The Foolishness of Man

The Foolishness of Man

from the August 22, 2016 eNews issue



by Dr. Steve Elwart

Albert Einstein quote

An empty-headed person will gain understanding when a wild donkey is born a human being!

Job 11:12 (ISV)

An Old Saying

There is a saying “God must have loved stupid people, He made so many of them.” Doesn’t sound very Christian, does it? It is interesting to note that a person no less than Dietrich Bonhoeffer had something to say about stupidity.

In his book, Letters and Papers from Prison, Bonhoeffer wrote:

Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed — in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical — and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.

He believed that stupidity is perhaps less a psychological than a sociological problem. It is a particular form of the impact of historical circumstances on human beings, a psychological indication of certain conditions.

It should be noted here when the term “stupidity” is used, it is not in a physiological context. It is not to disparage those that have mental infirmities. In this article, if a person is termed “stupid,” it is a willful stupidity. To echo Bonhoeffer, there are people in this world who choose stupidity over wisdom. These people could also be called “foolish.”

People who choose stupidity over wisdom are also stubborn in their worldview. These people are not prone to have meaningful discussions about topics, but resort to slogans and many times flawed arguments they mimic from something they read from the internet. When their arguments are challenged, they will repeat their catchwords even more vehemently, but usually with less certainty. Their knowledge of a topic is sometimes a “mile wide and an inch deep.” These people are “under a spell, blinded, misused and abused” down to their core, but they are mindless.

Just because these people have foolish opinions does not make them harmless. These people can also be capable of great evil, but blind to that very evil. That blindness is not limited to those with little education either. As this author has stated, “Remember, it were the engineers who built the ovens at Dachau.” People can be very intelligent and evil and at the same time. A majority of 75 terroristsresponsible for some of the terror attacks against the West were college-educated, often in technical subjects like engineering. In four attacks, the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the 9/11 attacks, and the Bali bombings in 2002 — 53 percent of the terrorists had either attended college or had received a college degree. With only 52 percent of Americans having been to college, many terrorists are as well educated as Americans.

Bonhoeffer also made an interesting comment that stupidity is a congenital defect but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or that they allow this to happen to them. In this context, Bonhoeffer was talking about one psychological characteristic of Hitler and his followers. However, this can be said to be true of people in our day as well.

This stupidity has really been brought to the fore in the recent American presidential election season.

Politics

Many decry the two candidates that have risen to the top of the political heap from the Democratic and Republican parties. For the first time in American history, both candidates have disapproval ratings above 50 percent. This election will truly be a choice between the lesser of two evils.

The presidential election has only brought this political stupidity to the surface. Voters have manifested this collective stupidity for a long time.

One retiring congressman who wishes to remain anonymous put it this way:

[Voters] know little about our form of government and how it works. Ask them to name the three branches of government, and they’re clueless. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, forget it. I’m lucky if my constituents know my name and what I do. What was it Churchill said? “The best argument against democracy is a brief chat with the average voter.”

I once asked a fellow about the content of the Constitution. “It gives me the right to own a gun,” he replied. “What else?” I asked. “That’s pretty much it.” So there you have it. Another knucklehead with the right to vote.

It’s difficult to maintain a well-functioning democracy if voters do not possess a degree of knowledge in basic civics. The congressman also said voters don’t “take the time nor have any interest to follow what’s going on in Washington. How stupid is that?” Apathy among voters encourages politicians to fool the public. They engage in publicity stunts and trade votes for campaign contributions. How many people have gone into politics with modest means, but left it millionaires?

In this election cycle, candidates contradict (or outright lie) all the time, but few people either notice or care. Politicians mirror the voting public. Politicians cast their vote for people to have everything, but have no idea how to pay for it. Voters say they want a substantive discussion on the issues, but spend their time on the internet looking at “cat videos, celebrity gossip, top 10 lists, reality TV shows, tabloid tripe and the next Twitter message.” Americans (and one suspects) most of the voting world know more about celebrities than their elected officials.

The congressman also observed:

All the world’s a stage, and they want to be the star. I know, I know, we’re no different from the narcissists we represent: We’re out for ourselves, we lie when necessary, and money is everything. … It’s far easier than you think to manipulate a nation of naive, self-absorbed sheep who crave instant gratification.

Religion

While stupidity is dangerous in politics, it is much more dangerous in one’s faith. That stupidity can have eternal consequences.

Stupid people follow those who are unfamiliar with the Word of God or intentionally distort it. How many people have followed false prophets who preached a message other than Christ’s and fell into a cult? Paul warned of this in Romans:

Now I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who create divisions and sinful enticements that oppose the teaching you have learned. Stay away from them, because such people are not serving the Messiah our Lord, but their own desires. By their smooth talk and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.

Romans 16:17–18 (ISV)

There are also those who blame others for things they have brought onto themselves. Rather than realize they have strayed from God’s word, they will invariably blame others for the state they find themselves. Many times they have turned themselves to God’s abandonment where God’s wrath is visited on the ungodliness and wickedness of those who in their wickedness suppress the truth of His Word:

Furthermore, because they did not think it worthwhile to keep knowing God fully, God delivered them to degraded minds to perform acts that should not be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, quarreling, deceit, and viciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, haughty, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to their parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless. Although they know God’s just requirement — that those who practice such things deserve to die — they not only do these things but even applaud others who practice them.

Romans 1:28–32 (ISV)

Bonhoeffer summed up the problem of the stupidity of Man nicely:

The word of the Bible that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10, Prov. 1:7) declares that the internal liberation of human beings to live the responsible life before God is the only genuine way to overcome stupidity. But these thoughts about stupidity also offer consolation in that they utterly forbid us to consider the majority of people to be stupid in every circumstance. It really will depend on whether those in power expect more from peoples’ stupidity than from their inner independence and wisdom.

Further Reading

– FROM: KHouse.Org

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