error in the court

I love the below early judicial system. I love it because it makes sense. (Note: it’s typically good when life makes sense.)

Moses was struggling with all that was on his plate. He had boldly stood up to rulers of the day, sharing their awaited fate should they refuse to release those in captivity. Moses saw swarms of locusts and frogs and flies from afar, and he even witnessed the total separation of the Red Sea, a miracle so massive we sometimes forget it was real.

Moses was then involved when his community totally changed up their nutritional needs. He followed the clouds, so-to-speak. He also led his soldiers into battle when he seemed at the very least physically drained and exhausted, with his brother and friend actually having to hold up his arms. Moses was indeed a busy man.

And so knowing his plate was full and he thus had great potential for distraction, Moses’s father-in-law came to see him and gently speak truth. When we are so busy — so filled up with either emotion or task — sometimes it’s hard for us to see what’s true.

Moses bowed and welcomed his father-in-law; each asked the other how things had been with him. Jethro was delighted in all the good that God had done in the community. He first paused intentionally, just to thank God — noting that we often get so busy, we forget to thank he who makes the world go round. Sometimes we think we deserve the credit for all we do.

So the next day Moses took his place to judge the people — to execute the legal system — as was his practice and responsibility at the time, as the people knew they needed something organized, compassionate, and fair put in place.. Yet the people would stand before Moses all day long. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What’s going on here? Why are you doing all this, and all by yourself, letting everybody line up before you from morning to night?”

Moses told his father-in-law this was his job. “The people come to me,” so he answered their questions about what was good and who is God, and he also settled all of their judicial disputes.

Quickly, his wise father-in-law said, “That is not good.” It was too much, and one person can’t do this alone. “You need to keep a sharp eye out for competent men — men who fear God, men of integrity, men who are incorruptible — and appoint them as leaders over groups organized by the thousand, by the hundred, by fifty, and by ten. They’ll be responsible for the everyday work of judging among the people. They’ll bring the hard cases to you, but in the routine cases they’ll be the judges. They will share your load and that will make it easier for you. If you handle the work this way, you’ll have the strength to carry out whatever God commands you, and the people in their settings will flourish also.”

I love a couple of things here. First, I love how Moses listened to the counsel of his father-in-law and did what he said.

I then love how Moses picked competent people — people with unquestionable integrity. Integrity is so important. There is some correlation between integrity and flourishing.

It reminds me what a fair judicial system is…

… and is not.

A fair judicial system is governed by one or some who listen to all relevant accounts…

It is one which has the goal of justice for all… not only for some… and allows for appropriate consequence, absent revenge.

The reason Moses could not do it all on his own is because he was stretched too far; he couldn’t listen to all relevant accounts. And thus his potential for error would have been higher.

Sometimes I see current culture also making errors in what counts as our courts…

We sometimes don’t listen to all relevant accounts. We sometimes are biased to particular bents, because of how we feel about a person or based on our own experience, which we can’t seem to separate.

Sadly, sometimes our judicial system plays on a different court.

We have allowed social media to often decide innocence or guilt, forgetting that social media is not exclusive to competent persons — persons who respect God, are of solid integrity, and who are incorruptible. We listen to what we want, discounting perspective that could be deemed as far more than inconvenient truth.

When we allow social media then to be the decider of justice, we should be the ones to say, “this is not good.”

Respectfully…
AR

harassment & the current moral panic

I’ve struggled with how to write this. In fact, the writer quoted below said she’s been “more hesitant to speak about this than I’ve been of getting on the wrong side of the mafia, al-Qaeda, or the Kremlin.” Respectful advocates and conversationalists desire to provoke no one. Our desire is to correctly handle the word of truth.

It is hard, however, in the current court of public opinion and in a judicial system that has seemingly now absorbed an additional social media branch. Angles and perspective may be omitted. Some emotion may feel only callously addressed. And sometimes we each also project individual experience onto everyone else — forgetting that varied, valid perspectives exist.

We affirm the brave and the boldly articulate. We care deeply for the still silent, who are working through the hard stuff. We also affirm the advocates who’ve worked tirelessly to root out the misogynistic aspects of current culture that exist. No one should be despised nor harassed because of their gender. That truth should be handled well.

