Building Community During a Pandemic

Loveland, Colorado’s newest community mural, located on 4th Street at Lincoln. Made up of 336 individual tiles.
One of my favorite hand-print tiles.

When Donald Trump was elected to the presidency in 2016 I heard numerous accounts of people weeping, going into depression, and cutting ties with friends and family who had voted for Trump. It was during this climate that I conceived of the idea of putting on a giant community art event that would involve hundreds of people coming together to create a unified statement.

Five monumental murals later we have a new president and the nation appears to me to be more divided than ever. Furthermore, any attempts at building community are made more challenging as we can’t see each other’s faces or be in close physical proximity to one another. Both people and events are now frequently cancelled.

In past years all the mural painting has been done over a 3 day period in the midst of Loveland’s annual Valentine’s Day street festival. It’s been fun, but often chaotic and cold!

This depiction of hops was painted by the Brew master at Grimm Brothers Brewhouse.

This year, though the street festival was cancelled, the city still wanted to celebrate the Valentine season by going forward with a new community mural. For subject matter in past years I had parodied a famous painting. This year the city requested that I base the mural on the US Postal Service’s new Forever Stamp.

This year the painting took place over a 3 week period inside the warmer and quieter Beet Center, the Loveland Museum-Gallery’s expanded space. In order to comply with state restrictions around COVID, we had people sign up for 20-minute increments and limit the number of people per room. While I missed the energy of the street festival, I have to admit I enjoyed the slower pace and I was actually able to enjoy extended conversations with several people.

But about this business of unifying the nation…

I’m happy to announce that everyone who participated in painting this year’s mural is now at peace with their neighbor, and has become committed to treating their political opponents with love and respect.

One of my favorites by a local artist friend…

Just kidding!

If only it were that easy. During an interview this year I was asked, “How have you seen art bring people together since the start of the pandemic? I replied:

Honestly, it’s been difficult bringing people together for any reason since the pandemic season started. I initially wondered if the pandemic might unite the country, but unfortunately it became politicized and has divided our nation even further. I think it’s important for human beings to continue to create, but the arts can only do so much. I think the only thing that will truly bring people together is if we as individuals do the hard work of getting to know our neighbor again, and seeking to understand those who view things differently than we do. I regularly engage in respectful dialogue with people “on the other side,” and it has been very healing. Politicians can’t fix this.

If that sounds like a buzzkill of an answer to you, I would plead to differ. I think it empowers the individual to care constructively, as opposed to hoping and waiting for politicians to get it right. We may not be like-minded in our opinions, but we can choose to be like-minded in approaching each other with understanding and respect as fellow human beings who bear the image of God.

In future posts I’ll share some of my adventures in reaching out to “the other side.” Until then, I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts as to what you believe has caused the polarization in our culture. Please share in the comments below.

I made this one!



Do you need a gift idea for a child in your life? My newest book, The Friendly City, is designed to be a fun tool to help kids navigate a culture that has slipped its moorings. Order your copy HERE.

12 comments on “Building Community During a Pandemic

  1. “Politicians can’t fix this.” You nailed it on the head there.

    There was a time when Americans held basically the same values but differed on the means to express those values. The polarization today is due to having entirely different world views with opposing values. There’s really no way to unite people with opposing values when one side’s values includes destroying the other. Jesus told us to love our enemies, but He never said our enemies would love us back, and that’s why unification is difficult.

    The truth is, I don’t think many on the Left would actually be there if they weren’t the victim of the Left’s misinformation bubble. When a liberal like Dave Reuben escapes that bubble, he may still be a liberal, but he at least adopts some traditional values like liberty, free speech, and so forth. So while we still differ on values regarding sexuality and family (I’m not sure where he stands on abortion), he at least respects other’s freedom to differ and still get along. It’s amazing that conservatives view him as an ally (for now) when in the past he would have been an adversary with his radically liberal views. But what’s important is that conservatives and liberals like Dave Reuben can treat each other with kindness and respect, even with our understanding that we differ on certain core values.

