When I worked for Ozark Border Electric Cooperative, two of the directors I worked for were Glenn Holland and Loren Hedspeth. Glenn was a strong republican and Loren was a strong democrat and you could not find better friends. Glenn would chide Loren on a political issue and Loren would chide Glenn right back and then they would smile, enjoy the mental sparing that each provided the other. Glenn would do anything for Loren and Loren would do anything for Glenn. They were the best of friends.
One of the things I enjoy about the church I attend is the love we have for each other. It is that backdrop which frees us up to disagree with each other and in the respectful listening to each other we learn from each other (iron sharpens iron), without hurt feelings.
In today’s political environment, the republicans rarely listen to the democrats and the democrats rarely listen to the republicans. The anger they have for each other is building up in Washington D.C. and spilling over in to the rest of the country. This flowing hate out of Washington has reached many college campuses where safe spaces are requested, differing ideas are shouted down, and some college professors are being censored. The question is, will our rural communities be affected by this hate that spills out of Washington, or will our rural communities be on higher ground where the overflow of Washington’s hate can’t reach.
We live in a difficult time. People are at each other’s throats. Dishonesty, envy, terrorism, cybercrimes, persecution, and wars are all priority coverage for our newscasters. On top of that, it’s an election year, and the candidates are out to destroy each other, attacking each other’s ideologies, hammering the wedge issues, and fomenting dissention in order to appeal to their base.
Amid such chaos it might seem like brotherly love is a Biblical idea that has been lost. I might be able to love my spouse – most of the time – but don’t ask me to love my neighbor.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Recently I attended the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast and the guest speaker was Ben Carson, surgeon and U.S. Secretary of Housing. He recounted that our country was divided in the revolutionary war, the civil war, and World War II. Then he said, “What divides us today? What divides the most radical left wing person from the most radical right wing person? They probably agree on 90%, but that 10% they don’t agree on is fanned by the media making people believe they are enemies. We must resist those forces and fight for freedom of thought and speech. Freedom is not free. If we don’t care who gets the credit, we can achieve great things. There’s plenty of credit to go around. It’s not just the person in the White House.”
Great projects usually involve listening to the ideas of many to get the best possible solutions, so I believe Ben Carson is right, there’s plenty of credit to go around. But to get to those best possible solutions, perhaps we should consider this pledge on civil discourse:
“I pledge to engage in the basic principles of civil discourse: to respect diverse points of view; seek to understand before being understood; listen with an open mind; and speak with integrity. If I do not agree with another position or point of view, I will disagree in a respectful way. I will not disparage those with other opinions.”
I challenge each of you, in your own leadership roles at home, in school, and in the organizations you serve, to consider this pledge. Even a small light can make a difference in the darkness. Together we can take one collective small step towards making Missouri a more respectful, listening, and loving state.