The unsettled question this day rests with how we discern what’s true. The concern that accompanies the question is if public opinion and social media — which at this point seem exponentially quicker in determining both verdict and consequence — is what are the ramifications of the current way we are discerning sexual misconduct?

Is an allegation enough? Does it matter if one person remembers an incident differently? What makes a perspective true? And what should the consequence then be?

I’m struck by the response of both Al Franken and Dustin Hoffman this week. Both have been accused of misconduct, yet both also were very clear that they don’t share the perspective of each of their accusers. Are the men automatically wrong? Does it matter?

The sincere, tough, awkward, elephant-in-the-room question is if a woman is uncomfortable — or uncomfortable now — is the man automatically wrong?

Claire Berlinski wrote a bold piece in “The American Interest” last week; it’s tough to read. Note that she’s a seemingly fair-minded person who believes former president Bill Clinton and current Senate candidate Roy Moore are both sexual predators; she also is quick to acknowledge that even though she is personally convinced, she may also be mistaken. Correctly discerning the truth means we acknowledge we might be mistaken.

More excerpts from Berlinski: “#Metoo, of course. Women are not going nuts for no reason…

… Yet something is troubling me. Recently I saw a friend—a man—pilloried on Facebook for asking if #metoo is going too far. ‘No,’ said his female interlocutors. ‘Women have endured far too many years of harassment, humiliation, and injustice. We’ll tell you when it’s gone too far.’ But I’m part of that ‘we,’ and I say it is going too far. Mass hysteria has set in. It has become a classic moral panic, one that is ultimately as dangerous to women as to men.

… It now takes only one accusation to destroy a man’s life. Just one for him to be tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion, overnight costing him his livelihood and social respectability. We are on a frenzied extrajudicial warlock hunt that does not pause to parse the difference between rape and stupidity. The punishment for sexual harassment is so grave that clearly this crime—like any other serious crime—requires an unambiguous definition. We have nothing of the sort.

In recent weeks, one after another prominent voice, many of them political voices, have been silenced by sexual harassment charges. Not one of these cases has yet been adjudicated in a court of law. Leon Wiesenthal, David Corn, Mark Halperin, Michael Oreskes, Al Franken, Ken Baker, Rick Najera, Andy Signore, Jeff Hoover, Matt Lauer, even Garrison Keillor—all have received the professional death sentence. Some of the charges sound deadly serious. But others—as reported anyway—make no sense. I can’t say whether the charges against these men are true; I wasn’t under the bed. But even if true, some have been accused of offenses that aren’t offensive, or offenses that are only mildly so—and do not warrant total professional and personal destruction.

The things men and women naturally do—flirt, play, lewdly joke, desire, seduce, tease—now become harassment only by virtue of the words that follow the description of the act, one of the generic form: ‘I froze. I was terrified.’ It doesn’t matter how the man felt about it. The onus to understand the interaction and its emotional subtleties falls entirely on him… Do not mistake me for a rape apologist… No civilized society tolerates rape…”

In Berlinski’s search for a wise way to discern what’s true, she goes on to discuss how our culture has historically been disposed to moral panics and sexual hysterias… how we’ve become prone to replacing complex thought with shallow slogans… how prominent and damaging our increasing extremism and black-and-white thinking has become… and the likelihood of men no longer enjoying the company of women in the workplace if unproven allegations are equated with truth.

We have to find a wise way to discern what is true, friends… a way through that is honoring of both women and men — of women and men whose integrity has not been compromised… a way, admittedly, thanks to public opinion and social media, that is currently hard.

Respectfully…
AR

t-shirts, protests & maybe a little bit more

It’s just a t-shirt. Amazing how a set of shirts can say so much…

Peace.
Justice.
Humility.
Togetherness.
Respect.
Loyalty.
Love.
Empathy.
Unity.
Friendship.
Forgiveness.
Tolerance.
Compassion.
Equality.

This year prior to the start of the season, the Director of Basketball Administration & Operations at Purdue University sat down with the men’s basketball team, as he often does, discussing things other than basketball. They talked about many things — from the mass shooting in Las Vegas to the protests by some NFL players during the National Anthem.

While it’s no secret the Intramuralist loves her alma mater, this is just one more reason why. I love that with a college backdrop, they recognize that far more than an academic education is both valuable and vital.

