Like many other's, I have been concerned for some time now at the declining civility in public discourse. It so often seems that folks on media - radio, tv, print news - are often more uncivil than civil when discussing their point of view versus someone else's.
Last week I got an encouragement. It seems that this past Monday, liberal Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont spoke at conservative Liberty University in Virginia. There are huge disagreements between a politically liberal person and a politically conservative person. Yet, Sanders wanted to a) engage those with a different point of view and b) talk more about points of agreement than points of disagreement.
Sanders did a lecture, followed by a question-and-answer session. I was pleased to read that everyone - speaker and audience - maintained civility through the whole event. This, even while disagreeing vehemently about several very important issues. They were able to successfully manage differences in politics, religion and region.
It seems clear that someone like Sanders did not do this engagement in order to solicit votes from these folk. First, most of them are students, and second, they are in a very different political (and religious) camp. Sanders said, "It is harder but important to reach out to others who look at the world differently. We need to find some common ground; it is there." Evidently, Liberty University agreed.
It all gave me pause. How often have I railed at the tv when a pundit whose view is different than mine, goes on and on. How often have I neglected - nay, stronger than that - avoided encountering someone who, I know, has very different views than I. In other words, my typical behavior is to either do armchair venting, or avoid altogether.
Not Senator Sanders, nor Liberty University. They decided to engage. And to listen. And to disagree respectfully. And to acknowledge areas of agreement where such did exist (and there were many). It is so easy to discount or dismiss someone else's point of view by making reference to their background, by ascribing motive (like, 'Who made you god that you would know for certain what motivated someone else to do or think something?'), or focusing on a small point rather than the big ones. It was refreshing to read that this did not happen at this event.
This musing is not to raise a banner for either Senator Sanders or Liberty University. The above scenario is simply illustration of what one could do to help stem the decline of civility in public discourse: engage the other - the disagreeing, and often, disagreeable, other - respectfully. This seems a refreshing, freeing, hopeful alternative to either armchair venting or avoiding altogether.
"For it is God's will that by doing right, you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone..." - 1 Peter 2:15-17a
Thank you Pastor Michelle, for letting me share your musings. The note on points that the parties agreed on reminded me of another scripture I recently highlighted.
"...Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone..." 1 Corinthians 9:22