Wrestling With Conflicting Views

Image of a sign pointing Right and WrongComity is the practice of civilized governance within a diverse community. This is important in all groups where people hold a divergence of views. It is essential with a faith-based community.

Why do The Prince of Peace followers carry on with such vitriol? Because the issues being handled are about whole lives, it involved as eternal truths, and beliefs are deeply held. Everyone cannot possibly be in complete harmony all the time. that’s not possible and not even needed.

What is needed is a way to co-exist in groups without chopping each others’ heads off.

Marco Antonio Dominis said in the 17th Century, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” We’ve been ignoring that advice ever sense.

This article, written by John Walton, Old Testament professor at Wheaton College, is about keeping the peace even as we express our differences.


150 Achievements of Liberalism in America


The accomplishments of liberals over the years, by both Republicans and Democrats, is quite remarkable.

Did you realize before the unions invented the idea of weekends, there was no such thing as two days of rest every week? Many countries still have no word for it.

Prohibitions against child labor, paid vacation, public universities, Clean Air Act, Head Start, the FBI — the list goes on. Sure, conservatives helped back in the day when they weren’t destroying America. But these are liberal ideas.

These concepts that became programs emerged from a national activist heart seeking to improve the lot of common people. Encouraged by Jesus’ teaching to care for our neighbor — to be our brother’s keeper — Americans embraced these ideas and improved the lives of millions.

The list is here.


Don’t Look for the Label

Just because I identify with many issues labeled Democratic that doesn’t mean I am anti-Republican. I am not against Republicans. I am against ignorance, against hate, against racism, and against Fascism. I want to destroy these ideological enemies of free people, not destroy the people that are burdened with them.

The Hijab

Part of the dig against Muslims is that they want the opportunities of the West but refuse to assimilate into, and even express intolerance for, their adopted culture. The hijab is a very visible symbol of this idea.

But this practice is not exclusively Muslim. Consider Hasidic Jews, or the Amish, who segregate themselves from mainstream American culture. Many branches of Pentecostal Christianity have rules against immodest dress, alcohol consumption or even women cutting their hair.

When I first saw women wearing hijabs, I felt sorry for them. I presumed that they were dominated by conservative husbands and fathers who made them dress that way in public. What I have come to find out is that many women, starting in high school, voluntarily wear the hijab. They have various reasons. They want to be observant. They want to set themselves apart from the secular world. They want to proudly proclaim their heritage or family tradition. And who can fault these reasons?

The French government has banned wearing the hijab in public places. We could hardly do that in the U.S., at least on religious grounds (because of the Constitution).

Every day, I see many women wearing the hijab. I would wish for these women the freedom to be modest with the courage to go against convention for faith reasons. But I would also wish for them the freedom to abandon the hijab if it represents a form of religion that has no bearing on their relationship to the Almighty and is simply a reflection of some ancient teaching that gets in the way of their full expression as free and equal members of our egalitarian society.

Why Do Working-Class People Vote Against Their Own Self Interest?

Liberals whine about the fact that the Right always controls the message so well, leaving the Left to defend their position and play catch-up.

Of course, a conservative message is generally easier to convey because it calls up memes and metaphors that are already in the citizens mind. For example, if I tell you that you can spend tax money better than the government can, I naturally accept this as truth. Unless someone tells you that big beneficial projects (like Hoover Dam) are only possible when we pool our money, then the appeal to individual responsibility and personal economic freedom is the impression that remains.

But simplicity of message doesn’t explain it all. I believe the problem is more troubling than that.

John Haight is a social scientist, professor and author (The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion) who has done some good work deciphering the motivations of the Left and the Right. He wrote an article in The Guardian, which is a fascinating look at the “why” that so baffles liberals.

I don’t know if Haight has all the answers but his findings sure make sense as a starting point for discussion.

Haight basically says that, while local elections are about issues (i.e., transportation bond), the national elections are more about patriotism and our collective values (i.e., illegal immigrants who didn’t wait their turn).

Conservatives make a lot of noise about individual responsibility while Liberals talk about community.