And so going into the season, Purdue’s seniors led the way, asking each of the 14 members of the men’s team to submit a word or two that was meaningful to them — “words you believe in,” said starting guard Carsen Edwards. And so the above list was born.

Now, with the season in full swing, while warming up on the court prior to game start, each of the 14 wears a t-shirt donning a single one of the words.

For Carsen Edwards, it’s “love.”
For nationally-watched guard Vince Edwards, it’s “humility.” He spoke of all his parents taught him. “Be humble. Always be respectful.” Hence, he picked humility.

Vince Edwards goes on to explain: “The shirts pretty much stand for everything we need in this world right now. We just wanted to give the message. All the words make you think when you see 14 different players run out with 14 different words on their chest.”

So true. So diverse.

The challenge with so many people earnestly desiring to make a statement today is that they do so with protest. And friends, there is nothing wrong with a peaceful, respectful protest. Yet way too many protests seem to leave something vital out.

For example, think of the person screaming “Justice! I demand justice!” But in their calls for justice, they omit love and respect. It thus sounds as if they don’t truly care about all people.

Think of the person who screams “tolerance!” But in their demand for tolerance, there exists an absence of compassion for those who think differently. The extent of effectiveness of their demand will then be minimized, as it’s obvious only some things will be tolerated.

And think, too, of the one who shouts “equality!” But in their sincere efforts to pursue such, they only do so by demeaning and insulting someone else, treating them as, well, someone less than equal.

Too much is omitted in too many protests.

We cannot forget the contagiousness of humility.
We cannot ignore the power of empathy.
And we cannot omit the dire need for forgiveness.

True, they are just 14 words on the chests of 14 players — from all different backgrounds and walks of life — no doubt a diverse crew.

Amazing how a set of shirts can say so much.

Respectfully…
AR

speaking up for women

Come on in. Pull up a chair. It’s a sensitive topic today, and thus I want to make sure we handle it respectfully and well. Let’s address #metoo — the two word hashtag which spread virally last month in the wake of allegations directed at Hollywood mogul and major political player Harvey Weinstein, denouncing sexual assault and harassment.

The phrase encouraged women to speak up and denounce misogynistic behavior; women should never be treated so callously — as if they are only physical or sexual objects. The speaking up has since continued, with allegations seemingly flooding out, directed at persons hailing from all walks of life.

I have empathetically and heartbrokenly watched for weeks, hating to see so many so hurt and so much hurt buried — but I also admire those brave women who have finally felt courageous enough to speak out. Such triggers a few more questions and thoughts… honestly, truthfully, and with tremendous respect…

First, we can’t say enough that any who state that they have been assaulted or harassed should be treated with the utmost sobriety and respect. No matter who is involved, such never qualifies as any SNL fodder.

A few other brief observations…

I’ve noticed that harassment is not an indigenous activity; it’s not prone to a specific people group, party, or politics. For too long, however, too many have seemed to suggest that only one people group has a problem. And as long as we’ve allowed ourselves to politicize something that should in no way be politicized, piling on has been encouraged, frequent, and become a basis for further divisive, disrespectful, social media memes. As we now watch the accusations evolve against multiple people groups, we see that no group has cornered the market on treating all women well.

Unfortunately, with that, it seems a watching public tends to give the benefit of doubt to those they politically align with… we “wait and see” with those who vote the way we like, but we are quick to throw patience, grace, and that benefit of doubt right out the nearest window when political alignment is nonexistent. It thus seems our political stances continue to cloud our judgment.

In addition to the imprudent politicization, no less — and this is a tough but sincere question — what if not all accusations are true? What if some accounts are exaggerated, false, or even unknowingly wrong?

Please go back to our first statement in that any who state they have been assaulted or harassed should be treated with the utmost sobriety and respect. Also, with the current professional collateral damage that seems to accompany accusations, there may exist motive to lie, especially for those among us who’ve convinced themselves that the end justifies the means. The “end,” so-to-speak, should never alter our moral compass.

But there’s one point that seems absent from the public dialogue thus far — and truthfully, it’s a little tricky to articulate — because it’s not quite comfortable nor convenient in 21st Century America. We are discussing the abuse and mistreatment of women in our society. We are collectively saying that we will take this no more; women are not to be treated as solely physical or sexual objects. But what if in our society, there exists an accepted venue that treats women as exactly that?

