Getting To Know Your Worst Nightmare

I was recently invited to share my thoughts at a Unitarian-Universalist (UU) church service in California, via Zoom. According to my host, it is a very liberal congregation in a liberal geographical bubble. Apparently members of the congregation run the spectrum of social liberalism including LGBTQ folks, and some who were formerly evangelicals. Bruce, my host, considers himself to be an atheist.

Bruce and I connected through a Braver Angels event and have since talked weekly over Zoom for some six months. It has been quite an adventure for both of us, and not always a comfortable one. I would say our aim has been to understand each other, with permission to each respectfully challenge the other’s opinions.

At some point Bruce got the idea to share what he was doing with his UU church. Then it occurred to him to have me share as well, I guess just to keep it real. His minister was open to having me as a guest, and so we planned a service, which occurred in April, 2021. Below I’ve linked an edited video of the pertinent parts in case you would like to hear what was said.

To their credit, Bruce and his pastor took a risk in inviting me in. They told me about how they’d wrestled with why it was so difficult to invite me in. They knew they could invite a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or a Rabbi, or an atheist to speak, and everyone would pretty much be fine with it. But for some reason it was daunting to consider inviting a conservative evangelical Christian who voted for Trump twice.

I’m happy to report that the church was very welcoming toward me, and there was a lot of positive feedback afterwards. I did not go into many specifics on triggering issues, even in the Q and A time that followed. My intent was not to trigger people. The point was to inspire people to seek understanding with neighbors or family members who think differently than they do.

I’ll let the video speak for itself. It’s a half hour long but I think you’ll find it interesting. Plus the pastor has a cool Scottish accent. I’d love to hear your feedback.

The Cause of the Divide
If you’ve followed this blog for long you know that I consider American society to be toxically divided. I’m concerned about this and I’m not alone. It is now common to hear people bemoan the loss of civility and respectful disagreement in human discourse, especially in political discourse.

How did we get here? Is there something different going on now than in previous generations?

I think there is. At the risk of sounding partisan, I believe that the divide has been created and nurtured by the far Left, and foisted onto the mainstream. It’s a simple worldview issue. Allow me to make my case.

To be specific, in referring to the Left I am not referring to some fuzzy notion of liberal-ish stuff that I happen to dislike. I’m referring specifically to a neo-Marxist worldview – a view that sees the cause of the world’s inequities and injustices through a lens of oppressor vs oppressed. Whether between economic classes, races, genders, or ideological parties, the Left by definition promotes division and, ultimately, a re-structuring of a supposedly oppressive system via revolution.

So for example, if there is a minority group that is suffering oppression, such as a higher rate of poverty, abuse, COVID deaths, unemployment, addiction, imprisonment, or anything else negative, then there must be an oppressor according to a neo-Marxist worldview.

It would be worth discussing with a neo-Marxist whether or not life is quite this simple.

But Marxism is not what’s new. The America Left and Right have always fought and disagreed. There is something new (and worse) going on here. In previous decades I watched the two sides battle it out in the field of ideas. At their best, opponents would cite facts, history, research, and employ rational discourse. But in the past decade the extreme Left has decided to go around the field of intellectual arguments and go straight to the field of subjective feelings. By assigning conservatives the worst of motives and then leveraging peer/mob pressure and emotional manipulation, the Left has enshrined itself as morally superior.

What’s new is that the Left finally has the power to do so.

Having gained control of mainstream media, the entertainment industry, academia, big tech, and mainline church denominations, the Left now has the means to dominate the societal narrative, propagating the message that to dissent from the “progressive” narrative is to take the hurtful, hateful, oppressor position. We are all now familiar with the charge that to dissent from the “progressive” narrative is to be anti-woman, anti-gay, transphobic, racist, white supremacist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant, bigoted, hateful, and so on.

Here’s the thing. All of those things truly are immoral and indefensible. If that list of adjectives accurately defined conservatives, then the Left should be exposing and shaming conservatives for the evil oppressors that they are. The problem (for the Left) is that the only way to get those labels to stick to mainstream conservatives is to torture the English language, re-write history, redefine objective reality, and shut down dissent. In my opinion that is what is happening. Plenteous examples provided upon request.

Republicans, for their part have generally not responded to this like adults. Brasher elements have gone into fight mode, which doesn’t win the middle, and allows the “hater” label to stick. They’ve tried to trump the Left with Trump, placing their faith in a man who couldn’t compete in the field of factual ideas. Instead, he responded in kind, specializing in division and bombastic rhetoric, making an already terrible situation worse. I think the saber-rattling, conspiracy crap, and patriot pumping on the part of Republicans is a reaction to the Left’s strategy of unjustly framing them as the great white cause of all the world’s suffering.

Is anyone ready for something better and more honest? Is anyone tired of watching the pendulum-wrecking ball swing back and forth?

The Solution
We have to talk to each other. Neither side is going to go away. Neither side is going to allow the other to force its will onto the other. Ask yourself what the outcome will be if both sides continue the strategy of “hitting back harder.”

So what is the answer? Whoever you are, right or left, if you believe you have the facts, evidence, and the truth on your side, then you have nothing to lose by seeking mutual understanding with “the other side.” In all likelihood, you will find facts, evidence, and truth on both sides. If that weren’t the case America wouldn’t be split down the middle. There are legitimate concerns on both sides of every issue.

People of radically differing worldviews will not agree on specific solutions. So then what is the point of talking? The answer is that we can at least get back to respectful disagreement as fellow human beings. Liberals need to get to know conservatives. If that sounds one-sided, that’s because it is. In my experience, conservatives generally understand liberals; we just disagree with them. We recognize that liberals believe they are acting out of a sense of compassion and social justice. But the reverse is not true. A great many liberals really do believe that conservatives are racist, anti-gay, anti-woman, xenophobic, etc.

It may be up to conservatives to take initiative in seeking mutual understanding. The end result will probably not be a changed worldview for anyone. But it is a very realistic goal that we can return to a place of respectful disagreement in political discourse if liberals can recognize that mainstream conservatives are not motivated by hate. That would be a win for everyone. We can communicate without the divisive labeling. The video will give you some ideas on how to get there.



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33 comments on “Getting To Know Your Worst Nightmare

  1. Greg Rice says:

    Curious to see how this great adventure plays out. Your patience will get stretched. I’m not currently in a big talk it out mood. I’m glad Jesus is not running for office, not asking for votes.

    • Thanks Greg, If by “great adventure” you mean the so-called culture wars, I am also curious. I will say again that I think the best we can hope for is pluralism and freedom for all within the constraints of the US constitution. That’s not the direction we are headed at this moment.

  2. Ruth Lanteigne (Greer) says:

    I’ve been distressed by the hostility between people of different political views, especially family members. I’m glad to know about the Braver Angels organization and am going to find out more about it. Thank you, Scott.

    • ‘Glad to hear it, Ruth! I’ve been a member for over a year and haven’t been involved as much as I would like due to busyness, but it has been definitely worthwhile for me. Maybe I’ll see you at an event sometime!

  3. Mark James says:

    I watched the video. And I understand the desire to find mutual understanding and respect though we may disagree. That said, we have to acknowledge certain realities. We are, in fact, in a protracted ideological war and the heat of battle is intensifying. It is not because president Trump is bombastic, lacks command of facts, a patriot, a nationalist, or full of incendiary rhetoric. (By the way, Trump has a very good command of facts and history. Alan Dershowitz, perhaps the foremost Constitutional scholar alive, and admitted left wing liberal, has consistently defended Trump.)

    The war has intensified precisely because the Marxist left has no desire to talk and find middle ground. Trump is the kind of general that conservatives have been desperate to have. Trump is the George Patton, the U.S Grant, the William Sherman, and the George Washington that is needed in these times. The conservatives have needed someone that is steadfast in purpose and sober clarity. The Marxists are in a froth and have no desire to discuss matters.

    I’ll depart from Trump in a moment. Despite his “tone”, on Trump’s watch, there were no foreign wars initiated; indeed, four Middle Eastern nations entered into trade and diplomatic agreements with Israel. Further, Israel has never had a better friend than president Trump. There has never been a politician so passionately opposed to abortion than president Trump. There has not been a president so dedicated to evangelicals as Trump. Seldom has there been a president so dedicated to the rule of law and fidelity to the Constitution. And president Trump amped up our economy like no other. So, do we set aside all these accomplishments, and more, because we don’t like his tweets and he provokes the Marxist liberals? I say, no.

