The culture wars have grown bitterer than ever, with social media being the primary escalator. Heated debates about sensitive topics like gay marriage and health care reform have dominated virtual conversations. Twitter arguments and Facebook rants seem to fuel anger with one another rather than solve problems.
Many Americans have grown weary and want to see the arguments diffused. Ben Carson is one of them.
In 1987 Carson successfully separated conjoined twins who were joined at the back of the head. He is the recipient of many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented to him in 2008 by President George W. Bush, and had the honor of speaking at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast. He has authored six books, including Gifted Hands, an autobiography that made into a hit movie in 2009. His latest release, One Nation, recently hit bookstands.
These days, Carson is a columnist for the Washington Times and Fox News contributor.
Even before retiring from surgery in 2013, Carson has been on a mission to rally the citizens of the United States—and the Church—to unite.
“It seems to me that we are all divided. We used to be united. I want people to realize we are not each other’s enemy. Wedges are driven between us to create wars of every type, and to divide and conquer. Jesus said, ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’”
In One Nation, Carson wants to show Americans where the real division comes from and how to heal it. Each chapter ends with bullet point to tell people how they can get involved. His hope is to spark people to action: “This is our nation. We the people are really in charge if where it goes. We are not innocent bystanders, even though we think we are. We actually can play a very significant role in the direction of our nation.”
He wrote a letter to the readers of One Nation. In that letter, he addressed the need to overcome differences:
Worst of all, we seem to have lost our ability to discuss important issues calmly and respectfully regardless of party affiliation or other differences. As a doctor rather than a politician, I care about what works, not whether someone has an (R) or a (D) after his or her name. We have to come together to solve our problems.
In One Nation—and often during public speeches—he stresses several important needs in America.
The first need, he believes, is to bring back Judeo Christian values.
“These are the values that guided our lives and led us to the pinnacle position in the world faster than any nation in history,” he said.
Another thing that is crucial to the strength of our nation, he says, is knowledge.
“One of the most important things you can do as a human being is to arm yourself with knowledge. Knowledge is the formidable foe of falsehood, and a formidable ally of truth. It is much easier to discern what is going on and talk about it in an intelligible way when we are educated,” Carson explained. “We need to learn. Right now, if I were to go out in the street and talk to people, they would know more about Dancing With the Stars than major events in country and world.”
The best way to start, Carson advises, is to spend a half hour per day learning something you don’t know. It doesn’t matter whether it is math, science, geography or history.
Carson said, “If you do that for one year, you’ll be a different person.”
He does stress the importance of having historical knowledge. Carson believes that knowing the roots of our culture wars can help prevent Americans and the Church from being deceived.
“If people would go back and read some of the writings of people like Joseph Stalin, Carl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, they would understand that these men advocated that the way to bring the U.S. under subjugation is to make them move their Judeo Christian values off to the sideline, and to remove the structure of the traditional family,” Carson explained.
“They knew that these institutions were the two major pillars of strength in the U.S. And that is why, even today, you see the attack on these areas. Unless you have a knowledge of these things, it is easy to be deceived.”
Another need, particularly in light of the culture wars, is for people of all viewpoints to have the ability to have civil dialogue with one another.
“We should be willing to talk to each other, not to prejudge people, get in our corners and throw hand grenades. Someone has to be the adult. Each of us can be when someone else starts name calling and getting inflammatory. Let’s get back to the topic. There is almost no one who won’t respond in a positive way to kindness. The easier thing is to return fire with fire,” he said.
Carson believes that the more informed a person is, the more he or she can engage in calm dialogue: “People who are knowledgeable are calm, and articulate. They are able to help people understand what they are trying to say. We need to know how to bring people back to the conversation.”
Another important factor in civilized conversation, he said, is empathy: “You have to understand where others are coming from.”
Carson is well known for being cool, calm and collected during debates with those who disagree with him. He credits his calm demeanor to reading the book of Proverbs, and suggests that one of the most important things that people—especially Christians—can do is to show compassion to everyone, regardless of their views and how they engage in the culture wars.
“We will never achieve anything if we return fire with fire. Jesus told us to ‘turn the other cheek.’ What He is saying is, if someone treats you with vitriol, and you do it back, nothing is accomplished,” he explained.
While values, knowledge and compassion are key for getting America back on track, the most important thing, Carson said, is prayer.
“I pray the Lord will open the eyes of the people so they can see who the true enemies of freedom in America are. I have prayed this for a while, and have seen it happen.
“We all need to pray for an understanding of a vision for what this country should be. It says in Proverbs 29:18 that without a vision the people will perish. That always happens when a nation loses sight of who they are supposed to be,” he said.
It is especially important, Carson added, that we pray for those with whom we disagree.
“They are there for a reason. All things work together for good of those who love God and called according to His purpose. So, we should pray for all leaders. And we need to pray for courage, because right now, that is the major thing lacking in our nation.
“I pray we get the kind of leadership in this nation that we need. I pray that we can once again become an incredible economic power and a force for good.”