    The real question is how to get people out of the Left’s misinformation bubble when they control entertainment, academia, the media, big tech, big business, the federal government, and the UN/global governments, and they’re all in collusion on one level or the other in controlling the narrative. Thankfully, we can rest in those two wonderful words we encounter in scripture when things look bleak. “But God…”

  2. Thanks for playing, Frank. I agree with a lot of that, but would like to drill down a bit and pick your brain. Your answer to my question is, “The polarization today is due to having entirely different world views with opposing values.”

    I agree with the worldview part. I’m not sure about the values part. I’m inclined to believe that worldview is almost the whole ball game. I think beliefs dictate behavior. I feel like the two sides are defining reality differently. So, when one goes to apply a positive value to a falsely defined situation, one often ends up with a harmful outcome.

    Example: As a culture, we suddenly have wildly divergent views on the nature of sex and gender. Let’s say someone defines gender as non-binary, and believes there are an infinite number of genders an a vast spectrum. When confronted with a 9 year old who is experiencing gender dysphoria, that person will be inclined to affirm that child in exploring the spectrum. That someone may advocate puberty blockers for the child. These decisions may be driven by good values (a desire to affirm the child’s worth, meet the child’s needs, concern for the child’s emotional health, etc. – all values that you and i agree with). So the issue seems to me to be more the worldview beliefs, rather than the values.

    Another way of saying this is that we may not know what the loving action is in a situation if we have a false conception of reality.

    • I see what you’re saying about sharing the same values. however, that raises questions about meaning. If one says it’s “loving” to help the little old lady cross the road and another says it’s “loving” to run her over and put her out of her misery, do the two in fact share the same value of “love”? Or does someone have a different value they choose to label “love”?

      When discussing “love” as a value, we’re not referring to “love” de dicto. We’re speaking about “love” de re, referring to the thing in itself, not about the terms we use. And once we’re clear about the subject, then clearly the two persons in my example can’t both share the value of love. One actually holds to love as a value while the other has some perverse predilection they merely choose to call “love”, but which isn’t love at all.

      Now, to your earlier point, I do think it’s true that there are times when we share principles and simply differ on method. and that’s what I was alluding to when I said that in the past, Americans generally sought the same values even if they differed on methods of how to reach goals. The question is how to determine if two, in fact, share the same principles and desire the same goals.

      To your example, it’s not at all clear how someone who advocates for something like puberty blockers for a child with gender dysphoria is affirming the child’s worth. As for meeting the child’s needs, one has to ask how anyone determines that puberty blockers constitutes a “need”. From what I’ve seen, it seems like those who advocate for such things desire to do so to enforce an ideology while ignoring the clear evidence of damage it causes children. If they truly cared for the child’s welfare, they wouldn’t do such harm.

      I suspect if we asked the puberty-blocker advocate how he determines what the child ‘needs’, he might look to some end goal of whatever might allegedly make the child happy, which is really just a utilitarian ethic. Since we as Christians look to teleology to tell us what the child needs (and a telos determined by God’s word), it doesn’t matter to us whether the outcome makes the child happy or not. Certainly we want the child to be happy and we trust that doing things God’s way will bring about true human flourishing, but at the end of the day, how a person reacts to our following God is irrelevant to the question of objective value. Since our “value” is a form of Absolutism, and since the puberty-blocker advocate’s value is one of Utilitarianism, it can’t be said we share values. So while we might both say we seek the “good” of the child, such casual language is deceptive because we’re using the term, “good,” equivocally.

      Frankly, I’ve struggled with the issue of meaning and reference, because it’s an issue that comes up with other religions. For example, some will say that JW’s or Mormons worship a different Jesus because their Jesus doesn’t meet the same criteria of the Bible (and as far as identity theory goes, they’re technically correct). However, I don’t see why they can’t have the same person in mind and only believe the wrong things about the same person. For example, maybe you and another person who I’ve met differ one my occupation. Would it be fair to say that you’re not talking about the same person merely because one has wrong information about me? It seems to me that this issue can only be settled by whether or not the two persons arguing actually have the same object of reference in their mind. The problem is that when we speak of God which no one can see or point to as a reference, it’s difficult knowing if two people really have the same Being in mind, and simply because they use the same term (i.e.,”God”) doesn’t mean they in fact have the same object of reference in their mind. Since they can only describe the object to which they refer, a criteria-based definition becomes the only way to adjudicate the issue, and we’re back to identify theory which tells us they’re worshipping a different Jesus. They reason I have difficulty with this is because I briefly dabbled in Mormonism in my youth, and when I got saved, I didn’t suddenly feel like I redirected my faith to a different person. I merely adjusted what I believed about the same person, if that makes sense. In any case, I’m a bit conflicted on this.