    Where am I going with this? Finding common ground and understanding is a nobel thing and I applaud the effort. In watching the video and reading this blog, I find the substance, though altruistic, is an intellectual argument in the midst of the fog of war. Simply put, there comes a time of reckoning. The breakdown of diplomacy, understanding, discussion, etc. results in war.

    Our American Revolution is a good example. The time to talk to the British about our differences ended. Action was required. Likewise with the Civil War and World War 2. Hitler and his ideology had to be put down and the world is better for it. Unfortunately, the global community failed to get involved with Stalin and Mao Zedong resulting in close to 100 million deaths in the name of Marxism.

    I think my response to the previous blog was, perhaps, too strident. Not only was I projecting the realities of an ideological war with Marxists, but expressed the desire – the need – to see it amp up. I think, but can’t be sure, that my rhetoric might have earned me the social media treatment.

    Jesus essentially declared that the time for talk had ended and that the Temple of the Lord would no longer be a safe haven for graft. It was time to fashion a whip, overturn the tables, and drive out the money-changers. Are we not in that position right now?

    Scott, I respect your desire to build bridges with those that oppose everything you hold dear. You and Bruce were able to find mutual respect and discuss the issues. But the Marxists in power don’t want to talk or entertain respectful disagreement. In their view, there is nothing to talk about. The only thing that stood between you and Marxist communism was president Trump and after four years of frustration, the liberal lefties finally found the solution with the most fraudulent election in modern history. A terrible injustice has been perpetrated on 80 million law-abiding Americans. Words can’t fix this. It’s time to fashion a “whip of cords” and settle a few things once and for all.

    • Mark, Thanks for taking time to read, listen to the video, and share your thoughts. I’m going to resist the urge to make my reply about Trump, in the interest of getting to the heart of the issue. As a matter of fact, in my opinion part of America’s political problem right now is that too much of the conversation continues to be about one celebrity. Trump was not the cause of the divide and he certainly isn’t part of the solution, imo.

      The heart of the issue for me: “Neither side is going to go away. Neither side is going to allow the other to force its will onto the other.” Do you disagree with this?

      I believe your “time of reckoning” solution of fashioning a whip of cords to settle things once and for all is a recipe for disaster. Do you not see that the “other side(s)” (BLM proponents, CRT advocates, LGBTQ activists, SJWs, abortion rights organizers, radical Islamists, and so on, think(s) exactly like you? What evidence do you have that you’re going to be able to “settle things once and for all” through violence against your fellow Americans, which is what this will come down to. Fear and force doesn’t sound like a conservative answer to me.

      You are probably aware that the radical Islamist vision of “peace” is to see the whole world submit to the religion of Islam, achieved by means of war. How does that sit with you? Do you like the way China keeps its citizens in subjection? I see you as essentially advocating the same thing.

      The supporting “good examples” you cite are the American Revolution, our Civil War, and WW2. I don’t see the first as very relevant to our discussion as the American colonies were across the ocean and posed no direct threat to the British homeland and freedoms. That is not the case in today’s divided America. We are living side by side w the people you want to “take action” against.

      The Civil War is a better example. Fidelity to our founding documents was at stake in that an entire slave class was not viewed as fully human and was therefore being treated inhumanely. It was a principled war that was fought because the differences were deeply profound and the south would not willingly give up its inhuman practices. But as far as the outcome, the devil is in the details:

      The Civil War DID NOT CHANGE THE HEARTS of the confederate citizens! America is still living with the consequences of the southern states’ refusal to admit defeat and comply with the legal terms of the North. (On Jan 6th we actually saw a modern day asshole walking through the Capitol with a Confederate flag.) The North actually had to deploy federal troops into the southern states for years to make the South comply and keep them from violating the civil rights of blacks.

      The ONLY reason the Republican North was able to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the 14th Ammendment, the Reconstruction Acts of 1867, and the 15th Amendment is because the Republicans won a veto-proof super-majority due to public outrage over lethal, white mob violence against blacks.

      Please bear w me as this is relevant. The Reconstruction Acts of 1867 required former Confederate states seeking readmission to the Union to fulfill the Acts’ conditions. Former states would be required to ratify the 14th amendment, grant voting rights to Black men, accept federal military rule in the southern region, and draft new constitutions to be approved by congress. My point here is that the North essentially FORCED compliance under threat of violence. How did that work out?

      When the 1876 presidential election ended in a stalemate, the Supreme Court and Congress issued a compromise whereby Republican R.B. Hayes would be the president if he would agree to end Reconstruction. This Compromise of 1877 resulted in all remaining federal troops being pulled out of southern states, and the agreement that the (unrepentant) South would have the right to deal with Blacks without northern interference. This decision unleashed over 70 years of white supremacist oppression and, often violent, terror against blacks, the consequences of which we all live with today, and which the Left is currently exploiting.

      I find your third example, WW2, relevant, but not in the same way you do. It is generally agreed upon that after WW1, the terms of peace by the victor nations against Germany were so unfair that they created the conditions that enabled Hitler to come to power. The point, again, is that war doesn’t change hearts, and your opponents don’t like being forced into subjection any more than you or I do.

      I share your opinion around the destructive and unworkable nature of Marxist ideology. Where I differ is in your solution. You repeatedly state that the Left has no interest in discussion. While that may be true of the extreme Left (as it is of the extreme Right), it’s not true generally. Are you familiar with the Walk Away Campaign? Braver Angels? Blexit? I am personally in ongoing, detailed conversation with 3 people from Left. Furthermore, there are a great many people, especially young people, who are embracing left wing ideas without realizing it. It’s all they’ve heard bc the Left controls the narrative. These people are reachable, if only conservatives will lay down their arms and be approachable.

      Finally, you believe that the substance of my post is an “intellectual argument in the fog of war.” Well, that is exactly what’s needed brother, because this is a war of ideas. In my opinion the Left is imploding under the weight of it’s own utopian, self-righteous, self-refuting, and harmful ideas. The general public is not on board with gender ideology, critical race theory, unrestricted abortion access, and a Santa Claus state. We’re already seeing some serious fallout from the implementation of these ideas. Maybe America will get a lesson in the law of unintended consequences during the Biden administration. Or maybe he will usher in a golden age – we shall see.

      In the meantime, my main point stands: If conservatives are the haters and irrational bigots that liberals think they are, then liberals are right to oppose them. I’m a conservative because I think conservatism is less dangerous and more compassionate than the alternatives. We need to make that case with those who will listen. We are NOT at the point of armed conflict. Respectful discussion has rarely even been tried, and when it has, my experience has been that people are thirsty for it.

      Peace to you.

      “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace”
      James 3:17,18.

    • John Kim says:

      Hi, Mark and Frank.

      I’m a member of UUFRC. Speaking as a liberal leftist, my experience is that the lack of mutual respect is from both sides. I have regular discussions with conservatives, and I find that I am often met with outright hostility and dismissal. Many of these discussions are online, which can have less civility, but even in person, there has been hostility and dismissal.

      These are vital issues, so I expect people to be emotional – but even through the emotion, I think there is the possibility of communication.

      And communication isn’t exclusive with action. I have sympathy for those who want direct action, but that doesn’t preclude continuing to speak. Jesus fashioned a whip of cords and had an outburst, but after that, he continued to preach and listen to people who came to him.

      There are many forms of direct action. There are abortion activists who will set fire or damage medical clinics that perform abortions. There are climate activists who try to stop environmentally damaging construction. There are immigration activists who work to deter and send back illegal border crossing. But all of these people can still talk and listen.

      Even when we are at war – especially when we are at war – I think it is important to listen to people from the other side. That shouldn’t necessarily stop action, but it should be important input.

      I can understand frustration with words. I have frequent discussions with opposing views in my own communities, and particularly when it is something close to me, I can get very angry. I have to walk away from the keyboard and pace back and forth rather than type a reply. But I think there is also value in continuing to engage, in part because I think that physical violence would be even worse.

      In a practical sense, what do you mean by fashioning a “whip of cords”? What would you actually do? How do you think it would settle things once and for all?

      Conversely, are there things that you would be interested in hearing from me? Are there parts of the liberal point of view where you can’t understand how anyone sane would believe? I don’t claim to speak for all liberals – and I am moderate on some issues, but I fully identify with the label.

      • John,

        I sympathize with your online experiences. The first time I got on the internet some decades past, I thought, “This’ll be a great opportunity to exchange ideas with non-Christians”, admittedly for apologetic reasons. The very first forum I ever went on to have a discussion turned out to be with a couple of Buddhists who dismissed me as someone who clung too much to logic. I also found rather quickly that people used the anonymity of the web to behave in rude and crude ways in which they would never behave in person. Fortunately, I’ve since had interesting and friendly online discussions with non-Christians and/or liberals.