Here’s an example. For the working class, tax cuts are an easy sell but may be counterproductive to any short-term savings. Just because you reduce the individual tax burden of a working person by a few dollars doesn’t necessarily bolster the overall economy, despite a simple pocketbook analogy. But if we divert a portion of public funds (tax dollars) into a jobs training program for our town or efforts to bring a new factory to the town, the entire community benefits, through the creation of jobs and enhanced spending power of workers.

But the promise of a complicated infrastructure that helps improve a community, and produces jobs, is a lot more difficult to comprehend (and, more importantly, believe in) than offering a simple tax cut.

How can a liberal politician grab enough of a voter’s time to explain something complicated when the opposition is happy to issue one platitude after the other.

Haight likens the political conversation to an anatomy of our taste buds. The tongue is divided into regions that can distinguish between sweet, salty, bitter, etc. Of course, we all like sweet but a steady of sugar is not be good for us. We need to cultivate a palate for the things that will fortify us over the long term.

He pitches the taste buds analogy into these taste regions that appeal to different parts of the moral tongue.  They contrast like this: care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation.

In learning to communicate with conservatives, this breakdown alone can be helpful in improving the conversation.

A recent transcript, which goes into detail is located here.



Can Neo Calvinism Stand Up?

A lively debate on Calvinism happened recently. And it would actually good TV. Four serious pastors brought their beliefs to a dog fight and the heat and light were exchanged.

Maybe you may say that a debate over the implications of the so-called new Calvinism are irrelevant and arcane to American protestant. Or just too much inside baseball. But I was thoroughly fixated by the exchange and, I’ll bet, you will be, too. I believe this discussion has particular implications for American Christianity and even American politics because where you stand on these issues predicts where your beliefs on civic matters may lie.

After all, at the heart of our American experiment are many unresolved issues surrounding the active role of God in our views of individual freedom, the source and meaning of Manifest Destiny as a divine right, our support of Israel and our national beliefs about separation of church and state.

To me, this is more than esoteric sparring. The pastors were cordial enough to each other, and I’m am sure they all went out for a beer afterwards.  But during the event, they demonstrated an intensity worthy of the topic.

In the debate, I particularly like Brian Zanhd, pastor of the Word of Life church in St. Joseph, MO. His presentation and defense were impeccable, measured and reasonable. I learned a lot and these two videos could be an interesting  part of a small group discussion that would do the participants a world of good.


Optimism: Essential To Our Future

sharotcoverThe Optimism Bias, a new book by Tali Sharot, takes the position that we are wired for optimism, that cynical pessimism is not our natural state. And that optimism is necessary for our survival as a species.

That’s a comforting thought. I consider myself an optimist. But I have always considered that the rest of the world was not and that this was a force to be pushed back upon. Part of my mission on this earth has been to spread optimism in my own small way, to be encouraging to those around me. Now, in this book, I see that an optimism evangelist is a good thing that serves the great good.

One of the last things that Jesus is quoted as saying to his disciples is in John 16:33, “”I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” This is very optimistic, indeed, to Christians like me, who not only believe that Christ conquered death by rising from the dead but declared that the world, with its rules, shortages and , has little power over him, or us.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that everything is falling apart. That’s a tad pessimistic. But Christians, following Christ’s statement, can be the harbingers of the good news that there is a life beyond this one and that we can join Christ in this new world beyond our world.

If it is so that this present life is not the end and that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, then Christians indeed have some good news for this realm. Can I hear an amen?  Why not optimism? Its all good.

This book is one of a collection of books on the Brainpickings website located here.

God Has No Religion

I believe religion is the human pursuit of God. It is fraught with ego, misinterpretation, manipulation and fraud (including self-fraud). But when we see that God is pursuing humans in the establishment of a cooperative personal relationship, great things happen. But it is not religion.

Image of Ghandi
Image of Ghandi

Image of the earth from the moon

What’s the problem? Let’s just enlarge the tribe beyond our geographic, cultural, philosophic and religious borders. How? We can assimilate a God’s eye view of God’s total creation.