Bishop John Shelby Spong ~ June 16, 1931 – September 12, 2021
Bishop Spong provided a much needed place for those of us who did not connect with traditional theology. We love you Bishop Spong. You will be missed! Funeral services will be held at St. Peter’s, Morristown, NJ and at St. Paul’s, Richmond, VA. Dates and times will be announced as soon as they are available

Finding the middle we can walk together

 

Question & Answer

 
Q: By Jude
 
How can we stop the hate and bring the far right & left together to find the middle we can walk together and work for the USA’s survival?
 
A: By Rev. Jim Burklo
 
Dear Jude, I’ve been asking myself and others this same question for quite a while!  And I don’t have the full and definitive answer.

But I do believe that the first step toward an answer is the one Jesus inspires us to take – into unconditional, divine “agape” love.

To love people with whom we vigorously disagree is to pay attention to them, to listen with open hearts and minds.  The goal is not necessarily compromise, but understanding and connection.  We don’t need to “find the middle” in the process.  There is no “middle” between hatred and compassion.  There’s no such thing as being “half racist”.  But by asking sincere questions of people we perceive to be haters or racists, and by respectfully receiving their answers  – hard as they may be to hear – we model the compassion we hope will prevail, and we establish relationships that may, over time, change hearts and minds.  If we spent most of our time in political discussions asking questions instead of spouting out our opinions, we’d go very far toward healing the divisions in this country.

As your question suggests, democracy is seriously threatened in this country and many others around the world right now.  A major cause is media illiteracy:  tens of millions of Americans get their information about public affairs from unreliable sources.  Propaganda masquerading as journalism has poisoned political discourse.  When I get into a conversation about politics with someone I don’t know very well, often I start by asking them where they get their information.  What do they read?  What do they watch?  Are they consuming long-form journalism, editorial opinion pieces, or both?  How and why did they get started following these media outlets?  If we share the same kinds of news sources, then we can have discussions about what we found in them – which can lead to meaningful dialogue about issues.  But all too often, our sources are drastically different – misinformation from Fox versus in-depth reporting from PBS or NPR.  If we start political discussions with conversations about information sources, we can politely invite folks who inhabit the media miasma of conspiracy theories, overheated punditry, and outright falsehoods to pay a visit to the media universe that is committed to reporting facts.  There is little point in debating politics with people who aren’t grounded in the realities that public policies address.

Good journalism is attentive inquiry: it is a form of love.  It is the opposite of the angry invective, whether of the right – or left – wing variety, roaring out of commercial radio and television stations.   To heal our politics, let’s start by asking each other serious and thoughtful and honest questions – and by following news sources that do the same.

~ Rev. Jim Burklo
 
About the Author
Rev. Jim Burklo is the Senior Associate Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life at the University of Southern California.  An ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ, he is the author of seven published books on progressive Christianity, his latest book is Tenderly Calling: An Invitation to the Way of Jesus (St Johann Press, 2021).  His weekly blog, “Musings”, has a global readership.  He serves on the board of ProgressiveChristiansUniting.org and is an honorary advisor and frequent content contributor for ProgressiveChristianity.org.

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