        In any case, while I think it’s nice to cultivate civil dialogue, I don’t find it has any effect on the toxic political climate. Basically, both sides of the dialogue may, at best, think, “Well, that guy must be one of the nicer ones,” and then continue on their way voting for the same policies that reflect their world view, policies which the other guy would find reprehensible on some level. That, as far as I see it, seems to be the reality of the situation.

        As far as physical violence is concerned, I think too much has been made of Mark’s comments, because I don’t think what he was advocating was physical violence… well, it may require physical violence to stop an antifa fanatic from burning down a building, but I don’t think that’s what Mark had in mind. On the other hand, in the context of stopping violent criminal behavior, I can’t see how anyone can oppose the use of force where necessary. In any case, you can reference my response to Scott to read my understanding of Mark’s comments.

        As far as questions I’d have for you, I’m not sure where to begin. I find starting with first principles always helps. Here goes:

        A fundamental issue which divides conservatives and liberals are each side’s notions of good and evil, notions which are reflected in those policies and public behaviors which each supports or opposes. Now, conservatives believe in objective moral notions, where many (not all) liberals are moral relativists. Since I won’t assume to know which view you hold, perhaps you’d like to share your meta-ethical views. Note that I’m not asking for you tell me about things you might find to be good or evil. Rather, I’m asking whether you believe objective moral notions even exist, and if they do, on what do you ground them? If not, why should anyone take your judgements about political issues seriously?

        • John Kim says:

          Hi, Frank.

          As for cross-communication having any effect, I feel it’s like voting. Any individual action doesn’t change the larger conflict, because it’s too big of a cultural gap for individuals to have an effect. But the more people engage, the greater the effect will be.

          As for my own meta-ethical views…

          I identify as a Christian, but I don’t subscribe to any orthodox view, and theologically some Christians might call me more of a deist. I am drawn to the Unitarian Universalists especially because I identify most with believers who struggled against the orthodoxy of their church. I grew up in a Presbyterian church, and I still keep to nearly all of the values I learned there – but I’ve also grown since then.

          I think there is an absolute morality that humans are striving to understand, and that Christian teachings are the closest expression to what I think that absolute morality is. I am inspired by Biblical teachings, but I turn especially to history and science for learning more about the world and expanding my understanding. Many Christians, though, have believed that studying God’s works – the nature of the world – is guidance to God’s plan. And searching one’s own feelings and logic is a spiritual process than strives towards that plan. I will read the Bible for inspiration, but for answering any particular question, I will read more about study and history around that question rather than reading for details from the Bible.

          That said, I also think that a huge amount of politics is far more practical than moral philosophy. Frequently, people will agree on basic Enlightenment Christian moral values like the right to life and liberty, but they disagree most on how to achieve those within the current governmental structures. So the issue comes down more to practical matters and/or understanding of facts.

          Also, I think “moral relativism” is often an external pejorative rather than a core of someone’s philosophy. Specifically, conservatives tend to accuse liberals of moral relativism in accepting and praising those in Third World countries today. On the other hand, liberals tend to accuse conservatives of moral relativism in accepting and praising people in the past who don’t live up to modern moral standards, like early American slaveowners. There are many ways to judge people who live in different circumstances.

          • John,

            You stated that you thought, “there is an absolute morality that humans are striving to understand, and that Christian teachings are the closest expression to what I think that absolute morality is.” However, this (and your subsequent comments) addressed moral epistemology, not moral ontology. What I was asking is, do objective moral imperatives exist (which you answered in the affirmative), and if so, on what are they ground? It’s that latter part that still needs to be addressed. What obligates us to observe objective moral imperatives?

            You opined:
            “a huge amount of politics is far more practical than moral philosophy”

            Without a philosophical understanding of ethics, how are political differences to be adjudicated? You stated that, “Frequently, people will agree on basic Enlightenment Christian moral values like the right to life and liberty.” Those values didn’t come from the Enlightenment; they are found in scripture. However, regardless of if people agree or not on those values, what I’m trying to find out is whether you believe people have an obligatory moral duty to recognize and affirm those values? If so, why?

            Moral notions guide our support or opposition of political policies and social behavior. Without an objective guide, on what other basis are we to predicate our political or social views? For example, one can cite Enlightenment thinkers, but how do the opinions of mere men obligate us to any moral duty? One can cite Darwinian doctrines about survival of the species, but if one is a sadist, anarchist, or nihilist, what obligates them to care about the survival of the species?

            You stated:
            “I think “moral relativism” is often an external pejorative rather than a core of someone’s philosophy”

            Not at all. Most liberals I’ve conversed with and encountered deny objective moral notions. Certainly my sister (who is also a member of the Universalist Unitarian Church) and her church friends I’ve met affirm Relativism (of which moral relativism is a necessary subset). There are a few secularists and even atheists like Sam Harris who hold to objective moral notions, however, they’re never able to objectively ground such notions. Harris, for example, just engages in special pleading and calls others ‘stupid’ if they don’t observe his Utilitarian view of ethics. The problem is that Utilitarianism is incapable of imposing obligatory duty on anyone. The sadist, nihilist, and anarchist are rationally justified in rejecting Utilitarian ethics as a mere arbitrary contrivance.

            You stated:
            “There are many ways to judge people who live in different circumstances.”

            There indeed may be many ways to judge the views or behavior of others, but are any of those ways objectively ground or are they mere opinions? If they’re the latter, why should anyone grant any serious consideration to mere opinions? If they’re the former, what is this objective ground that imposes obligatory duty for all to observe?

            My point in asking these questions is to demonstrate that a secular world view is largely arbitrary in its moral notions. This is why, on the one hand, they affirm feminism, and on the other hand, they throw women under the bus when it comes to allowing men who are sexually confused to dominate women’s sports. Without an objective ground to predicate their moral notions, they’re tossed to and fro with whatever happens to be the PC cause de jour. And please note that I’m not criticizing their behavior. On the contrary, I’m pointing out that, without an objective moral ground, secularists are being perfectly consistent within their world view. The problem is that no one is morally obligated to care at all about their moral pronouncements because of the arbitrary and subjective nature of those pronouncements.

            Now one can certainly point to “conservative” persons who behave badly. But it’s only because we have an objective ground upon which to render moral judgements that conservatives can say that such a person behaved badly. The secularist, on the other hand, may be justified in calling such a person a ‘hypocrite’ for living inconsistent with his stated conservative values, but such a moral judgement is inconsistent with the secularist’s own world view. In other words, if the secularist world view is true, his charge of ‘hypocrisy’ has no objective moral content. It’s simply a trivial observation. What’s important to note is that the secularist actually believes there’s something immoral about hypocritical behavior, implicitly acknowledging the conservative world view in doing so.

            • John Kim says:

              First of all, I’m not a secularist. I believe in God and the word of Jesus Christ. What is moral is what is in God’s plan. But God did not give us a direct instruction manual. The Bible has wide-ranging interpretations. In history, Christian communities have ranged in morality from supporting the divine right of kings to championing abolition of slavery and women’s rights; and from violent conquest in the name of God to complete pacifism.

              I have my view of God’s moral laws – and you have yours. Others from different churches will have alternate views. The choice between these isn’t arbitrary – but it is nearly as wide-ranging as the choice of secularists between their different moral philosophies.

              I think as believers cannot judge ourselves to be inherently more objective than atheists, and in doing so, we lose the power to convince.

              Many of my friends are secularist, and among them, many cite bad experiences they had with judgmental and intolerant Christian churches. When I invite people to my church, I wouldn’t tell them “You don’t have any basis for your belief. Only we believers have real objective belief.” Doing so would come across as dismissive and turn them off.

              But if I invite them to come in – and they’re listened to and treated with respect, and discussed with, they’re more likely to stick around. Conversion is rare – particularly these days – but to the extent that it happens at all, it’s because people are listened to rather than lectured at, and find the truth of the ideas for themselves. I think everyone has a feeling for what is right in their hearts and souls, not just people who were raised Christian. I even find that there is a lot of overlap with other religions like people of Jewish faith or Sikh faith. The commonalities are more than the differences.

            • John,

              I wasn’t implying you were secularist. I was merely contrasting what is ostensibly the most common divide between conservatives and liberals.

              You noted:
              “I believe in God and the word of Jesus Christ. What is moral is what is in God’s plan.”

