we do best when we try to walk as Christ, knowing we will someday die, holding life loosely and, perhaps, our ideas more loosely still. In the end, if there is a God and we trusted Him, we will be safe with Him. If not, it didn’t matter anyway.

I believe “it matters” – even this meandering attempt to make sense of it. And I am walking into the day with loved ones, co-workers and friends, reveling in the gift of life, holding loosely what I think I know, learning to give my life away a little bit more every day.

For in all my uncertainty, that idea is one that seems as safe as any, and may even have real merit.

It may even be fundamental.

Randy Huff

Randy Huff and his wife lived for 5 years in Roanoke (Hollins) where they raised 2 sons. Randy served as Dean of Students at a Christian school and then worked in construction. For the last 8 years he has served as pastor of a church in North Pole, Alaska.

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