What if there was an accepted venue that treats women so poorly, yet shockingly brings in more revenue annually than the NBA, NFL, and MLB combined? … more revenue than ABC, CBS, and NBC combined? … more traffic than Amazon, Netflix, and Twitter combined?

The pornography industry is the largest, most profitable industry in the world. And yet, women are treated as physical and sexual objects.

“It’s no secret that porn has become mainstream entertainment in our society,” Fight the New Drug articulately states. “From popular porn sites putting up billboards in New York City’s Times Square to online news sources like BuzzFeed normalizing porn with viral videos, it feels like porn is everywhere you look. Porn is plastered all over social media sites like Tumblr, and it’s easy to see on Twitter considering the Twitterverse is home to an estimated 10+ million porn accounts.”

All women deserve to be valued and cherished. The bottom line is that all women are not valued nor cherished in pornography.

There is much to speak up about and denounce, my friends. Seems like we need more than another hashtag.

Respectfully…
AR

ok to discriminate against one?

Let’s juxtapose two different legal proceedings.

First, as reported by the progressive advocacy news site, “Think Progress,” in May…

“At last, Jane Meyer gets to celebrate a victory.

The former senior associate athletic director at the University of Iowa sued the university for gender and sexual orientation discrimination, whistleblower violations, and unequal pay. On Thursday, she was awarded $1.43 million in damages from a Polk County jury…

Meyer began working at Iowa in 2001, when she was hired by then-athletics director Bob Bowlsby as the senior women’s administrator. She was the second-in-command in that department, and Bowlsby gave her excellent performance reviews and indications that she would be able to run her own athletic department some day. But everything changed when Bowlsby left the school in 2006 and Gary Barta became athletics director…

At the end of 2014, Meyer gave Barta a memo outlining the gender discrimination she had witnessed and experienced in the department. The following day she was reassigned to another program at the university, away from the athletics community she loved.”

Second, as reported by the conservative commentary, Stream.org, a little over a month ago…

“Former college basketball star Camille LeNoir was hired to be a college assistant coach. However, the offer was rescinded when the school found out from an old YouTube video that she was no longer gay. Not only did she no longer identify as gay, she said it was a sin.

LeNoir’s former coach at New Mexico State University, Mark Trakh, offered her a job as an assistant basketball coach. But just two days before she was to leave for New Mexico, he called her to rescind the offer. Trakh informed her that he’d watched a 2011 YouTube video where LeNoir talked about basketball, sexuality and faith.

For most of her collegiate career, LeNoir was in a relationship with women. After college, LeNoir played basketball in Greece, where she was the top Point Guard of the league. It was during her time in Greece that she felt convicted to leave homosexuality…

Trakh told LeNoir to pull the video or she’d never work in the industry. ‘I felt the job was taken away because of my heterosexuality,’ she said. She’s now suing New Mexico State in a U.S. District Court. She said she was discriminated against because of her religious beliefs and sexuality. New Mexico State claims in court documents that LeNoir’s statements on homosexuality in the film would ‘have had an adverse impact’ on her ‘ability to effectively coach and recruit players who identify as LGBT’…

‘I never had a chance to talk to anyone, to share,’ LeNoir told The Washington Post. ‘It’s like they took this video and the fact that I’m heterosexual now and made decisions without getting to know the Camille six years later.’

‘I believe it was an injustice,’ said Camille. ‘A huge injustice.’”

So two women feel discriminated against…

One because she is gay.
And one because she is not.

Assuming the accusations are true (which has yet to be determined in the latter case), allow me a brief series of sincere questions:

Is discrimination ever ok?

Why would we be sensitive to only some injustice? Why would we be sensitive to only one of the above?

And, in our sincere efforts to love and respect some, why do we sometimes justify the victimization of someone else?

Respectfully… always…
AR

wrestling with a tough topic

Talk about tough topics in current culture, I came across a unique one this week. Allow me to share the unfolding pattern prior to any specific perspective…

It started with a bold statement on social media.

Then, some genuine, diverse opinion was shared.

Then came some strong feelings…

Are you referring to me?? To my family??

To some, it became personal. That led to finger pointing and defensiveness…

I am actually shocked that you are not supportive… Your concern is not my fault…

And then motive was assigned to opposing opinion…

They are afraid.