              So far, so good. If objective moral imperatives are ground in God, then everyone (whether they choose to believe it or not), has an obligatory duty to observe those moral commands and ought to live their lives (which includes those public policies and behaviors they support and oppose) according to God’s will.

              You wrote:
              “But God did not give us a direct instruction manual. The Bible has wide-ranging interpretations.”

              You begin with an ontological claim and then predicate it on an epistemic reason, but the former does not logically follow from the latter. If two people interpreted an instruction manual for a model airplane and built models that appeared different, that doesn’t logically entail that the instructions didn’t exist or that they were unintelligible. It simply means that someone failed to understand the instructions (or ignored them completely) for any number of reasons.

              In fact, much of the remainder of your response is predicated on the claim that one’s subjective experience of interpreting scripture cannot access the objective truth it contains, and your basis for this claim is, again, the fact that different people arrive at different interpretations. But as I already pointed out, that’s a non sequitur, and it largely smacks of philosophical Skepticism which, in practice, leads to Relativism. If we can’t access the objective truth in God’s word, why suppose our subjective experiences have any correspondence to the world around us? Why not similarly assume that the differing interpretations of the world around us implies an inability to make objective claims about the world? Many liberals do, in fact, go down that slippery slope, which is why they have no problem advocating full blown Relativism.

              Now, to be clear, I’m not suggesting that having God’s word before us makes us infallible on every issue. Nor am I suggesting that some issues are not so complex that we can have certainly about them this side of Heaven. But some issues are clear, and the fact that some want to question or deny those clear issues doesn’t logically imply that they can’t be known. Some people are merely stubborn or, as the scripture describes, “willfully ignorant.” Other issues require more intense study to arrive at a sound answer, and a failure to invest the time to find those answers may explain different positions on some issues. The important takeaway, however, is that different views on issues imply neither Sketicism nor Relativism nor an absence of God’s instructions for arriving at a justified conclusion on moral issues.

              It’s also helpful to acknowledge that we don’t have to have Cartesian certainly on all issues to take a position. I may have enough information to hold a position 80% or I may be at epistemic parity and be 50/50 on an issue. God isn’t likely to hold us accountable for failing to act on information we do not have. But He will hold us accountable for ignoring information He’s given which is clear enough to be understood. When Jesus lamented that Israel should have understood the signs of His coming, that connoted an epistemic failure on their part for which they would suffer consequences. They had no excuse such as, “But God didn’t tell us,” or, “His word wasn’t clear enough or difficult to understand.” The fact that there were differing schools of theological thought (i.e., e.g., Pharisees, Saducces, Gnostics, etc) didn’t entail that anyone can live according to any view they like. Indeed, the Old Testament criticizes people for “doing what was right in their own eyes.”

              You stated:
              “Conversion is rare – particularly these days – but to the extent that it happens at all, it’s because people are listened to rather than lectured at, and find the truth of the ideas for themselves.”

              First, Jesus said the way of salvation was narrow and few there be that find it, so the rare conversions you’re describing is what we’d expect to see.
              Second, no one gets saved by being listened to. They get saved by listening to others who share the Truth of the gospel with them (“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”). Now certainly there are those who do not want to listen (“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – Proverbs 1:7), but that doesn’t mean we should stop sharing with them. Some will listen, and hopefully they will choose to believe. Others will not, but that shouldn’t stop us from sharing objective Truth.

              Finally, I hope you don’t take my bluntness in a negative way. Time is short and I type slow, so I have to be direct and to the point. I simply don’t have time for touchy-feely fluff. There’s a place for that, but a philosophical discussion where clarity is of primary importance isn’t one of them. Thank you for your patience with me.

            • John Kim says:

              Frank —

              You say that “No one gets saved by being listened to. They get saved by listening to others…”.

              But how does someone get other people to listen? One approach is to tell them to shut up, and lecture to them about how they’re wrong and the speaker is right. However, I find that this approach is mostly unsuccessful.

              What works better, in my experience, is to listen to them and engage in genuine dialog. When I worked as a teacher, I had to lecture a lot because I had 30 students or more. There wasn’t time for much individual dialog.

              Still, I found that when I had the time to listen to students, it made my teaching better. The lessons that truly stuck in students’ minds were the ones where they were able to question and interact, and then came to learn it on their own initiative. There were even times when I made a mistake, and a student would correct me. At those times, I wouldn’t deny it – I would say “You’re right, and I was wrong.” My willingness to admit that didn’t weaken my teaching. I found that students respected me *more* and were more willing to engage when they knew I was listening and respected their thinking.

              Obviously, these are about other topics, not spirituality. But I think the same principles apply. One of the few religions that is still growing in the U.S. is Mormons – and they put a lot of effort into outreach and dialog. Sometimes by sending young people out to proselytize, those young members are converted away and leave the church – but more often, new people join the church.

              Most churches, though, are losing membership. I think the best way to buck that trend is to engage more people in genuine, whole-hearted dialog.

              As for what range of Biblical interpretations are reasonable, I’m not sure how much we’re actually disagreeing. I agree that there are clear lessons, and also you seem to agree that there are issues open for debate, and where there is uncertainty. I think it will come down more to particular positions.

            • John,

              There are many ways one can get others to listen when sharing the gospel (and certainly we don’t want to be off-putting since the gospel itself is already, as the scripture says, an offense to the unbeliever). However, evangelism is a peripheral (though related in a tangential way) issue and I don’t want to rabbit-trail off topic.

              To return to the main point, I originally had asked about meta-ethics because what any side views as the rightness or wrongness of public policies and/or behavior is what largely divides society. Scott is correct to state political differences is due to differing worldview, but that’s a generalized assessment and I’m simply trying to narrow it down to which particular part of differing worldviews addresses the strife we see (after all, its possible for two people to having different worldviews while still sharing some beliefs, even if those beliefs are of no consequence).

              The question now becomes, how do people of opposite ethics (or opposing worldviews) get on the same page so as to come to some agreement regarding public policies? It seems like somebody will need to change their worldview to align with the other (here is where the issue of evangelism might be addressed).

              But what of those who want us to change our world view or refuse to change theirs? To be sure, I’ve changed from LDS to being a Biblical Christian when encountering enough evidence and God’s Holy Spirit leading me to the Truth. But at some point, once you see that 2+2=4, there’s really nothing that can convince you otherwise because you’re certain of its veracity (and there’s no evidence for falsehood which, upon examination, isn’t merely circumstantial). For the Biblical Christian who has confirmation from the Holy Spirit of Truth, his only option is to share (and contend for) this truth with others and hope they embrace it.

              This brings me back to Scott’s project of mutual understanding as a solution to the toxic political climate we find ourselves inhabiting. Such dialogues may provide the soil in which we plant seeds in hope that it proves to be a catalyst for a change in worldview. But barring that course of events, if no one changes their ethical beliefs (or the worldview that informs those beliefs), I don’t see how such discourse mitigates the toxic political climate at all. Yes, it may make for some new friendships, and I’m certainly on board with building personal bridges where we can. But when that same ‘friend’ goes and advocates for wicked policies that does damage to society, that simply fans the flames of political strife. Not because I would ever stop being a friend to that person (I wouldn’t), but because they will often stop being friends with anyone who opposes their agenda or exposes it for the wickedness that it is. .

            • John Kim says:

              Hi, Frank –

              I think that dialog is important because I think that change is possible. You changed from LDS to a Biblical Christian. I went from Presbyterian to Unitarian Universalism, though I still am comfortable with Presbyterian. And even one person who has changed within a large group can be a stepping stone to wider agreement.

              But even if people don’t change their fundamental worldview, I think there is the possibility of agreeing on narrower points or compromise.

              One of the most worrisome things about the partisan trend is that increasingly, people only believe facts coming from their own preferred media. I think we especially need dialog where we can discuss and agree on basic facts of the world.

              To take a less ethically-touchy case, one of my causes is support for nuclear power. I think that many people are opposed to nuclear power not because of an ethical issue, but because of false narratives about its dangers. But when I say that I support it, some people take it as a moral point, and are offended or angered. I think if we could agree on the physical facts available, that agreement or compromise would be much easier.

            • John,

              I agree that change is possible, but I don’t think “change” is in any way good for its own sake. What matters is truth and, if any change is going to occur, it should be toward truth. By “truth”, I mean ‘that which corresponds with reality’. If we all agreed about reality, there would be little on which to disagree other than personal taste.

