The GOP & the Perils of Talking to Yourself

When I was in college, I was firmly convinced that the Dave Matthews Band was the greatest musical act of all-time and that Jack Kerouac’s On the Road should be canonized as the Great American Novel. Many of my friends agreed with me and we would spend countless nights into early mornings defending our position and expressing our incredulity that anyone would dare think otherwise. We’d whip ourselves up into passionate frenzies and then go out into classrooms where we were shocked and horrified to find that not everyone thought that way! (I’ve eased off my Kerouac claims, but I’ll still put up a lukewarm battle for pre-Everyday Dave Matthews Band.)

I was thinking about this the other day as I was scrolling through tweet after tweet of conservatives who are so passionate about defunding the Affordable Care Act. Just yesterday, Senator Ted Cruz ended his 21 hour filibuster which originated in an attempt to defund or at least delay the implementation of the law.

As I watch conservatives whip themselves in a frenzy over healthcare and liberals do the same over the [deplorable] cuts in SNAP benefits, I’m reminded of my friends and I sitting in a coffeehouse on campus late into the night debating the nuances of Kerouac and Dave Matthews. And here’s the thing that keeps coming up.

It is pointless to even attempt meaningful conversation when we remain staunchly opposed to what people who may think differently are saying.

This is true no matter what side of any debate we’re on. If our only conversation partners are people who agree with everything we say, then we become convinced that everyone thinks like that. They don’t. It’s why Karl Rove had that embarrassing election night meltdown over at Fox News. Everyone he was talking to thought that Obama would lose. So he refused to accept anything else.

But it’s not just with politics that this is the case. This happens all too often in the church as well. Within world religions or Christian denominations, we spend so much time talking to ourselves — or to people who think like we do — that we can become disconnected from the broader public conversation.

In these big conversations about things that impact public life, we need to make space for all people to express themselves and their opinions, and then wrestle through these issues together. Otherwise we become so entrenched on “our” side — which is almost always synonymous with the “good” side — that we not only lose touch with the broader conversation, but we lose touch with our neighbors, friends, and those in our community who may think differently.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t have this figured out. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone. My main sources of news are the Huffington Post and Jon Stewart. I need to remember this just as much as everyone else.

But in light of the big conversations that are happening in our culture right now — healthcare, government shutdowns, military intervention in Syria, how we fight poverty and hunger — we need to make space for everyone in these conversations.

Otherwise we risk whipping ourselves into a frenzy only to be disappointed by, and ultimately alienated from, the people in our lives who think differently than we do.

Instead of only talking to people who agree with us, or demonizing those who think differently, we need to turn our attention to positive, constructive work in our world. It no longer works to sit by and simply tear things down. It’s time build bridges across our diverse ideologies and opinions, so that ultimately we can spend our lives building a better world.

And not simply talking to ourselves.

Cheers,
Eric

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Distinguishing the Political from the Spiritual

Phyllis Tickle is absolutely wonderful. She has a wonderful little talk about how we live as spiritual beings in a political world. Her words are so poignant for leaders and believers of all walks. It’s also a good reminder for people like me who tend to be agitated by the spirituality of politics (or vice versa). It’s about 6 minutes long, but I would encourage you to watch all of it and listen to some of her stories. They’re very powerful.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/29372857]

 

Did anything she say stick out to you? What did you think of what she had to say?

If you’re interesting in checking out any of her books (which I would highly recommend)… I’ll post links to three of my favorites.

       

Cheers,
Eric

4 (of many) Things Wrong with Rick Perry’s Abysmal Ad

Within the last week, Rick Perry has managed to stir up a lot of controversy with a new ad he has released declaring war on Obama’s war on religion. There are a number of things wrong with Perry’s ad, and I am here to point out a few of them. Just so we’re on the same page Here’s a full text of the ad, just to catch people up. (I’m posting the text of the ad because I refuse to post a video link of that garbage on this site.)

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.

As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.

Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.

I’m Rick Perry and I approve this message.

Here we go.

1) We need to stop declaring wars on emotions and concepts. Obama doesn’t have a war on religion. He’s the Muslim with the controversial United Church of Christ pastor, remember? That’s like doubly religious. Wars have real enemies. The wars on religion, drugs, terror etc are insane because their target is amorphous. In my opinion, wars are the last thing Perry will ever look to end. Which brings us to…

2) There’s something wrong in this country when gays CAN’T serve openly in the military. The object of someone’s sexual desire does not hinder their ability to serve and protect this country. It’s like saying all left-handed can’t serve in the military (not a perfect metaphor, but close). In the end, when you’re in battle, it just does not matter who the other person goes home to at night.

3) Your kids can pray in schools all they want. This whole thing about how kids can’t pray in school is absurd. Of course they can. The law you are thinking of simply states that teachers are not allowed to lead the class in prayers. Which is fine, and do you know why? Because…

4) This whole thing is about respect. You know what doesn’t contribute to the overall respect for people? When a candidate who is supposed to be a leader, spouts a philosophy of “us vs. them” politics which fundamentally divides. As someone who is going to be a pastor, I whole-heartedly agree that faith can make us strong. But faith that is belligerent in the face of such blatant disrespect makes us all weaker.

So Mr. Perry, Governor Perry… do us all a favor and leave. Ride off into the night. Tuck your tail between your legs and get out of public discourse. Because what you’re saying is not good for anyone. Much less Christians.

Cheers,
Eric

Also… how funny is it that he’s wearing the same jacket as Heath Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain”? You can’t make it up.

You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me

20111112-124621.jpgThis past week, the whole Penn State situation has dominated the news. Questions of why no one who had information of sexual abuse came forward in the over 13 years since this happened have been constantly asked this week. On the other side of the news, we have the fight for the GOP nomination heating up between Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and the rest of the crew. In light of the shock felt throughout Pennsylvania, Herman Cain’s camp made a particularly shocking comment this past week.

There have been a number of women who have accused him of sexual harrassment at some point in the past. I will leave alone his disparaging comment toward Nancy Pelosi in the most recent debate, but instead want to focus on his lawyer’s most recent comments. In a recent interview, Cain’s attorney, Lin Wood, said that any new woman who are thinking of coming forward with any allegations against Cain should “think twice” before they do.

So here we are. At the crossroads of communities crying out for support for victims of sexual harrassment and abuse, and wondering in shock and awe of how no one could have thought to report the insanely vicious and criminal acts of Penn State. Simultaneously, we are being threatened by a presidential candidate NOT to report harrassment and abuse under the insinuation of retaliation by the campaign.

What the hell kind of leadership is this? Instead of someone, anyone, stepping up to lead us in this mess… we can only stand by while potential victims are threatened into silence. Call me old fashion, but that just cannot stand.

We need a leader. Someone to help us make sense of what happened. In the midst of a presidential campaign, that would be a wonderful time. And the ball is dropped. Again.

I’m not sure exactly how to move forward in this, but we have to do something. On Monday, I’ll have a post about our crisis of leadership looking deeper into what we can do about it.

Cheers,
Eric

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