      • Hmm. I don’t think you’ve demonstrated that worldview is not the whole issue. if one believes a false narrative, then applying even a true, de re, value can lead to a false solution because the problem has been misidentified.

        To stay with the (unfortunately) real life example of the trans child: from what I’ve seen, I’m not prepared to say that “those who advocate for [puberty blockers] desire to do so to enforce an ideology…” (except in the the sense that the ideology gave them the false narrative.) I’ve read a few testimonies from parents now and it looks to me as though they think they are acting in the best interest of their child. They believe the false narrative – they really believe that their biological boy is actually a girl. Their desire isn’t to enforce an ideology; it’s to do what is best for their child.

        How might such a parent advocate this in a way that isn’t simply i-want-my-child-to-be-happy utilitarianism? By believing that their bio son is truly female, and that their child unequivocally identifies as female. They anticipate the horror they know their “daughter” will experience as puberty arrives and “she” begins to grow facial hair, among other things. Believing “she” is on the path to fully transitioning someday, they are acting compassionately in accord with what they see as the truth. The worldview provides the context for these decisions – derived from “the Left’s misinformation bubble.”

        So I think such a parent can indeed be acting in the best interest and for the “good” of their child. My disagreement then, is not with their values, it’s with their understanding of reality.

        —–
        I think the Mormon/JW question is easier, because it has to do with the specific person of Jesus as He is revealed in the Judaeo-Christian scriptures. In this case I think it comes down to more than simply “wrong information.” True, I and your other acquaintance would be talking about you even if one of us got your occupation wrong. But if your other acquaintance believed you were a chimpanzee, then we really wouldn’t both be talking about same person.

        Similarly, the Mormon/JW conception of Jesus is not wrong due to incorrect superficial details but because of an incorrect/unbiblical definition of His essence and mode of being. Both Mormonism/JWs insist that Jesus is a created being. The Bible reveals Him to be uncreated – a part of the eternal Godhead existing in unbroken relational unity. That difference is infinitely greater than the difference between human and chimpanzee. Calling them both Jesus does not bridge the gap, imo.

        • I had to go back and read what I wrote before because I don’t recall ever disagreeing with your point that world view is the essential cause of division. I agree with that premiss. Where I differed is on your suggestion that we shared the same values with the puberty-blocking-advocate-parents.

          You disagreed with the point I made about persons advocating puberty blockers for ideological reasons, but then you went on to acknowledge that “They believe the false narrative,” which is precisely my point. That false narrative represents an ideology. Whether or not a parent views it as such is quite irrelevant. They may believe they’re doing something for a child’s good, but the reality is that they’re merely enforcing an ideology.

          Now I do understand your point, i.e., that the parent wants what they believe to be good when you stated, “a parent can indeed be acting in the best interest and for the ‘good’ of their child.” However, unless one is a relativist, “good” has a fixed meaning based on God’s immutable nature and how that’s reflected in His design for us and the imperatives He issues. Given that fact, parent’s who advocate puberty blockers for their child are not, in fact, acting in the best interest or for the “good” of the child. Again, they may believe they are, but reality isn’t determined by one’s beliefs, as you correctly noted about their erroneous “understanding of reality”. It’s simply not enough to say they seek the “good”. They have to have the correct view of the “good”, otherwise they’re not seeking the good at all. Were I to say I’m seeking the “post office” while my intended location is the grocery store, then I’m not in fact seeking the post office even if I’m invoking that term. “Good” has an objective meaning just like “post office.”

          I think what you’re intending to suggest, and I agree with you, is that the parents in our example have an emotional “love” for their children. However, possessing the emotion of love (“love” being an equivocal term) isn’t equivalent to the act of love. The point is, the emotion of “love” is not a “value”, because emotions are not something we choose the way we choose to adopt and exemplify values. When God commands us to love our neighbor, He’s not commanding us to have warm feelings toward them (which would be absurd, because we have no control over our emotions, but only to how we react to those emotions). Rather, he’s telling us to behave a certain way toward them. It’s those behaviors that represent our values.