              I also agree that people can agree on more specific issue that don’t require a change in world view. For example, we don’t have to change our world view to agree that people can agree on specific things without changing their world view (I’m not sure if that’s a bad joke or a meta example).

              Regarding media, I see your point, but I don’t think there’s an epistemic equivalence between Left and Right media. For example, if one side believes in a morally objective duty to tell the truth and the other side is run by moral Relativism, then the relativist side has no problem lying to achieve its goals. Of course, not all Leftists are relativists, but that’s the general zeitgeist of the Left.

              Regarding nuclear power, I completely agree with you. The problem is that issues of science have become politicized, usually for reasons of personal gain, and then the institutions which control the narrative deceive the mass public into believing them. For example, I used to be big on recycling. Then I studied the issue and found out that most all plastics are sent to third-world countries where it’s burned, causing health issues for those poor people living there. Along the way to deliver that plastic, much of it falls into the ocean which harms marine life. Finally, filling up landfills with plastic, covering it up, and building a park on top of it is far less harmful than what’s actually done with it. In like manner, wind-turbines and solar panels are also very harmful to the environment. So it turns out all of this “green” activity isn’t so green, but people are profiting from it and so the institutions that control the narrative will continue to push the public away from nuclear power which, ironically, is the most “green” energy we could tap into.

  4. Scott,

    I thought that was a great example, on your part, of following the Biblical admonition in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” On the secularist’s part, I think we saw what I take to be a general attitude of people (both believers and unbelievers), to wit, that most people don’t want the headache of conflict, so we get along as best as we can when in mixed company. I, too, have some secular friends whose company I enjoy, and that’s all fine and good.

    And I think it’s clear that cultivating relationships is important if we’re going to be a good witness and have a positive effect on the lives of unbelievers, in hopes that they may come to know Christ, which is truly the ultimate goal and of eternal value (certainly of more value than the temporary cares of this world).

    However, once we get past the cultivating of civility when in each other’s company, I’m wondering how these amicable relationships help mitigate the toxic political atmosphere, since secularists will continue promoting evil public policies that have real world consequences that result in millions of babies being slaughtered and the family unit being destroyed. It’s as if they’re smiling at us while twisting a knife in our back, whether or not that’s their intentions.

    In a previous post, I referenced Amos 3:3 (“Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?”), and while this doesn’t preclude living at peace with some (certainly not all), it teaches us that ultimately, the unbeliever and the believer are fundamentally at odds because they don’t share values or goals. And I think it’s this distinction that creates the toxic political climate and not problems of general civility when in each other’s company (certainly there are those on the extreme that seem incapable of behaving civilly, but I think that’s what the media shows us because it’s sensational and not the norm).

    To clarify, I think it’s the lack of shared values and toxic political climate that causes interpersonal strife and not the converse. I don’t think people begin by being at odds with each other personally and then express their disagreements by voting differently than us. What this means is that it requires “walking together” (i.e., sharing values) to mitigate personal strife, while “getting along” does not mitigate evil public policies.

    I’m not, of course, suggesting that we ought not get along, as living at peace as much as possible is a Biblical imperative. I’m only suggesting that doing so won’t change the toxic political environment unless those relationships result in the true conversion of the unbeliever, such that they seek God’s will and express that in their vote and subsequent policies which follow to the betterment of society.

    In any case, I enjoyed watching the video and it’s always good to see people seeking civility and understanding. As far as personal relationships go, I think that’s very healthy. Is it helpful to society? Well, I don’t see how it’s not. After all, any good will is still “good” will. But is it helpful to society collectively? I’m not sure.

    Evil policies remain evil no matter how “nice” the unbeliever acts in our company. It’s not clear that being nice to my face is at all equivalent to having my best interest at heart if, outside of my presence, the unbeliever is destroying society. The best analogy I can give is that question raised by Jesus: Who really did the will of his father, the son who said he would obey and did not, or the son who defied his father and yet later did as he was asked? I liken the friendly unbeliever (who says he’s my friend to my face and still destroys society) as the former son.

    In the end, I want to be satisfied with the hope that being civil with the unbeliever will lead to the saving of his soul since, outside of that hope, he’s destroying society. Will the unbeliever extend the same courtesy to us when we oppose his destruction of society? Thus far, I’ve encountered very few who do so. However, I still find it’s best to follow the Biblical imperative with which I began this commentary.

    Finally, I think Mark James makes valid points and echoes a Biblical sentiment found in Ecclesiastes 3:3, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” and among those times is, “ a time of war, and a time of peace”. While one may view this in the macro and suggest that the New Testament age is “a time for peace”, that’s not really the point of the passage. It has personal application in all our lives, because life is complex and we’re all faced with various circumstances that may call for different solutions. Indeed, Mark’s example of Jesus driving out the money changers is on point. I think the real challenge for the church is balancing loving our enemy while at the same time fighting against his wickedness. We don’t want such fighting to turn into malice, but we also don’t want “love” to become an excuse to compromise or tolerate evil.

    • Thanks again for weighing in Frank. I’ll make only two points in an attempt to keep this brief. The first will maybe pick up from your last reply to my last post as I haven’t had time to answer you there.

      1) I think the heart of our disagreement is that we have a different goal in view. “Shared values” as you define it is not going to happen in this age. (I frame it as vastly differing worldviews.) We will not, for the most part, be “walking together” as you define it. But there is a brilliant solution that is possible in this country, if not in most: I have advocated for and will continue to advocate for “pluralism and freedom for all within the constraints of the US Constitution.” This includes a free marketplace of ideas where both good and bad ideas can be shown for what they are. I think that’s the best that people of disparate worldviews can hope for in this age without one group attempting to subjugate the other. I honestly don’t see how any reasonable person can disagree with this as target for our society.

      You assert, “…the unbeliever and the believer are fundamentally at odds because they don’t share values or goals. And I think it’s this distinction that creates the toxic political climate and not problems of general civility…” I think this is incorrect. I don’t need to share values and goals with a secularist to work next to, do commerce with, live next to, and otherwise engage with him or her. I do it all the time. (However, note that many on the Left increasingly do not feel the same way).

      Similarly, you write, “…I’m only suggesting that doing so [living at peace as much as possible] won’t change the toxic political environment unless those relationships result in the true conversion of the unbeliever, such that they seek God’s will and express that in their vote…”

      Of course I would like nothing better than for all materialists to find spiritual birth and relational unity with their Creator, but that’s not necessary to change the toxic political environment. What is necessary is mutual understanding. This has been lost. In general the Left really thinks that conservatives are haters, bigots, and the rest of the list that we are now all too familiar with. The toxic political environment can change if the Left can recognize that disagreement does not equal hate. I think it’s that simple.

      2) I have to respond to Mark enlisting in his cause the example of Jesus driving out the moneychangers from the temple, since you concur. This strikes me as terrible theology, and not at all applicable to our current political situation, and its application there is wholly inconsistent with the direct teachings of Jesus and His apostles.

      > Jesus lived in a Jewish theocracy and this event took place in the Israel’s national temple. We are not a theocracy and we have no counterpart to a national temple, by design.
      > As Messiah and God in human flesh, Jesus had authority to do this. He frequently spoke of His authority as coming from the Father. The temple was “His Father’s house.” You and I have no such authority to “settle matters once and for all” in this way.
      > This was not a political cleansing; it was a spiritual one. The moneychangers were set up in the Court of the Gentiles, essentially making a marketplace out of the one part of the temple where non-Jews were allowed to come and worship the God of Israel. It was not a declaration whatsoever from Jesus that “the time for talk had ended.” The (Jewish) moneychangers were essentially making Gentile access to God more difficult, so He chased them out.
      > There are abundant examples of Jesus rebuking His followers for wanting to turn to violent means. James and John wanting to call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans who refused to receive Jesus; Jesus restoring the servant’s ear on the night of His betrayal and telling Peter to put away his sword, to name a couple. Read the beatitudes. He was speaking to a culture that was expecting violent revolution. He was not an advocate for this.
      > Jesus specifically and emphatically stated that His Kingdom is not of this world, and Paul clarified that our enemies are not flesh and blood: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world then my servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, my kingdom is not of this realm” (Jn 18:36; Eph 6:12). The kingdom of God is not advanced by means of the sword.

      I’m curious where you get the notion that the church is charged with “fighting against [her enemy’s] wickedness.” The parable of the wheat and tares comes to mind. Jesus explains that the “sons of the kingdom and the sons of the evil one” will grow up together side by side, and the sons of the evil one are not to be rooted out. He says that God will sort it out in the end (Matt 13:24-30, 36-43). I find this very freeing. God is the judge, and I am not. Thus I am free to love.