Few questions were asked seeking to understand — from any supposed side. There was more an assertion of individual opinion accompanied by a disdain of perceived opposing opinion, as it seemingly evolved into an “only two-sided issue,” where only one could be right — and one had to be wrong.

Hence, with no questions, then came the actual dismissal of any validity in different opinion…

This is the way it is. Period.

As a current events observer — and only a semi-humble one at that — I paid special attention to this thread, as it was based on a subject matter of which I’m fairly ignorant. Seeking to learn from those who have broader perspectives than mine, I thought it was a great way to learn.

But I was quickly dismayed that any learning opportunity was squelched by how personal the topic was perceived, the justification of finger pointing, the absence of questions, the assignment of motive, and the rejection of any other perspective “other than mine.” There was no tolerance for perceived opposing opinion.

And so I again found myself asking…

Is there only one right angle?

Is there only one right way to think about this?

If I put myself in your shoes, would I feel exactly like you? Do the “shoes” matter?

And the great big, profound clunky question: since we believe what we believe because it is best, what happens when what I think is best is different than what you think is best?

My sense is our goal shouldn’t be to beat another into submitting to our opinion. My sense is also that we should not finger point, assign motive, and reject. In a wise society, friends, we are to respond in love. All the time. Regardless of issue.

This issue had nothing to do with kneeling, climate change, or the latest college football rankings. There was no talk of the 1st, 2nd, or any Amendment. There was also no one who invoked (good or bad) the name of the current Oval Office holder. Still, it was a subject in which admittedly, the Intramuralist knew little…

Co-ed wrestling.

“As a parent would you want your daughter to wrestle?”

“… There’s not a girls’ wrestling team… Some boys will not be able to give 100%… I think there’s a big difference between youth vs. high school…”

I wish we could have all conversations better… conversations, regardless of topic, in which we could respect one another, allow differing opinion to exist, not make it or take it personally, resist the assignment of motive, especially regarding perspectives we don’t share.

I wish we would respond in love.

Respectfully…
AR

what’s most important

Marquese Goodwin has known much success in his 26 years.

He was born in Lubbuck, Texas and attended Rowlett High School. There he had the second fastest 100-meter time in the Lone Star State, was the state champion in the triple jump and long jump, and was a member of the state title-winning 4×100-meter relay team. He won seven team track and field championships.

Goodwin’s success did not stop there.

On scholarship at the University of Texas, Goodwin continued to succeed. In track and field, he was a two-time NCAA champion in the long jump and a four-time All-American in track and field. He won five Big 12 Conference championships and made the All-Big 12 team seven times. His collegiate success then propelled him to the 2012 Summer Olympics, finishing tenth in the long jump.

But Goodwin simultaneously played collegiate football, starting as a receiver and returner, including in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game. He has played in the NFL since 2013; he is currently a wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers.

This past Sunday, the Niners played the Giants. In the second quarter, Goodwin was on the receiving end of a huge play, scoring an 83-yard touchdown, his best play of the year.

As soon as he reached the end zone, Goodwin blew a kiss to the sky, fell to his knees, and made the sign of the cross. He then gently laid his head upon the end zone turf, as several players came and appropriately, gently knelt beside him.

Just hours earlier, his wife, former Longhorn hurdler champion Morgan Goodwin-Snow, had to deliver their first child prematurely due to complications within the pregnancy. The baby boy did not survive.

Said later in an Instagram update by Marquese:

“I just wanna thank those who’ve genuinely prayed for @morganakamomo & myself through out this pregnancy. Unfortunately we lost our baby boy due to some complications, and had to prematurely deliver him early this morning around 4am. Although we are hurt, I am grateful for the experience and grateful that God blessed me with a wife as courageous and resilient as Morgan. The pain (physically, mentally, & emotionally) that she has endured is unbelievable. Please Pray for the Goodwin family.”

I can only imagine the depth of the pain the Goodwin’s feel at this time… and to still go to work. Gut-wrenching.

And while my heart aches for this family, I find myself simultaneously struck by Goodwin’s apparent realization of what’s most important.

When Goodwin crossed the goal line, there was no celebration. There was no dancing. No drama. None of the current clever, often whimsical festivities.

Goodwin did his job, was honest in his emotion, and in his grief, still later was able to acknowledge the great big God of the universe.

