Civil Discourse #1

Recently I read an excellent column by Dana Hall McCain, an opinion writer on faith and politics for She wrote about the struggles of right-leaning podcaster, Matt K. Lewis and left-leaning podcaster Jamie Kilstein.  Both men were having difficulties accepting the extreme positions of their political leanings and had moved toward more centrist positions. In her words: “Both spoke of losing opportunities, financial backing, or audience share for not going far enough to the left or right for America’s highly partisan tastes in media”

She went on, tongue in cheek, to make the excellent point: “who in the world would want to read something nuanced that required a bit of self examination or expertise, when you can get straight to the blaming of others and confirmation of your own biases?”

She adds the point that –“principled commentary that takes all parties to the wood shed is a business struggle at the moment and America is worse for it.” Her only hope to get out of this problem is to cultivate thinkers who identify more closely with principles than with politics or personalities. Her belief is that standing for principle should be “easiest for Christians.”

I share her concern to cultivate thinkers. That is the primary theme of my little book I recently published: Being a Proverbial Student. I also share her concern for standing up for principles in the face of extremes.  I believe the extremes in both political leanings are certain they are right and make their claims filled with self-righteousness. Far too often the certainty and lack of humility is found in people who call themselves Christian. I wish everyone, Christian or not, would be willing to listen to others, to examine their positions, to acknowledge errors, to make any necessary changes and to do so in a civil manner.  Far too often self-righteousness gets in the way—for everyone.

Humility is a key to civil discourse

Anyone, of any faith, or even without a faith can engage in civil discourse, but she is right — Christians should have an easier time. I believe we should because we have a responsibility to be humble.  We often fail, but we have the responsibility to strive to be humble. Christian self-righteousness lends itself to uncivil discourse just as readily as self-righteousness in others.

Proper self examination requires the ability to say I am wrong. Admitting I am wrong requires humility. A self-righteous person, fails to have humility, and cannot admit they are wrong. If I do not allow the possibility of being wrong, civil discourse seems impossible.

We need civil discourse and I want to explore reasons we have so many difficulties with dialog at this time. I believe we must attack and overcome the problem or we face a terrible future based in the conflicts between the extremes in our culture.  I would like to hear from others what they believe are some of the reasons civil discourse is so difficult at this time. Please let me know what you think.

Because this is my first blog, I have no idea of an appropriate length. Therefore I will err in the direction of brevity and keep this at one page. I will be back next week with a discussion of any responses I recieve and more thoughts on this topic.

Until then – Peace be with you

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