      • Scott, as always, I apologize for my lengthiness.

        You stated that:
        ““Shared values” as you define it is not going to happen in this age. (I frame it as vastly differing worldviews.)”

        I agree that the fundamental issue is one of differing world views, but it’s precisely that distinction that leads to different values. Were that not the case, a difference in world view would be insignificant. In reality, the values associated with those contrary worlds views are expressed in public policies that have real world consequences, an issue that hasn’t been addressed in this enterprise of mutual understanding. And it’s those destructive polices that represent the crux of the current toxic zeitgeist.

        You wrote:
        “… the brilliant solution is ‘to advocate for ‘pluralism and freedom for all within the constraints of the US Constitution.’ This includes a free marketplace of ideas where both good and bad ideas can be shown for what they are.”

        Advocating for this American founding principle (a conservative principle) is fine. Note, however, that this is a principle, not a method. What’s the method in achieving this principle (because mutual understanding with people who want to undermine the very world view upon which your solution is predicated doesn’t appear feasible)? The political Left are doing all they can to undermine the 1st Amendment, and they certainly want no free marketplace where their world view will be exposed as the equivalent of the emperor’s new clothes. I’m not suggesting there aren’t a handful of liberals interested in engaging in this enterprise of mutual understanding (though they represent the rare exception and not the rule), but how does this at all solve the damage they’re doing to society? Without addressing this question, it’s like telling us to go to the doctor to get some understanding of what ails us without offering a cure. Without the cure, it hardly matters knowing what sickness one has, since no relief is forthcoming.

        You wrote:
        “I don’t need to share values and goals with a secularist to work next to, do commerce with, live next to, and otherwise engage with him or her. I do it all the time.”

        You’ve misunderstood my point. I wasn’t at all suggesting one cannot get along with a secularist. I was suggesting that the political differences (those that lead to opposing policies) are where the toxic political climate begins. If by chance it doesn’t spill over into interpersonal relationships, that’s fortuitous. But note that a positive interpersonal relationship does nothing to mitigate destructive policies, and that was the point I was making.

        You wrote that:
        “I would like nothing better than for all materialists to find spiritual birth and relational unity with their Creator, but that’s not necessary to change the toxic political environment. What is necessary is mutual understanding.”

        This is revealing, because it suggests we’re using “toxic political environment” entirely differently. You seem to be using the term in the micro to refer to personal relationships, whereas I’m using it in the macro to refer to actual political activity, that in which policies (whether political, academic, or corporate) are enacted and toxically debated. If that’s so, then I entirely agree that, in the micro, it’s possible to get along with secularists/liberals. However, it’s in the realm of the macro that real world consequences apply, and that’s the realm where this enterprise of mutual understanding is ostensibly impotent.

        Regarding Mark’s comments:
        Mark was unequivocally clear to reference our war against marxism as an ideological one. When he subsequently suggested it be ‘amped up’, I took that to mean that we increase our efforts. I in no way took that to mean that we should turn an ideological war into a physically violent crusade, nor were the comments about Jesus cleansing the temple meant to imply such a thing (at least that’s not how I interpreted his reference). Again, I simply took that to mean that, just as Jesus confronted evil directly and did nothing to tolerate it, we should do likewise. Now I might have misread Mark’s intentions (and I invite him to correct me if I did), but given how I understood it, there’s no need to respond to your rebuttal since it was predicated on an understanding of Mark’s comments which I didn’t assume.

        You asked:
        “I’m curious where you get the notion that the church is charged with ‘fighting against [her enemy’s] wickedness.’”

        It’s understood from a simple categorical syllogism.

        1. Christians are charged to do good.
        2. Fighting (i.e., resisting and/or opposing) wickedness is good.
        3. Ergo, Christians are charged with fighting (i.e., resisting and/or opposing) wickedness.

        Logically, if the premisses are true and the form is valid, then the conclusion is necessarily true. Since the form of the argument is valid, then any objection must be with the premisses. I doubt any objection will be made to premiss #1. Therefore, any objection to the conclusion will have to take issue with premiss #2.

        Let’s be clear about what I mean by fighting (i.e., resisting or opposing) wickedness. When Jesus spoke about not resisting an evil person who strikes us on the cheek and issued the well-known turning-the-other-cheek imperative, He was referring to not responding in kind to a personal insult. He was not advocating pacifism. Where the church has a mission to love others to win souls to Christ, that in no way has any relevance to how one acts in the face of actual evil behavior. For example, suggesting that Christians ought to advocate defunding the police (so that criminals are not judged for their wickedness) in the name of ‘not fighting against wickedness’ would be a poor exegesis of any scriptural text (not that you’re advocating for such a thing). So by “fighting wickedness” in the context of the political sphere, I mean advocating/voting against evil political policies and social behavior, etc.

        In your response to what you believed to be an understanding of Mark’s comments, you noted how we’re not under a Jewish theocracy. Yes, and we’re also not under a totalitarian state as in Rome either (yet). We’ve been blessed with the ability to exercise self-governance. That means that what we do politically is a reflection of who we are individually. So just as we would not kill babies, our vote should reflect a defense of life. Just as the Christian would not advocate fornication, his vote should oppose prostitution, pornography, and sexually deviant behavior. The point is, the Christian who has the freedom of self-governance has a duty to fight evil in public policy just as he would in his daily life, because he will have to give an account to God of his political activity or his failure to exercise righteousness in his civic duty.

        Finally, you noted:
        “God is the judge, and I am not. Thus I am free to love.”

        In the context of this discussion about fighting against evil, it’s a false dilemma to imply one cannot both exercise judgement and be free to love. Judging is an act of discernment where one makes distinctions between good and evil. Certainly we’re called to judge, nor does the “do not judge” verse that secularists love to quote apply here (that verse has to do with condemning others hypocritically and is not an imperative to ignore distinctions between good and evil). After all, the imperative to “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24) could not be issued were we not meant to judge. When Paul commands us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them,” how could we reprove others unless we first judge who is guilty of such works of darkness?

        • Well, I think we’re getting somewhere if we could each clarify a couple of points. Please excuse my caps for emphasis:

          First, you write, “…we’re using “toxic political environment” entirely differently. You seem to be using the term in the micro to refer to personal relationships, whereas I’m using it in the macro to refer to actual political activity…”

          Yes & No. Yes, then, we’re using it differently. No, I’m not referring to personal relationships per se. I’m referring to current divide/polarization/partisan demonization occurring across societal discourse right now. I thought that was understood. I don’t think it’s a question of micro vs macro. I’m addressing the breakdown of civility resulting from (imo) the Left relegating the entire category of conservatism as morally reprehensible and therefore undeserving of a place in the public square or in public policy. This divide spans the spectrum from personal relationships to political action.

          You continue, “…it’s in the realm of the macro that real world consequences apply, and that’s the realm where this enterprise of mutual understanding is ostensibly impotent.”

          Mutual UNDERSTANDING is not impotent here because liberals do not UNDERSTAND conservatives. They ascribe motives to us that we don’t hold. They believe we hate POC, women, foreigners, LGBTQ people, etc. But I’ve already stated this problem clearly.

          This leads to my second point of clarification: I insist that “the brilliant solution is ‘to advocate for ‘pluralism and freedom for all within the constraints of the US Constitution.’ This includes a free marketplace of ideas where both good and bad ideas can be shown for what they are.”

          You object, “Note, however, that this is a principle, not a method.”

          I’ll agree that it’s a principle, but I’m saying such a social/political arrangement is also the solution. It’s the only solution I can see if we are to remain a free nation. If we can’t unite around our constitution as a nation then we truly are done with the “American experiment.”

          You continue, “The political Left are doing all they can to undermine the 1st Amendment, and they certainly want no free marketplace where their world view will be exposed as the equivalent of the emperor’s new clothes.”

          Yep, that’s why we must advocate the principle, along with a return to civil discourse and respectful disagreement. We have to end this practice of using the notion of “disagreement equals hate” to shut down dialogue.

          You ask, “…but how does this at all solve the damage they’re doing to society?”

          Free marketplace/laboratory of ideas. Free speech. Free press. Integrity of communication. Religious liberty – all constitutional ideas. The damage wrought by bad policy (from either side) will become evident. It’s already becoming evident, and much of the damage has been evident for a long time if honest voices are allowed to point it out. It’s the shutting down of “politically incorrect” voices that enables the damage to continue. Most people will be able to recognize the totalitarian, self-righteous, and judgmental modus operandi of the far Left, especially when it’s directed at them.

