If you dig beneath the surface of everything you say or do, you will discover one or more value commitments, in the ordinary sense of some things that you judge to be important. Therefore, to make some sense of the turmoil in contemporary American politics, one must seek to uncover the foundational value commitments of […]
Author Archive for: respectfulconversation
About Harold Heie
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Entries by Harold Heie
These six words were used by my good friend David Gushee, professor of Christian ethics at Mercer university, to describe my “approach” to engaging others. This observation was prompted by my recently making a “mid-course change” in the procedures for the ecumenical conversation on what it means to “follow Jesus” that I am currently hosting […]
On a daily basis, cable TV reports on the protests from some Americans against mask mandates because they are a violation of “freedom.” My argument in this Musing is that not wanting to wear masks for this reason reflects a misunderstanding of the nature of freedom by equating freedom with “license,” being able to “do […]
The greatest disparity that I perceive between what is currently happening in the political realm in America and my beliefs as a person committed to the Christian faith is conflicting views as to the meaning and exercise of “power.” It appears to me that the view of power that pervades the political realm is that […]
On October 30, 2020, my life was turned upside down when a doctor told me that a colonoscopy revealed that I had stage 3 rectal cancer. My treatment for this cancer over the past seven months has been challenging, to put it mildly. It started with a combination of radiation and 24/7 chemotherapy by means […]
In the face-to-face conversation that I hosted involving four supporters of president Trump and four non-supporters, reported on extensively below, I insisted on politeness, characterized by a willingness to listen, without interruption, to the viewpoint of a person who disagrees with you and the reasons he or she has for holding to that contrary perspective.
My eight conversation partners (CPs) did well in practicing politeness. But, as our conversation proceeded, I came away with the impression that a number of our CPs were practicing what I call “weak listening.” They were being polite, but they had no intention of re-examining their own beliefs in light of the contrary beliefs expressed by others. They were patient and polite in listening to the contrary beliefs of others, but their mindset sometimes was to “get that over with” so that they could express and advocate for their beliefs.
Liz Cheney has been the recipient of much wrath from the Trumpism wing of the Republican party when she courageously asserted that “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning the democratic system.”
Before elaborating on the significance of this bold statement, let me emphatically assert my agreement with the assertion that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump is indeed a “big lie.” There is absolutely no credible evidence of significant voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election. All claims to such fraudulence have been rejected by members of the judiciary. This makes me thankful that America’s Founding Fathers had the wisdom to establish a tripartite system of governance, with appropriate checks and balances between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, intended to prevent a president, like Donald Trump, committed to establishing autocratic rule by the Executive branch, from establishing such autocratic rule.
Relative to the current struggle for the soul of the Republican party, one political pundit said that the Trumpian vision for that future form of Republicanism “prefers to unite behind a lie [That the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump] rather than stay divided over truth.”
Saving my rejection of building a future Republicanism on a lie for my next Musing, I will now argue for my belief that “being divided over truth” is an inevitable aspect of our humanity that should be acknowledged and embraced and should be the starting point for respectful political discourse.
The fact that we are divided about the nature of truth about any given public policy issue reflects the fact that as finite and fallible human beings our beliefs about that issue are deeply informed by the particularities of our differing social locations, such as our gender, our socio-economic status, our sexual orientation and our life-stories. So, it is an inevitable aspect of the human condition that we often disagree about the truth regarding any public policy issue.
Social media is replete with recriminations from citizens on the right side of the political spectrum as to the “far left” political agenda. Not to be outdone, those on the left side of the political spectrum bemoan the “far right” political agenda.
Such recriminations only serve to eliminate the possibility of a genuine respectful conversation about disagreements because of their generality. What, exactly are the “far left” or “far right” agendas? Genuine respectful conversations about disagreements will be possible only if those on either side of the political spectrum stop talking in generalities and begin talking about specific public policy issues. In what follows, I will attempt to outline the contours of a potential respectful conversation about public policy issues that focus on the problem of poverty, being careful to introduce the voices of those who are actually experiencing severe poverty; thereby introducing the need to exercise empathy (putting yourself in the other person’s shoes) when embarking on such a conversation.
All of us take the position that what we believe about a given issue (in politics and every other area of public discourse) is true, and we are prepared to give our reasons for taking that position.
But what many of us are slow to acknowledge is that our believing that our position on a given issue is true is deeply informed by what scholars call “the particularities of our social location.” In plain English, this means that what we believe is true about a given issue is deeply informed by “who we are.”
For example, our beliefs are deeply informed by our gender, our socio-economic status, our sexual orientation, and a lifetime of experiences that comprise our personal biography; all elements of our “personal stories.” It is because our personal stories differ that we may hold to differing beliefs about the issue at hand. My personal story may help me to see and understand things that you miss because of your differing personal story, and, similarly, your personal story may help you to see and understand things that I miss because I am not you.
Following Jesus: Perspectives from Diverse Christian Traditions
We will be be screening and accepting comments to our respectful conversation on Following Jesus.