Monday, November 19, 2012

Miscommunication, Part 2

One of the biggest problems currently facing the United States is that we can no longer communicate with each other.  People on each side of any given issue are coming from such a different worldview that they literally cannot understand what their opponents are saying.  At the same time, however, they act as though their opponents understand them perfectly and are willfully disregarding and disrespecting that knowledge.

One of the things I love about Jon Stewart is that he makes a serious effort to dialogue with those he disagrees with (i.e. most Republicans) - something that rarely happens these days, even on "serious" news programs.  But even he doesn't always succeed, as the above clip demonstrates.

Granted, Stewart has a perfectly valid point when he notes that many (if not most) viewers would interpret Mike Huckabee's commercial as saying that anyone who fails to vote in line with the religious right's agenda is going to hell.  Even some evangelicals haven't studied the Bible well enough to recognize the allusion to the testing of believers' works by fire mentioned in 1 Corinthians.  And the fact that Huckabee would give the go-ahead to such an easily misinterpreted message exposes his own blindness to the fact that not everyone understands his perspective.

Unfortunately, Stewart gets so caught up on that point that he leaves himself with inadequate time to point out that the commercial's intended message is just as manipulative, and only slightly less threatening.  Huckabee may not be threatening people who vote the "wrong" way with a one-way trip to damnation, but he is still telling them that to disobey the religious right on the issues in question is to go directly against the will of God.

It's a message that gives Huckabee's allies a reinforced sense of their own rightness, and leaves them feeling as though they have done their duty to try to correct those who disagree with them.  It's also a message that fails completely to communicate to anyone who doesn't already agree with them, while widening the rift.  And Stewart, though I commend him for trying, failed to bridge any of that distance.  I often wonder whether such a bridge is even possible in our current political climate.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


It's been quite a week.  Whether this proves to be *the* turning point in the battle for LGBT equal rights or merely a bright spot in a protracted conflict, a clean sweep of victories in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington is worth celebrating.  Across the country there are dozens of reasons for supporters of equality to be optimistic.

Even so, it would be premature to declare that it's all smooth sailing from here.  And while I obviously don't buy the religious right's line that the results of this election are going to trigger God's wrath, I also don't think it would be appropriate to invoke God's favor in the other direction.  What's wrong for one side is wrong for all sides, and my greatest hope is that more Christians will wake up, like this evangelical leader has, to how thoroughly (and inevitably) the quest for political power corrupts the Gospel.  As individual Americans it's entirely appropriate for all of us to be involved in the political process.  As a church, that's not how we're called to be defined.

That awakening appears to be gradually happening, but only time will tell if enough people wake up before the church's moral authority has been completely depleted by its current lust for power.