          I’m not certain I’m being clear, so I’ll try to explain further. We might say we value bravery. But we don’t mean we value the feelings deep within the heart of the “brave” man. What we really value is the act of bravery and courage, to which we might assign the value of ‘being brave’. But ‘bravery’ as an emotion isn’t a value insofar as it isn’t bravery at all without the act that follows. In like manner, having loving feelings toward a child isn’t really equivalent to the behavior that follows unless the behavior is itself loving. The man who tried to catch the ark of the covenant because he thought it would fall was still being disobedient and suffered the penalty for it. God didn’t acknowledge this man’s feelings of concern about the ark falling. He simply wanted the man to obey, because to disobey is to question God.

          Regarding the JW/Mormon question, you’re using a criterion-based distinction which is what I was referring to when I spoke about metaphysical identity. Strictly speaking, any distinction, whether superficial or doctrinal, is sufficient to distinguish between two relatum. The issue I raised, however, is whether ontological distinctions are sufficient to render judgements about epistemic distinctions. For example, the parents in our previous example do not, ontologically speaking, share out values. What you’ve been arguing for, however, is that, epistemically, they do share our values. The reason I disagreed is that it seems that you’re conflating the parent’s emotions toward their child with a subsequent behavior. You seem to be saying, ’Those parents love their children and we love our children, therefore we share the same value.’ However, feelings of love are not a value. You might go on to say, ‘Yes, but they want what’s best for their child and we want what’s best for ours, therefore we share the same value”. The problem is that once we define what is meant by “what’s best”, we see that we mean two very different things, and therefore do not share the same values at all. You might further argue, ‘Yes, but what they want is their child’s ‘well-being’, to which I would again say, since we differ on what is meant by “well-being” we still do not share the same values. And if one argues, ‘But they want their child to be happy, and we want our children to be happy, therefore we share the same values.” But for the follower of Christ, “good” is giving someone what they ‘need’, not what they ‘want’, even if that means they will not be happy. Happiness, after all, is not a value in itself to be sought. Rather, it’s a byproduct of a life well-lived, one that exemplifies objective values.

  3. Frank: Maybe I’m missing your point, but I’m still not sure I agree. I don’t think I’m talking about shared “feelings of love” and calling this a shared value. I think the parents of trans kids really are taking the loving/responsible/best course based on the misinformation they are believing, (as opposed to “acting out of a desire to enforce an ideology.”) Your argument against that here amounts to changing the terms of my argument:

    “You disagreed with the point I made about persons advocating puberty blockers for ideological reasons, but then you went on to acknowledge that “They believe the false narrative,” which is precisely my point. That false narrative represents an ideology. Whether or not a parent views it as such is quite irrelevant. They may believe they’re doing something for a child’s good, but the reality is that they’re merely enforcing an ideology.”

    But your original statement was, “From what I’ve seen, it seems like those who advocate for such things desire to do so to enforce an ideology while ignoring the clear evidence of damage it causes children. If they truly cared for the child’s welfare, they wouldn’t do such harm.”

    I think that’s wrong. I’m addressing intent. Your original point was not “persons advocating puberty blockers for ideological reasons.” It was “those who advocate for such things >>desire to do so to enforce an ideology<<.” I agree that they may be “advocating puberty blockers for ideological reasons.” I agree that they are “enforcing an ideology.” My point is that is not their intent, and that they truly do care for their child’s welfare.

    You go on to argue, “…Were I to say I’m seeking the “post office” while my intended location is the grocery store, then I’m not in fact seeking the post office even if I’m invoking that term. “Good” has an objective meaning just like “post office.”

    I’m arguing that their intended location IS the post office, but that the left has created, and then given them directions to, a false post office. So their package never reaches the destination. This is similar to your original point that “I don't think many on the Left would actually be there if they weren’t the victim of the Left’s misinformation bubble.”

    If you are arguing that one cannot actually DO good unless one is acting in accordance with God’s definition of good, then I see your point, but that’s not what I’m arguing against.