          Damage will have to occur. This is part of the process of letting the free marketplace take it’s course. For example, many stores in neighborhoods where BLM riots occurred may not return due to skyrocketing insurance rates, resulting in further decline. Cities that vote to defund the police will either find that this was a good move, or it wasn’t. Google Abigail Shrier to see the unexpected and irreversible consequences of gender ideology for young girls. And so on.

          For some reason politicians tend to want to federalize every “solution” so that no comparisons can be made. Conservatism tends to advocate more local and state power. What’s wrong with some states having crazy high tax rates, and some having their’s low? Some having strict gun laws and some having lax? Some severely restricting abortion access and others not? Some offering school choice and others not? Some incentivizing heterosexual marriage and large families and some not? Some states allowing critical race theory to be propagated and others not?

          It is time for each side to stop telling the other they are correct and start SHOWING which is correct. We need to insist on facts and evidence, but we need to be able to make comparisons to do so, imo. And mainstream conservative voices must be allowed at the table.

          • You stated that “Mutual UNDERSTANDING is not impotent” regarding the macro:
            “…because liberals do not UNDERSTAND conservatives.”

            I don’t find that to be true at all. For example, conservatives have repeatedly and quite clearly explained why voter laws are important, and the fact that Leftist institutions continue to misrepresent such laws as “racist” displays willful ignorance. Leftists’ problem isn’t a failure to understand conservatives. Their problem (assuming any of them is sincere about their critique) is with prejudicially misunderstanding or misrepresenting the abilities of black people. But despite any pretense that they’re concerned about black people being unable to acquire the necessary identification to vote (an empty and mendacious claim not supported by facts), we all know that Democrat politicians oppose voter laws because it makes it more difficult for them to cheat. The point is, the political divide in D.C., on the MSM, or in other Leftist-controlled institutions, has nothing to do with a lack of understanding. Certainly there are ordinary citizens who believe whatever they hear from Leftist-controlled institutions, and perhaps in some such cases they may be won over by the facts. But those who control such institutions know better, and they’re the ones guilty of fomenting the toxic political environment. The fact is, a lack of understanding is not the problem here. Evil intentions are.

            With respect to the “principle” / “method” distinction, you wrote:
            “I’ll agree that it’s a principle, but I’m saying such a social/political arrangement is also the solution.”

            This is simply a restatement of the principle sans a method of implementing it.

            You observed:
            “If we can’t unite around our constitution as a nation then we truly are done with the ‘American experiment.’”

            Yes, exactly. You’ve summarized the problem in a nutshell. Though I would go one step further and say, if we can’t unite around the founding principle that undergirds the Constitution, namely, that it’s God that endows us with inalienable rights which no state has any legitimate authority to deny, then we are truly done. And that’s precisely where we are.

            You suggest:
            “We have to end this practice of using the notion of “disagreement equals hate” to shut down dialogue.”

            “We”? It’s only the Left who believes (or pretends) that “disagreement equals hate”. Conservatives only believe that hate equals hate, and we know hate when we see it. But we have no problem with ideological disagreements. We only have problems with those bad policies that result from bad ideas.

            When I asked how this project of interpersonal understanding mitigates the damage being done to society, you responded with:
            “Free marketplace/laboratory of ideas. Free speech. Free press. Integrity of communication. Religious liberty – all constitutional ideas.”

            That list represents the goal. What I’m asking is, how does this enterprise of mutual understanding among ordinary individuals get us to where we have those freedoms?

            You implied society will change when:
            “The damage wrought by bad policy (from either side) will become evident.”

            By that time it’ll be too late. An apple goes from ripe to rotten. It does not go from rotten to ripe. Entropy, which applies to more than just thermodynamics, is a one-way street. There’s a reason statist governments remain in a perpetually bad state without any outside help (in our case, the only outside help powerful enough to help us is God, but it’s not clear He’s interested in helping a nation that consistently rejects Him). Once authoritarians gain power, they do not let go. History has repeatedly taught us this. Universities in the 60’s believed in free speech and allowed communists a voice, but once those communist kids grew up and took over those universities, they squashed free speech. You can’t assume the wicked play fair. They don’t. And you can’t assume that a people, once subjugated into submission, can overthrow a corrupt statist government. They can’t. Not peaceably anyhow.

            You wrote:
            “Damage will have to occur. This is part of the process of letting the free marketplace take it’s course. ”

            Again, the damage wrought by wicked people in power will not result in a free marketplace. Not when the damage is the very abolition of a free marketplace (among a loss of other freedoms).

            You noted:
            “For some reason politicians tend to want to federalize every “solution” so that no comparisons can be made. ”

            The “reason” is that they want to acquire power for their own gain. It’s not complex. As for “What’s wrong with some states having [X], and some having [Y]?”, that would result in a loss of centralized power for those in D.C., which is why they usurp state power not granted them by the Constitution. They love darkness rather than light. It’s that simple.

            Finally, you stated:
            “It is time for each side to stop telling the other they are correct and start SHOWING which is correct. ”

            This is like the rich man in hell who wanted Jesus to warn his brothers. Jesus rightly noted that they have Moses and the prophets and will not listen though one rose from the dead. Well, Leftists have the repeated examples of history to show them the destructive consequences of their policies, and they have current examples from states which allow people to be free to contrast with their oppressive policies, and still they don’t listen. This is why I continue to think that this enterprise of mutual understanding is only helpful in the micro, but has no effect on the macro. The majority of those in Hong Kong do not need to be made to understand their statist oppressors. They understand perfectly, But no amount of understanding is helping them against that statist government. That’s the problem we’re increasingly facing here.

            • Frank – It sounds like our experience with liberals has been quite different. I’ve seen a great many testimonies of a diversity of people leaving the Democratic party when Left wing self-righteousness/judgmentalism/intolerance was directed at them from their own, often for asking an honest question. Many of these people continue to hold socially liberal positions, but they value FREEDOM.

              You say, “the fact that Leftist institutions continue to misrepresent such laws as “racist” displays willful ignorance.”
              I think it displays an entrenched ideological commitment. Mutual understanding is not going to change “Leftist institutions,” but it can change individual Leftists, especially nominal ones.

              I get that you’re concerned with “the macro” – “…those who control such institutions know better, and they’re the ones guilty of fomenting the toxic political environment. The fact is, a lack of understanding is not the problem here. Evil intentions are.”
              For Leftist institutions, mutual understanding may not (or may) be the problem, but for individuals it is. And It is individuals that we interact with – neighbors, co-workers, fellow church members, etc. To the extent that they are liberals who believe conservatives are evil by virtue of being conservative, then, yes, they do foment the toxic cultural divide, and mutual understanding is indeed the major part of the solution.

              Re: pluralism and freedom for all within the constraints of the US Constitution/free marketplace of ideas. You think my saying “such a social/political arrangement is the solution” is simply a “restatement of the principle sans a method of implementing it.”

              It already has been implemented. We do still have a free press. I’m saying we’re in danger of losing it as a guiding framework and the we need to hold it up as the standard. Most people don’t like having things shoved down their throats. Most people don’t like liberal self-righteousness, shaming, bigotry, judgmentalism, and censorship any more than they like it when conservatives do those things.

              I suggested that ““Free marketplace/laboratory of ideas. Free speech. Free press. Integrity of communication. Religious liberty” mitigates the damage being done by bad policy. You responded, “That list represents the goal. What I’m asking is, how does this enterprise of mutual understanding among ordinary individuals get us to where we have those freedoms?

              I wouldn’t say that list represents the goal. I would say the goal is something like “a society where basic human rights are ensured and enjoyed by everyone and where freedom without chaos exists.” The list enables and safeguards such a society. It is the means of getting us there and keeping us there, given the broken nature of human beings.

              I asserted that “the damage wrought by bad policy (from either side) will become evident.”
              You replied that by then it would be too late; “an apple goes from ripe to rotten.” I get your point, and I hope you’re wrong. I do see some evidence that you are. It’s been almost 50 yrs since Roe v Wade, and the general public is more favorable to restrictions on abortion than ever. Why? Because we have science and facts on the side of truth, and conservatives have been (mostly) patiently making the case for decades.

              Same with race relations. Things have moved overwhelmingly in the right direction and continue to do so, though the Left continues to muddy the water. Hopefully Black conservative voices will continue to increase their platform among the Black community.

