“Everyone has to have their take. That’s how it works now. If you don’t have a take, you don’t have a voice. If you don’t have a voice, you don’t exist.”
~ Quintin Sellers, Vengeance
Ashton Kutcher’s character in the movie Vengeance perfectly describes today’s loud and polarized culture. We have rapidly been conditioned by the internet over the past twenty years to react immediately and strongly to every single thing that happens and to take a side. All of us are compelled to take a position on everything as soon as it occurs, staking out immediate and immovable opinions on matters large and small before any conversation or reflection can transpire. Those hastily formed opinions then become our identity and our “cause.” You’ve chosen a side. And the other side will take the other side just to take the other side. Louder and more aggressive. On and on it goes, proving, as Quintin Sellers says, the defining truth of our time: everything means everything, so nothing means anything.
It’s so bad now that not saying anything, not having a take, not making immediate and loud conclusions about an event, is worse than having the wrong take or saying the wrong thing. Saying nothing is an even faster way to be labeled now as part of a side or a cause.
I think that happened to Nicodemus.
The most highly esteemed rabbi in all of Israel had met with Jesus under the cover of darkness – the conversation is recorded in John 3. We’re not really sure of his motives. Is he investigating Jesus on behalf of the Pharisees or is this a personal visit? Either way, when Jesus tells him he must be born again, Nicodemus sounds like somebody who doesn’t believe and won’t ever believe. He sounds immovable. It sounds like he has taken a side. Maybe.
By John 7, Jesus has stirred up some controversy among the religious and political set. The police and the religious-political leaders come together to discuss their options, and Nicodemus sounds somewhat sympathetic to the troublemaker. He asks the gathered leaders, “Does our Law condemn anyone without first hearing him out?” And they ripped Nicodemus to shreds.
“Are you from Galilee, too?!”
Are you on his side? Are you taking up his cause? Is this who you are? Is this your “take?”
There was no room in this heated political and religious environment for measured conversation and careful reflection. And this was several years before TV, much less the internet.
By the end of the Gospel, all the apostles have deserted Jesus during the night. And there’s Nicodemus, in broad daylight, with permission from the government, taking care of Jesus’ body.
Our society is in trouble largely because all the “thinking” we do is expected to be immediate and public. If you don’t have a position posted as soon as some question emerges, somebody’s going to ask if you’re really “one of us.’ Someone will say your “silence is deafening.” But that’s not how human beings change our minds about anything. We change after we wrestle through questions, as we ponder and reflect, as we talk with others and read new ideas, as we experience different views and cultures, as we pay careful attention to all sides and show grace and mercy to others and to ourselves.
None of that can happen under the pressures of our “post-your-take-now” culture.
Take a break on your take. Leave some wiggle room. Give yourself and others a cushion. And, above all, take your time. Show some restraint. There’s a big difference between reconsidering a viewpoint and losing an argument.