My sense is that sometimes we get lost in the game. We get lost in any perceived competition — be it sports, politics, you-name-it. Sometimes we get distracted and derailed. We start to major on the minors, no longer able to recognize what is minor.

My prayer is that we always instead realize what is most important.

God be with the Goodwin family. Pray for them, Marquese humbly requests.

It’s important.

Respectfully…
AR

they are dumb

Rarely do we simply post another’s editorial, but the truth is we learn from each other — never solely from one and never wisely, solely from the likeminded. Hear the wise words of New York City writer, Sean Blanda, written well over a year and a half ago, in a piece entitled “The ‘Other Side’ Is Not Dumb”… [Note: all emphasis is mine.]

“There’s a fun game I like to play in a group of trusted friends called ‘Controversial Opinion.’ The rules are simple: Don’t talk about what was shared during Controversial Opinion afterward and you aren’t allowed to ‘argue’  —  only to ask questions about why that person feels that way. Opinions can range from ‘I think James Bond movies are overrated’ to ‘I think Donald Trump would make a excellent president.’

Usually, someone responds to an opinion with, ‘Oh my god! I had no idea you were one of those people!’ Which is really another way of saying ‘I thought you were on my team!’
In psychology, the idea that everyone is like us is called the ‘false-consensus bias.’ This bias often manifests itself when we see TV ratings… or in politics… or polls…

Online it means we can be blindsided by the opinions of our friends or, more broadly, America. Over time, this morphs into a subconscious belief that we and our friends are the sane ones and that there’s a crazy ‘Other Side’ that must be laughed at  —  an Other Side that just doesn’t ‘get it,’ and is clearly not as intelligent as ‘us.’ But this holier-than-thou social media behavior is counterproductive, it’s self-aggrandizement at the cost of actual nuanced discourse and if we want to consider online discourse productive, we need to move past this.

What is emerging is the worst kind of echo chamber, one where those inside are increasingly convinced that everyone shares their world view, that their ranks are growing when they aren’t. It’s like clockwork: an event happens and then your social media circle is shocked when a non-social media peer group public reacts to news in an unexpected way. They then mock the Other Side for being ‘out of touch’ or ‘dumb’…

When someone communicates that they are not ‘on our side’ our first reaction is to run away or dismiss them as stupid. To be sure, there are hateful, racist, people not worthy of the small amount of electricity it takes just one of your synapses to fire. I’m instead referencing those who actually believe in an opposing viewpoint of a complicated issue, and do so for genuine, considered reasons. Or at least, for reasons just as good as yours.

This is not a ‘political correctness’ issue. It’s a fundamental rejection of the possibility to consider that the people who don’t feel the same way you do might be right. It’s a preference to see the Other Side as a cardboard cut out, and not the complicated individual human beings that they actually are.

What happens instead of genuine intellectual curiosity is the sharing of Slate or Daily Kos or Fox News or Red State links. Sites that exist almost solely to produce content to be shared so friends can pat each other on the back and mock the Other Side. Look at the Other Side! So dumb and unable to see this the way I do!

Sharing links that mock a caricature of the Other Side isn’t signaling that we’re somehow more informed. It signals that we’d rather be smug a$$holes than consider alternative views. It signals that we’d much rather show our friends that we’re like them, than try to understand those who are not.

It’s impossible to consider yourself a curious person and participate in social media in this way. We cannot consider ourselves ‘empathetic’ only to turn around and belittle those who don’t agree with us.
On Twitter and Facebook this means we prioritize by sharing stuff that will garner approval of our peers over stuff that’s actually, you know, true. We share stuff that ignores wider realities, selectively shares information, or is just an outright falsehood. The misinformation is so rampant that the Washington Post stopped publishing its internet fact-checking column because people didn’t seem to care if stuff was true…

Institutional distrust is so high right now, and cognitive bias so strong always, that the people who fall for hoax news stories are frequently only interested in consuming information that conforms with their views  —  even when it’s demonstrably fake.
The solution, as [author Fredrik] deBoer says, ‘You have to be willing to sacrifice your carefully curated social performance and be willing to work with people who are not like you.’ In other words you have to recognize that the Other Side is made of actual people.

But I’d like to go a step further. We should all enter every issue with the very real possibility that we might be wrong this time.