              Same with gender ideology. The general public is not buying it. And the damage is coming to light very quickly in this case. We need a compassionate use if facts and science, not a whip. My opinion is that the battle for the minds of the people is more fundamental than the battle against statism.

            • Mark James says:

              I’m not particularly tech savvy… but did my last comments reach their destination?

            • Mark, I just scrolled my email to check for any pending posts from you. Didn’t see any. Usually once I approve your first comment, I don’t have to approve subsequent comments. Will check more thoroughly later. ‘Sorry about that!

            • Our differing experience with liberals may have to do with our demographics. I live in Left-coast, California, home of fruits, nuts, and flakes. If you don’t live in a coastal-elitist state, then you’re likely only encountering the more extremist liberals online. I have to live among them, so that’s where I’m speaking from.

              I’m aware of the #walkaway movement, but the Democrat party isn’t just made up of liberals/Leftists. It’s also made up of very confused “conservatives”. I’m being nice when I say “confused”, because I really mean sloppy or lazy thinking conservatives who belong to the Democrat party because that’s how they’ve been raised or because they consume anything the MSM feeds them, and they largely have no problem living in a state of cognitive dissonance, claiming to be conservative while voting for a party that opposes most of what they claim to believe. In any case, my previous comments were not really directed at Democrat voters per se, but at those who knowingly advocate for Leftist policies.

              You described the willful ignorance of institutions as “entrenched ideological commitments.” Yes, but “willful ignorance” is the very reason ideologies in such institutions are entrenched. And I agree with you that “Mutual understanding is not going to change” them, “but it can change individual Leftists, especially nominal ones.”. Yes, I agree, that’s been my point from the beginning.

              You suggested that:
              “For Leftist institutions, mutual understanding may not (or may) be the problem, but for individuals it is. ”

              Sure, for some individuals that may be true, but certainly not for all. That’s why I think this project of mutual understanding may be helpful, though it also may not be. In the face of such uncertainty, it’s certainly better to take those positive steps and for the best.

              You stated:
              “It already has been implemented. We do still have a free press. I’m saying we’re in danger of losing it as a guiding framework and the we need to hold it up as the standard.”

              I understand that the Constitution recognizes such a right, but given that the Constitution has been violated by politicians probably since its inception, it’s not at all clear we still have much of a free press/speech. It’s no secret that reporters in most of the MSM are usually required to tow whatever ideological line their agencies dictate. And when people (who I would include as part of the press insofar as they’re making their voices heard publicly) are canceled or shadow-banned from social media sites, or when a private business like Parlor is removed by their web-hosting provider, or when conservative groups are removed from or demonitized on YouTube (e.g., the #walkaway group was removed from social media), that’s hardly indicative of free press/speech. Of course, I’m not suggesting there’s zero free press/speech left, but we certainly don’t have the amount of freedom we did just a couple decades past. So what I’m asking is, given that free press/speech is already in decline and will disappear if the Left have their way, how is this project of mutual understanding going to reverse that course? It’s not individuals that make policy. It’s Leftist-controlled institutions that control it; those very institutions which this enterprise of mutual understanding is impotent to reform.

              You noted that a “Free marketplace/laboratory of ideas. Free speech. Free press. Integrity of communication. Religious liberty” doesn’t represent a goal, but instead the goal is “a society where basic human rights are ensured and enjoyed by everyone and where freedom without chaos exists.” Sounds like the exact same thing. After all, what are those “basic human rights” if not “Free marketplace/laboratory of ideas. Free speech. Free press. Integrity of communication. Religious liberty”?

              Regarding my comment that ““an apple goes from ripe to rotten,” you replied, “I get your point, and I hope you’re wrong.” Yes, I hope I’m wrong as well, but I don’t think your example offers any reason to believe I am. You rightly noted that “It’s been almost 50 yrs since Roe v Wade, and the general public is more favorable to restrictions on abortion than ever. ” However, the public do not make policy. Politicians do, and, to beat this dead horse, they are immune from this enterprise of mutual understanding. Those who benefit from the abortion industry know what they’re doing and they’re not going to change. You might change an individual working in an abortion clinic, but all that means is that they’ll stop working there and someone else will take their place. I have a catholic friend who claims to be pro-life and yet is a staunch democrat, defending and voting for the party of baby-killing. How does one overcome this kind of cognitive dissonance? Trust me, no amount of mutual understanding will change his mind. The hardest people to witness to are people who claim to be “saved” while their life indicates anything but. I would even acquiesce to the fact that perhaps a politician or two may miraculously change their position given a dose of mutual understanding. Again, all that means is that they leave their party and someone else fills their seat. But the institutions do not change, and that’s my only point.

              You correctly noted:
              “we have science and facts on the side of truth, and conservatives have been (mostly) patiently making the case for decades.”

              Unfortunately, the Left rarely cares about science or facts unless they can twist it to suit their agenda (the Academy of Sciences and most all academia is held hostage by Leftist ideology. Homosexuality wasn’t removed from the list of mental diseases because of science. It was political activism in the field of psychology that had the clinical status changed). And again, while an individual might be educated and accept the truth, it does nothing to change harmful policy.

              Regarding race relations, you wrote:
              “Things have moved overwhelmingly in the right direction and continue to do so”

              They were moving in the right direction until Obama took office. I hate to make him the scapegoat, but he set the clock back a century, only he changed the victims and the perpetrators so that now it’s openly fine to hate and oppress whitey (often on the basis of fake “hate-crimes” and false narratives about police). It’s bad to say the “N” word (and rightly so), but it’s fine to use with impunity every pejorative one can think of to refer to white people. No, race relations are not at all moving in the right direction, and it’s overwhelmingly because of Leftist race-baiters and agitators.

              Finally, you opined:
              “My opinion is that the battle for the minds of the people is more fundamental than the battle against statism.”

              How does one fight the battle for the mind when statism right now actively prohibits some from doing so? Here in California (and I believe the democrats are trying to pass this nationally) it’s already illegal to professionally counsel someone with gender dysphoria in such a way as to educate them to the truth or help them if they’re struggling and seeking help.

              So while I see the good of mutual understanding for personal relations, I don’t see it making any difference to our social decline if it doesn’t lead to a change of heart and a renewing of the mind.

  5. John Kim says:

    To Scott –

    Thanks for posting this. As a member of UUFRC, I hope I can follow up here if you or your readers have questions about us.

  6. paarsurrey says:

    The News:

    You will, perhaps, love to read the following:

    *“Holy War”: Is it Armegiddon / Armageddon? – with its “Peaceful Version”! 1 *

    https://paarsurrey.wordpress.com/holy-war-is-it-armegiddon-armageddon-with-its-peaceful-version-1/

    Right?

    If yes, then share with others, please.

    Regards

    On Sat, May 15, 2021 at 12:39 PM Art & Life Notes wrote:

    > art & life notes posted: ” I was recently invited to share my thoughts at > a Unitarian-Universalist (UU) church service in California, via Zoom. > According to my host, it is a very liberal congregation in a liberal > geographical bubble. Apparently members of the congregation run ” >

  7. dolphinwrite says:

    If I were one of “them”, I would see you as one to target by providing a kind of “feedback” of acceptance, and support your ideas, making them seem great, for with time, you would become one of “them.” Something to consider.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, dolphinwrite,

      If I understand what you’re saying, I see your concern as a common but unfounded fear, for people on BOTH sides. I think I’m seeing, in many people, a fear that to admit that the “other side” has a good point or a legitimate concern means one is on one’s way to becoming “one of them.” I contend that it simply means that one is on one’s way to becoming a more honest person.

      For me, the point isn’t to be a conservative or a progressive, or to stand my ground no matter what. For me the point is to live in fidelity to what is true. After years of deep thought I happen to believe that conservatism is less dangerous than “progressivism.” The position one takes about what is true ultimately stems from one’s worldview, (or in some cases, the lack of a coherent one).
      So I don’t think “becoming one of them” for either side is a matter of osmosis. At least it isn’t for me.

      • John Kim says:

        dolphinwrite — I’m a member of UUFRC, and thus am speaking as one of “them”. I think it cuts both ways. By giving Scott a platform to speak to our congregation, we were giving him a chance to speak to and influence us – just as we would have the potential to speak to him.

        I would welcome a similar chance to speak to and hear from a conservative church. If you know of any opportunities, I would welcome them.

        I think communicating and understanding the other side is a good thing. And the best understanding comes from knowing and talking with real people, rather than media portrayals.

  8. dolphinwrite says:

    There’s a far cry difference between intellectual writings and those based upon understanding.

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