Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson

Our Amazing Stupidity

Stupidity is always amazing, no matter how used to it you become.” This is how Lance Morrow begins his most recent article in the Wall Street Journal, one entitled “You Are Living in the Golden Age of Stupidity.” Whether or not senselessness has reached its zenith, what is certain is that we are almost always shocked when it happens, either by ourselves or by others.

I come across the occasional story of yet another pastor who has sacrificed one’s calling and reputation and family and future for some illicit sexual pleasure, and I am amazed every time. I recently sought to make contact with a pastor I have mentored, only to find out he was released for immorality. And yes, I was flabbergasted.

I shouldn’t be, but I continue to be astounded when politicians conduct foolish policies. Aren’t advisors built into the system to ensure discernment? Yet, as Morrow notes, every buffoonery of one leader and one’s people are answered by idiocy from the other side. “Stupidity.” He concludes, “is entitled to no moral standing whatever, and yet it sits in a place of honor at the tables of the mighty; it blows in their ears and whispers promises.”

Looking back, I am dumbfounded when I think of my own dumbness (like getting engaged at 19 and then spending six long weeks trying to figure out how to break it off. Or buying that used car that used more oil than gas.) Yet, I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s, an era Morrow refers to as the gaudiest and noisiest and most entertaining of the times, as well as one of the stupidest. Just listen to an oldies station and follow the lyrics, look at the designs of most cars, recall the colors people painted their living rooms, or look back at the movies that were made-e.g. Santa Clause Conquers the Martians. 

It could be, however, that today’s culture may be closer to producing what Morrow calls “a fatal explosion of brainlessness.” Much of what is heard on the news or shared on social media serve as confirmation. Covid might play a role, but it is much deeper. And this matters, as I noted in my August 19th post (“Where Has the Wisdom Gone?”). Foolishness tends to cause great damage. Morrow warns that it is a short ride from stupidity to madness. When this happens, people aren’t quite people anymore. As he puts it, “they are cartoons and categories. And ‘identities.’ The media grow feral. Genitals became weirdly public issues; the sexes subdivide into 100 genders. Ideologues extract sunbeams from cucumbers. They engage in what amounts to an Oedipal rebellion against reality itself.” He’s right. These are crazy times!

Perhaps this explains the madness behind my recent purchase, with my neighbor, of a used boat. What a drain! Someone has said that owning a boat is only slightly more expensive than maintaining the Hubble space telescope. Such foolish decision-making ranks down there with an earlier acquisition of a wire fox terrier. And still, I look back with amazement. This brings me back to wisdom.

With all that clamors for the mind’s attention each day, wisdom must be accorded its rightful place. It is the antidote to folly, there to guard us against stupid choices. Eric Weiner summarizes this well in his The Socrates Express: “We think we want information and knowledge. We do not. We want wisdom.” There’s a difference, one of kind rather than a degree. He continues, “Information is a jumble of facts, knowledge a more organized jumble. Wisdom untangles the facts, makes sense of them, and, crucially, suggests how best to use them.” And this kind is what Morrow finds lacking in our age—the wisdom to unravel the noise.

The greater loss is divine wisdom, a wisdom that goes further than the wisdom of life experience or past philosophers. We are lacking the shrewdness that comes from Scripture, the sagacity that is gained through its wisdom books, as well as through walking with Christ, who is the very essence of wisdom (1 Cor 1:24). Such an endeavor is more a goal, however, than a possession. Augustine noted that the gift of wisdom “consists in the pursuit,” one that must be renewed daily. This requires the day-to-day discipline of reflecting on wisdom’s sayings in Scripture, one accompanied by the humility that acknowledges that we are not as wise as we should be. Out on the river this morning, Proverbs 1:5 gave me this needed advice: “Let the wise listen and add to their learning” (v 5). It’s God’s way of saying that the journey continues.

If more and more of us sign on, we might just usher in a different golden age.




Leave a Reply