    What is my point? I’m insisting that conservatives and liberals/”progressives” can at least tolerate each other, and even respect each other if we can regain a sense that each side is acting out of desire to do good. I agree with you that in probably most cases, the Left is actually doing harm, but that is beside my point. We’ve got to figure out a way to live together in this age, and the way we do that is to accord each other constitutional freedoms.

    Practically speaking, I think I understand liberals pretty well. However, I think liberals wildly misunderstand conservatives. I am now routinely in conversations with liberals who want to understand me. In every case so far, their response is something like, “you have contradicted my ideas about what conservatives are.” They don’t agree with my conclusions, and haven’t gone running into the loving arms of Jesus, but they no longer can tell themselves that I’m a hater, am transphobic, anti-gay, misogynist, or whatever.

    In your original post you wrote, “There’s really no way to unite people with opposing values when one side’s values includes destroying the other.” That is true. But if we believed what the Left thinks we believe, (that we are white supremacists, hate LGBTQ people, abusers who want to control women’s bodies, are xenophobes, etc.), then they would they would be right to destroy us, because those things are objectively evil. The problem is that they don’t understand us. Some never will. But for those that are willing to seek understanding, we can achieve civility and unity to a limited degree. I’m speaking from firsthand experience.

    • Since you agreed that the puberty-blocking parents (hereafter, PBP) are “enforcing an ideology”, there’s no need to address that further.

      Our difference seems to be that you believe the PBP’s intention is to take “the loving/responsible/best course based on the misinformation they are believing,” and then went on to reiterate your main point that “conservatives and liberals/”progressives” can at least tolerate each other, and even respect each other if we can regain a sense that each side is acting out of desire to do good.”

      My hesitation to agree with you is that, as far as I can see, you’re not providing any definition of what you mean by “loving”, “responsible”, “best course”, “tolerate”, or “good” in the context used. If we were talking about reality, I wouldn’t ask for a definition of those terms because I would assume that we were both affirming a Biblical view of those concepts. But because the context here has to do with the actions of those with a false worldview, I have to ask what those terms mean. Since you already agreed that ”one cannot actually DO good unless one is acting in accordance with God’s definition of good,” I have to ask, what then is meant by “good” in the context of the PBP or the unbelieving liberal?

      Imagine, for example, if I were to say, ‘this parent intends blark for her child.’ Would you agree? You’d probably first want to know what “blark” meant, and rightly so. After I gave a definition, you’d conduct some examination as to whether the parent’s intent fit that definition and subsequently render your assessment. I’m simply arguing that “good”, “responsible,” et al., have objective meaning, and we need to know whether, in our example, the PBP’s intention corresponds with reality. Since you already agree that ”one cannot actually DO good unless one is acting in accordance with God’s definition of good,” I can only surmise that “good” in the context of the PBP’s intention must mean something other than an objective “good.”

      It’s for this reason that I suspect your actual focus is not the PBP’s ‘intention’ but the emotional commitment to their child which motivates whatever their misguided intention happens to be. It’s this emotional commitment, the love of a parent for his child, that I believe we do in fact share with the PBP. I continue to deny, however, that such emotions constitute a “value” insofar as emotions are not something we can choose. The adoption and expression of values require volition. Emotions are not volitional phenomena.

      Moving on to the unbelieving liberal:
      To reiterate, you wrote that “conservatives and liberals/”progressives” can at least tolerate each other, and even respect each other if we can regain a sense that each side is acting out of desire to do good”

      This statement is plagued by the same problem as that regarding the PBP. What is meant by “good”? Since those with a false worldview which opposes God are not acting our of a desire to do “good” (unless we invest “good” with an unBiblical meaning), I must beg to differ with you. Were we to ask the liberal what their goal is, I don’t even think their answer would be ‘to do good.’ I think their answer would be some pragmatic or utilitarian end goal. And while they might say that their end goal (whatever that may be) is “good”, one only need ask the liberal where they ground their notion of “good” to see that it’s entirely arbitrary, emotive, and isn’t in any way grounded on God, which is to say that their notion of “good” isn’t good at all.

      As far as how the liberal views us, you’re quite correct that many of them have a false view of us. Others, however, do not. There are plenty of liberals who know precisely where we stand and choose to interpret our beliefs in a negative way; not because they have any objective standard by which to impugn us, but merely because we don’t meet their arbitrary and wholly subjective version of “good”, a term they use in such a way that is equivalent to whatever happens to match their personal predilections.

