Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.
Alternative Political Conversation
Aspiring to be a follower of Jesus, I am called to love others. As a deep expression of this love, I can provide a welcoming space for someone who disagrees with me to express that disagreement, and I can engage that person in respectful conversation about our differences.
This kind of love is largely absent from our current political discourse. Those on both sides of the political aisle too often resort to name-calling and demonization of their opponents, and whatever conversation they may have is often nasty and shrill, giving little evidence of a desire to adequately understand and respect the other’s position.
In fact, it is getting increasingly difficult go get members of either party to even talk to one another. Our tendency is to want to talk only to those who already agree with us. We often demonstrate a strong reluctance to give a fair hearing—or any hearing at all—to opposing points of view. We like to hear an “echo of ourselves.”
Cable television and radio talk shows have aggravated both of these problems. If you get your political news exclusively from either MSNBC or FOX News, you will likely only hear opinions that reinforce what you already believe. You will seldom be exposed to an opposing position intended to make you think about the adequacy of your own position and entertain the possibility that you can refine your position in light of the opinions of those who disagree with you.
Through the eyes of faith, I envision a better way, a Christian way, to talk about political issues. On February 1, 2012, I will attempt to put legs on this vision with the launch of an “Alternative Political Conversation” on my web site www.respectfulconversation.net, the PURPOSE of which is to model respectful conversation among those who disagree about important public policy issues. It is my HOPE that the results of this conversation will help Christians, and all other citizens, to clarify their own views on selected public policy issues in preparation for their voting decisions in November 2012.
I shaped this initiative in collaboration with Steve Monsma, a Fellow at the Center for Public Justice and a Research Fellow at the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College. It is co-sponsored by the Center for Christian Studies at Gordon College, the Henry Institute and the Center for Public Justice.
I have obtained commitments from six deeply committed, politically astute Christians to be regular commentators, posting position papers on a variety of public policy topics (e.g., the federal budget deficit, immigration, the middle-east conflict, abortion) that will be announced about every three weeks between February 1 and the November 2012 elections. After each set of postings, interested readers will have the opportunity to join the moderated conversation by submitting their comments on any given posting.
The six regular commentators have been chosen to reflect differing points all along the political spectrum. They are Amy Black (Wheaton College), Paul Brink (Gordon College), David Gushee (Mercer University), Lisa Sharon Harper (Sojourners), Steve Monsma (Henry Institute), and Eric Teetsel (American Enterprise Institute).
Our six commentators share some common ground in embracing the following five “Basic Christian Principles for Politics and Public Policy.” First, truth-telling is essential. Second, all human beings are created by God and in His image. Third, human beings are both fallen and capable of redemption. Fourth, government has been established by God to promote a just order in society that benefits the common good, and, fifth, in-between individuals and government are a host of civil society institutions, each of which are important (e.g., families, religious congregations, voluntary associations).
However, while our commentators share these principles, I anticipate that they will differ significantly in their beliefs about the implications of these principles—reflecting the importance in political discourse of distinguishing between “ends” (for which agreement may be forthcoming) and the best possible “means” to attain those ends (for which one can expect significant disagreement).
Brief bios of the six regular commentators, elaborations on the five principles named above, and instructions for submitting comments for this conversation can be accessed by clicking onto the “Background and Instructions” icon on the “Alternative Conversation Page” on my web site.
I invite and encourage all interested readers to follow this timely and important conversation and contribute by submitting comments.
—Harold Heie is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Christian Studies at Gordon College and a former Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Center for Public Justice.
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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”