The hermeneutic of suspicion

hermeneutic - adj. concerning interpretation, especially of the Bible or literary texts 
noun a method or theory of interpretation

We can't go on, together
With suspicious minds
And we can't build our dreams
On suspicious minds - Suspicious Minds, Elvis Presley

If there is one thing that has characterized the conversations of our recent times it is this: we are entrenched in a diabolical hermeneutic of suspicion. Now a hermeneutic is a theory or method of interpretation. As people speak I interpret what they are saying and fashion an appropriate response. If someone requires the potatoes at our table they request that I pass them and I fashion a response in concert with my interpretation of their communication. I pass them the bowl of potatoes. That is much more appropriate than throwing them a potato or two from the bowl. Interpretation betrays my stances, even, my heart. The act of interpretation is active and impacted by context. I know that my heart is the closest and most powerful context in my life. Thus, its posture impacts my interpretation of events. My hermeneutic.

Suspicion reins in our species. So much so that everyone's interpretation of what "those people" say is run through its sieve and, what we get out the other end, is division and death. A gun law is "obviously" proposed to limit the free exercise of a law-abiding citizen's right to bear arms. That can be its only purpose - or so someone with a well developed hermeneutic of suspicion would tend to believe. Could it be that the one proposing the law just wants less people shot? Nope. Not having it. Everything out of their mouths is suspicious and, thus, deadly.

But what is wrong with suspicion? Isn't that just another word for discernment? I mean, discernment can result in division as well, can't it? It certainly can, but here is where I see the difference: suspicion creates understanding; discernment seeks it. If I am suspicious of someone or something I have already, in my mind, understood them. I have no use for clarification or conversation. In fact, there is only room for division and that is the fruit of the stance I take. Discernment seeks the truth and that requires, more times than not, a conversation or two. 

tl;dr Suspicion's judgements are immediate; discernment's are measured. Suspicion is man-centered; true discernment is God-centered. Suspicion divides for our own sake; discernment divides for Christ's sake.

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