      Finally, I think conservatives and liberals can, more often than not, get along in a general sense of being civil in each others’ company. I’ve never doubted that. However, since the policies we advocate are wholly opposed to one another, and since many liberal policies tend to be evil and damaging to society, there’s little to “unite” us where important issues matter. And if I sound a bit pessimistic, I’ll defer to God’s word for my defense:

      “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” – Amos 3:3

  4. I still don’t agree. To go with your “blark” example:

    “…if I were to say, ‘this parent intends blark for her child.’ Would you agree? You’d probably first want to know what “blark” meant, and rightly so. After I gave a definition, you’d conduct some examination as to whether the parent’s intent fit that definition and subsequently render your assessment…”

    Let’s say blark means “that which contributes to one’s physical and emotional health, and future well being.” I might see that the parent indeed intends blark for her child, but that her intentions are misinformed, and that she is actually doing harm to her child, imo. In fact I see this regularly.

    You contend,..”we need to know whether, in our example, the PBP’s intention corresponds with reality.”

    I’m saying it does not. It corresponds with her false worldview. But based on her false presuppositions, within her worldview, her actions are intended to contribute to her child’s physical and emotional health and future well being. Helping a trans-child “transition” goes far beyond a mere “emotional commitment”; it is an intentional, volitional, “informed” action motivated by a desire to benefit the child, not to harm her.

    You continue, ” Since you already agree that ‘one cannot actually DO good unless one is acting in accordance with God’s definition of good,’ I can only surmise that “good” in the context of the PBP’s intention must mean something other than an objective “good…”

    Probably. Not necessarily. But even having God’s definition of good in mind does not guarantee that our actions will result in doing good according to His definition. Jesus tells us to love one another, but it is not always clear what is the loving course of action. There are even cases when something good/permissible may in fact be unloving in a given situation, or the same action may be “sin” for one person, but not for another in God’s economy (Ro 14).

    You ask, “what then is meant by “good” in the context of the PBP or the unbelieving liberal?”

    With reference to my point, it doesn’t matter, except to say that they do not intend to do harm. This is true with each contested issue – gay marriage, gender ideology, abortion on demand, immigration, global warming, etc. Yes, in each case their “solutions” are, in reality, harmful, but I’m discussing a lower bar than what you are discussing. I’m simply arguing that if both liberals and conservatives can each acknowledge that the other holds their views for what they understand to be compassionate reasons, then we do have at least some shared footing. That is far different from liberals viewing conservatives as anti-gay, transphobic, racist, anti-woman, xenophobic, and filled with hateful intent, which is the situation we are now in. Because liberals generally don’t understand how conservative positions can even be construed as compassionate.

    When I speak of seeking mutual understanding, this is the low bar I have in mind, and I know it is achievable because I am achieving it.

    • You opened by stating that you “still don’t agree,” but it seems like we agree more often than not.

      You wrote: “I might see that the parent indeed intends blark for her child, but that her intentions are misinformed, and that she is actually doing harm to her child, imo.”

      That was precisely my point. We agree completely.

      With respect to looking for a correspondent view of truth/reality, you stated that the PBP’s view “does not.”

      Again, we agree.

      Here’s where we’re getting hung up. You stated that the PBP’s “actions are intended to contribute to her child’s physical and emotional health and future well being,” the definition which you assigned to “blark” as an example. The problem is that you merely kicked the can down the road, because , like my previous post, those terms lack definition in their current context. Were we to ask the PBP to unpack what they view as “physically and emotionally healthy” or “well being”, they’ll go on to describe the procedures that will bring their child harm.

      This is why I suggested that “good” in the context of the PBP’s intention meant something other than a Biblical view, to which you responded, “Probably. Not necessarily.” However, in the context of our example, which is it?

      You noted that “having God’s definition of good in mind does not guarantee that our actions will result in doing good according to His definition.” But we’re not discussing outcome, something which is outside anyone’s control but God’s. We’re discussing God’s prescription for us regardless of the outcome, because God only prescribes our duties. He does not burden us with the outcome, something we’re to leave in His hands (“one man plants, another waters, but God gives the increase”).

