And it’s not just because she recalls her old debate coach instilling the fact that “the cheapest – and tackiest – shot you can take in an argument is comparing your opponent to Hitler.” Well, ok, that is pretty much pure gold and applies to, oh, so many certain discussions in our circles that reach to the tired template for evil called The Third Reich (I won’t say it out loud, that would be vulgar). But the rest of it is a nice reprieve from the encroaching sense that few have much left these days:
Given the kinds of (technological, mediated, globalized) communications that increasingly dominate American life, a certain amount of fear and distrust in the culture is understandable. And to a certain degree, it’s not awful: in most human endeavors, a certain amount of skepticism is probably a healthy thing.
But too much skepticism – the kind that renders you incapable of trusting almost anyone, the kind that makes you hold onto your doubts and fears even in the face of contravening facts (since you believe the “facts” are probably manipulated) – is debilitating. It’s debilitating to you as an individual, since to think that way is to be anxious and angry all the time, to feel rageful and powerless and even paranoid. It’s also debilitating to social functioning, which requires at least some amount of social trust.
Too much skepticism is known as cynicism, and we Calvinists are often mistaken for being more cynical than skeptical. But just as total depravity isn’t the same as utter depravity, and to be realistic isn’t to be a pessimist, and to be a world-affirming pilgrim is not to be a world-flight monastic, and to accent grace over sin isn’t to be antinomian, true Calvinism really isn’t about thinking that sin goes all the way down such that we are the mercy of the fear mongers of the day. We may take our inspiration from Ecclesiates, but that doesn’t mean, well, what many seem to think it does.