Isn’t it possible that you… like me, suffer from this from time to time? Isn’t it possible that we’re not right about everything? That those who live in places not where you live, watch shows that you don’t watch, and read books that you don’t read, have opinions and belief systems just as valid as yours? That maybe you don’t see the entire picture?

Think political correctness has gotten out of control? Follow the many great social activists on Twitter. Think America’s stance on guns is puzzling? Read the stories of the 31% of Americans that own a firearm. This is not to say the Other Side is ‘right’ but that they likely have real reasons to feel that way. And only after understanding those reasons can a real discussion take place.

As any debate club veteran knows, if you can’t make your opponent’s point for them, you don’t truly grasp the issue. We can bemoan political gridlock and a divisive media all we want. But we won’t truly progress as individuals until we make an honest effort to understand those that are not like us. And you won’t convince anyone to feel the way you do if you don’t respect their position and opinions.

A dare for the next time you’re in discussion with someone you disagree with: Don’t try to ‘win.’ Don’t try to ‘convince’ anyone of your viewpoint. Don’t score points by mocking them to your peers. Instead try to ‘lose.’ Hear them out. Ask them to convince you and mean it. No one is going to tell your environmentalist friends that you merely asked follow up questions after your brother made his pro-fracking case.

Or, the next time you feel compelled to share a link on social media about current events, ask yourself why you are doing it. Is it because that link brings to light information you hadn’t considered? Or does it confirm your world view, reminding your circle of intellectual teammates that you’re not on the Other Side?

I implore you to seek out your opposite. When you hear someone cite ‘facts’ that don’t support your viewpoint don’t think ‘that can’t be true!’ Instead consider, ‘Hm, maybe that person is right? I should look into this.’

Because refusing to truly understand those who disagree with you is intellectual laziness and worse, is usually worse than what you’re accusing the Other Side of doing.”

Respectfully… of all sides…
AR

something is always bigger

As is typical in our family, my spouse and I sat down the other evening to catch the day’s sporting events — bouncing between baseball’s league championship series and the start of the professional basketball season. Truth told, pro basketball doesn’t always keep my attention; it sometimes seems like defense is only played the last ten minutes of the game. But in solely the first six minutes of the season, our eyes were glued to the television. I wish they had not been so glued.

The Celtics were playing the Cavaliers in Cleveland, and not halfway through the first quarter, star free agent pickup, Boston’s Gordon Hayward, went up for a routine alley-oop — a play he’s probably made hundreds of times — and in one of the most grisly injuries to watch unfold, Hayward landed awkwardly, his ankle contorted underneath him, fracturing both his ankle and left tibia.

Happening in front of the opposing team, the Cavaliers’ bench responded in immediate, unprecedented queasiness, scrambling to look away. It was grisly and gruesome indeed… an injury that should be wished upon no one.

Note the immediate wishes from all over the sports spectrum…

For @gordonhayward. Come back stronger!
     — from Steph Curry

God bless you bro @gordonhayward ! help him thru this god!
 — from Paul George

Never like to see that. Best wishes to @gordonhayward
 — from soccer’s Jody Altidore

Praying for my guy @gordonhayward!!! NEVER want to see any of the guys go through anything like that.
 — from DeAndre Jordan

NBA | Heartbreak for #GordonHayward but beautiful to see the NBA Community come together for him. Our thoughts and prayers are with you
— from award-winning broadcaster Benny Bonsu

Lord , Carry Him Now @gordonhayward
— from Dwight Howard

No no no no no no………. praying everything is okay…
— from Jared Sullinger

Gordon and Robyn, our thoughts are with you and your family. All of Jazz Nation sending best wishes for a speedy recovery.
 — from the Utah Jazz, Hayward’s former team

Never want to see that man!#thoughtsandprayers
 — from Zach LaVine

@gordonhayward. Only God has ALL the answers.
— from Shaun Livingston

@gordonhayward prayin for u my brother.
 — from Odell Beckham, Jr.

Prayers to @gordonhayward @celtics hope people will understand better that NOTHINGS guaranteed in the game we love
 — from Bruce Bowen

Wow… that’s horrific… feel awful for Hayward
   — from Jeremy Lin

Can’t even put into words.
Gordon Hayward.
Feeling for you man.
Absolutely gut wrenching.
 — from JJ Watt

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Gordon Hayward. #BiggerThanBasketball
 — from the Cleveland Cavaliers

Absolutely gut wrenching. Never like to see that. Feel awful…
Injury should be wished upon no one. I hope we get that. I pray, too, we can always be graceful, wishing another well, even in opposition, realizing something is always “bigger” — in far more than basketball. I thus also pray our emotion and opposition wouldn’t keep us from extending the wisdom and warmth embedded within such beautiful (and beautifully contagious) grace.