      You observed that “There are even cases when something good/permissible may in fact be unloving in a given situation, or the same action may be ‘sin’ for one person, but not for another in God’s economy (Ro 14).” The passage in Romans is in no way advocating some form of relativism or situation ethic. The differences in “sin” has nothing to do with the behavior spoken of in the passage. It has to do with whether the person, in their heart, was acting in rebellion or in faith to God. For example, if God were to command you to clap, that would constitute a moral duty for you. Not because clapping is a moral absolute or something that reflects God’s character, but because you have a moral duty to obey God. If you refused, the sin would be in refusing to obey God, not in a failure to clap. This is why not all Biblical commands have, in the content of the action commanded, anything to do with moral absolutes. Some commands are limited to individuals, specific nations’s civil structure, and religious rituals, while others are moral absolutes which are not limited to time, place, or person (again, with the understanding that there’s a hierarchy of duties that, were they to conflict, one does the greater good, not “the lesser evil”, which, while practically identical, are not conceptually equivalent). So, to return to the PBP, does their view of “good”, “well being”, et al, correspond to God’s view or not?

      You answered this by stating: “With reference to my point, it doesn’t matter, except to say that they do not intend to do harm.”

      However, if their intended action is to make their children undergo some kind of chemical castration via hormone-blocking drugs, then their intention is indeed to do harm, even if they mislabel that as a “good”. The point is, mislabeling something a “good intention” doesn’t make it a good intention.

      You stated: “I’m simply arguing that if both liberals and conservatives can each acknowledge that the other holds their views for what they understand to be compassionate reasons, then we do have at least some shared footing.”

      All the antecedent in that proposition means is that liberals and conservatives can acknowledge that the other believes whatever they believe. But that’s not a point in dispute. The dispute is over the consequent, i.e., whether or not the antecedent constitutes a shared footing. But if a person says “I believe in good and you believe in evil”, while the other side claimed the same, where is the shared footing since one side’s definition of “good” is diametrically opposed to the other side? In what way is there any mutual understanding other than to agree on an antecedent which neither side would have disputed to begin with?

      When Amos asked his question (i.e., “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”) it was obviously rhetorical. Clearly, Amos didn’t have the low bar in mind of simply being civil around others in mixed company, something which we both agree is possible. He had something more substantive in mind, and it’s in that capacity that the world is currently divided and which threatens civility.

  5. John Kim says:

    Hello, Scott. I am a member of UUFRC, and I enjoyed your coming to speak this Sunday, and came to read your blog.

    As for what is causing polarization, I think modern communication and media are playing a large role. We used to be more organized by our physical neighbors. Now, increasingly, people are self-selecting who they socialize with by virtual communities — even among those they meet in person.

    Social media especially makes messages increasingly targeted. People become more engaged and watch more ads if they are outraged at what is said. Traditional media like television have so many more options, that news has become specialized into only speaking to a liberal audience or only to a conservative audience.

    Also – regarding your discussion with Frank. If you want to know more about what you call “puberty-blocking parents”, I can try to inform. I am not transgender nor is my son, but I have many friends who are transgender themselves or have transgender children. I realize this is a disturbing point to many people, but it can also be good to discuss.

    • John,
      Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts! I agree that media and targeted messages play a role. It certainly exacerbates the problem, I think. But it still seems to me that something deeper is at play, because we can so easily get around this by not self-selecting an echo-chamber, but generally speaking, we don’t! Why is that?

      As for sharing your knowledge gleaned from transgender friends, I would be very interested in hearing that. Share if you like, but I would almost prefer that you wait. I am thinking on a future blog post specifically about transgenderism/postgenderism that will be specifically asking for feedback, so your input would be very valuable in that context. The above discussion is not really about trans issues per se; it’s simply using them as a real life example.

      • John Kim says:

        Thanks, Scott.

        As for why we self-select an echo chamber — I think it’s because it’s increasingly easy to select within our lives. It used to be that moving was more difficult. People we didn’t choose were more important in our lives — like family, neighbors, and co-workers. But I think communications and media have made it easier to selectively engage with only our chosen circle. We can seek out and find only people who agree with our views, and only watch media that fits our views.

        I’m happy to wait and post later about life with my transgender friends and family.

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