We all know what a tornado is. If you watched Wizard Of Oz it was a tornado that took Dorothy up to Oz, leaving her home in Kansas in shambles. A tornado is a violent rotating column of air that can spin up to 300 mph sucking everything out of the ground tossing it hither and thither. It’s the textbook definition of chaos. Setting aside climate-caused tornados, history has seen military tornados, social tornados, political tornados, some involving small areas while others, like WWI and WWII ravaged the whole world. Just as climate-caused tornados all other tornados are totally disruptive and devastating instigating a rebuilding of what was torn down.

I begin with tornados because the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries have seen one growing designed to destroy cultures and societies. The spread of the Roman Empire must have felt to some like a destructive tornado but it was a mixture of tearing down and building up and benefited as much as hurt many nations. Now the German hordes that began their whirlwind in Rome and went all the way through France and into England was a total tornado leaving only destruction behind. WWI, and especially WWII, was a total tornado leaving physical destruction in its wake.

What made up the tornado of the 20th and 21st century had in its mix the aftermath of European colonization that intellectually digressed into racism to support its takeover of many nations and peoples; it had the fascism of Italy’s Mussolini which was nothing more than national socialism; of Hitler’s mythology of an Aryan race leading to the extermination of Jews, many Christians, mentally ill, homosexuals and like Italy was really national socialism; and next we have Russia under Lenin and Stalin working off Marxism and was international socialism; Mao’s cultural revolution also a national socialism; Foucault and Derrida; and the rebirth of Nietzsche. All these people and events, and movements were based on theories. Aguste Comte who started analytical social science later broke into anthropology, sociology, and biology, and these not based on experience or observation or historical records but ideology built on theories of what each should be. Sociology was not the study of but the planning of society based upon the best theory, and in the Sixties it included urban planning that began after the Industrial Revolution when so many moved from the farms to the cities.

I point all this out because if you could capture in really slow motion a tornado you would see all these men and their theories spinning around uprooting everything. Another way of putting it is that the 20th and 21st Century has been the perfect storm creating all the confusion and fracturing and identity politics and war of the sexes, war of the races, war against Christianity, war against the past to include classical liberalism.

Once you understand this you recognize why you cannot capture a piece of the whirlwind and bring order at least to that part of the wind. Having said this it sounds defeating, hopeless that peace will ever come. It’s not impossible to tame the tornado, to cause the destructive winds to ebb, and down the road I’ll get to that. Right now we need to be depressed, not lost in hopelessness but until we truly know the reality we face can we ever hope to counteract it and save our culture and society. And understand, it’s our culture and society the whirlwind is out to destroy.

There is one more point I need to make. Even the most radical of people, the most radical of ideologies whether we call it “Alt Right” or “Alt Left” have legitimate concerns. The realness of their concerns gets lost in their radicalism, but they start down their road because no one is answering those concerns, and then because they believe things are moving too slowly (for them) they feel the need to push into extremes to reach their goals. Because groups like white nationalists or Antifa or BLM delegitimize themselves with their violent radicalism doesn’t do away with the fact that inside all that noise are honest assessments of need that isn’t being addressed.

In Matthew 10:15 Jesus tells the crowd around him to “listen (akouó) and understand (suniémi),” or in the days when I spoke French, “Écoutez et Comprendez, We’re good at closing our ears when we don’t want to hear something. Postmodernists are champions of shutting off their hearing. They don’t want to hear even just one word of that which disagrees with them, and we’ll see that when I finally get there. It isn’t enough to just listen, that’s empty hearing, it must go with understanding. If you’ve watched any political debates between people of different political parties you typically watch an exercise in not listening and not understanding. They’re talking over each other, they only want to get their ideological point out. We don’t want to believe the other person has anything good to say, they’re radicals so nothing to listen to here. But there is also a fear that keeps us from listening and understanding, the fear that if we accept their legitimate points we’ll get sucked into their radicalism. And this happens so it isn’t an unjust fear.

When we honestly listen to those we disagree with, even vehemently disagree with, and understand what is being said we will find in their rhetoric those legitimate concerns, most likely ones that we’ve ignored and why radicalism got started. The best of both worlds is that we find our points of agreement and ignore our points of disagreement and together we work hand-in-hand to make a better world. 

I’ve said this jokingly, if I learn nothing from those I fundamentally disagree with at least I learn what I don’t believe and that sharpens my belief. Try it.