Respectfully…
AR

ideology’s corruption

First, two definitions…

(1) echo chamber (n.) – An environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered.

And (2) dialogue (n.) – An exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue, especially a political or religious issue, with a view to reaching an amicable agreement or settlement.

Question: do we actually want to solve our existing societal issues? … the political strife, the racial tension, the ever-increasing list of socio-economic debates? Note that only one of the above pursues solution. The echo chambers — the social media circles, chat rooms, and Facebook threads that are only gracious and inviting to likeminded ideology — do not solve the problems plaguing us today. They only reverberate the sound of our own opinions, which encourages ideology adherence. From The Witherspoon Institute’s Randall Smith in his poignant discussion of “Ideology and the Corruption of Language”.

“… How do we recognize the language of ‘ideology’ and distinguish it from a ‘principled position’? One common clue is that those who hold a principled position welcome arguments; they welcome having their position tested and possibly corrected. A principled position always has room for increased subtlety and greater complexity. Holders of an ‘ideology,’ on the other hand, will tend to eschew argument or any examination of the ideology’s underlying presuppositions or premises, often refusing to concede that greater subtlety may be required to apply the principles to real-life situations. Ideology disdains argument; people with principled positions embrace it warmly and engage in it gladly.

Note, however, that ‘engaging in argument’ is not the same as a dual monologue or sharing complaints about opponents. If you’re unsure what a dialogue is supposed to sound like, read one of Plato’s. Socrates is as good a teacher of dialogue as anyone who ever lived. Personally, I suggest beginning with the ‘Gorgias.’

In the ‘Gorgias,’ Socrates defends ‘dialectic’ (the question-and-answer method he engages in with interlocutors) and distinguishes it from ‘sophistry.’ What Plato especially disliked about sophistry was its corruption of language: the belief that language was not primarily for the expression of truth but for the acquisition of power. Sophists bragged that they could convince the ignorant masses of anything, even better than people who were experts on a subject. How did they do this? By twisting words and using language to inflame the passions rather than to engage the logic of the mind. Appeal to fear and play on people’s anxiety, never asking them to think about the evidence for your claims or reflect on the possible unintended consequences of a course of action.

This corruption of language is a characteristic sign of ideology. Throughout the Platonic dialogues, Socrates spends a great deal of time trying to clarify words, attempting to get clear on what people mean when they use terms such as ‘good’ or ‘just’ or ‘great.’ Ideologies want to skip over all that hard work. Asking what someone means by ‘good’ or ‘just’ or ‘fair’ is, to the devoted ideologue, like the greengrocer refusing to put the sign in his window. It suggests you’re not a party member.

Watch out for this. Refusing to discuss one’s terms because the point is ‘obvious,’ insisting on using euphemisms rather than plain speech, relying on a very specialized vocabulary and being unable to express one’s thoughts without it, using speech to vilify persons rather than to clarify positions: these are all clues that you’re dealing with ideology, not principle.”

Ideology’s corruption of language does not pursue solution. In fact, while justifying loving treatment toward some, it is accompanied by the unintended consequence of unloving treatment toward some others.

How many times have we heard or said, “I cannot have one more conversation in which they don’t realize the point is obvious!… I cannot have political debates with these people! Our disagreement is not merely political; it’s a fundamental divide on what it means to be good!” And with that we label the other person as either arrogant, ignorant or compassionless. We justify no more dialogue, assuming only we are good.

As an advocate of respectful dialogue, allow me to encourage the hard work. Allow me to encourage the investment in dialogue, the sincere wrestling with unlike opinion, and the exit from echo chambers. Echo chambers are easy, as the reverberation of like opinion never challenges us to consider the wisdom of another approach. Think about the evidence for our own claims and reflect upon the possible unintended consequences of a course of action. Encounter others sincerely, selflessly. Clarify. Don’t vilify. Listen well. And do nothing that justifies loving another less — such as refusing to have “one more conversation.”

Respectfully…
AR