OPINION: Put the pitchforks down 4

By Michelle Embree

Prickly neck hairs, tensed expressions, sweaty palms and the occasional desire to hide — these are just a few things you may have experienced if you were sitting in the audience at the Forester Lecture “Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics” with Lisa Sharon Harper and David Innes, Ph.D. I came expecting a night of refreshingly respectful and civil discussion between two Christians about the current political situation. I left wishing for the very same thing.

It’s not hard to see that today’s political climate is, to say the least, hostile. I’d even venture to say it has started to resemble a war. Everyone has chosen a side and begun to blame the opposition for all the present troubles. Obama is the Antichrist.
Romney is the devil. Quick, someone grab the pitchforks!

When exactly did we stop discussing what was best for our country and start yelling our opinions louder than the “enemy”? People have stuck their heels in the sand. This is apparent even in civil phrases such as, “Well, you have your opinion, and I have mine.” While this is a true statement, it is not a good excuse to avoid debating the issues of politics that intimately affect us all. We, as a nation, claim to be united. For such a unity to exist, there needs to be an open conversation on how we can reach an agreement that best satisfies everyone.

Easier said than done, I know.

Watching this discussion between two Christians, two individuals claiming to be brother and sister in Christ, was depressing. If two people with such a core value can’t have a truly civil conversation, then things are looking bleak. A model of civil political discussion was not quite achieved that night, but they did give us a starting point.

The main problem I observed between the two was a lack of listening. Rather than carefully listening to the other’s opinion, they were constantly on the defense, looking to twist the examples used and jump in with a rebuttal as soon as possible. There was a greater interest in making their own points heard than truly engaging and challenging one another.

These are important issues so a civil conversation can have passionate responses, but what it can’t have is belittling and bigotry. One can’t enter such a conversation assuming they have perfect opinions. Without humility, issues cannot truly be wrestled with so results will never come. If all our energy is put into fighting each other, none is left to battle the issues that really matter.

I know the flaws in our political system are craters and having a civil conversation is only a pebble being tossed in to fill it, but we must start somewhere. To be united, we must have common ground, and to find that common ground, we must listen to each other.

4 thoughts on “OPINION: Put the pitchforks down

  1. Reply Concerned Registered Voter Oct 25,2012 5:03 pm

    “Watching this discussion between two Christians, two individuals claiming to be brother and sister in Christ, was depressing. If two people with such a core value can’t have a truly civil conversation, then things are looking bleak. A model of civil political discussion was not quite achieved”

    Precisely why I’ve decided not to vote in November – because neither candidate has demonstrated any dignity, which, as a Christian myself, is required to earn my ballot.

    By contrast, I watched the third party debate on Tuesday night and was surprised to see all four candidates were highly respectful of each other and their audience. The night and day difference was unbelievable. I’d encourage everyone to watch the final debate Tuesday October 30th to see for yourself (Google it – you won’t hear about it from the mainstream US media – more ‘playing politics’ from the big two).

    Change can happen, but someone will have to fight for it. It won’t come from voting for a candidate with the sense of entitlement that Obama and Romney are demonstrating right now. It will come from someone with the instinct to listen equally to all comers – some one who’s respectful and can demonstrate their relationship with Christ (or admitted lack thereof) in a Christ-like way.

  2. Reply Adam Neumeyer Oct 25,2012 5:59 pm

    I, too, watched the third party debate on Tuesday, and I thought it was fantastic. The candidates were all very respectful of each other, and though sometimes they were very eager to speak, they would only interject to prevent the moderator from moving on, rather than interrupting another candidate while it was their turn to speak. I also really appreciated the discussion of more varied issues: issues that we very rarely hear the main two parties address.

    Regardless of any distaste of the main two parties, or maybe of only the particular candidates of the main two parties, I would still urge everyone to vote this election if they are able. Though a vote for a third party candidate may or may not have any significance in this current election, each third party vote shrinks the margin by which the main two parties usually come out ahead and, come next election, can show that a third party vote is more viable. Though I absolutely understand Concerned Registered Voter’s frustration, it is the “I can’t win, so I won’t vote” mentality that perpetuates the dominance of the Republican-Democrat duopoly on the U.S.’s political system.

  3. Reply Concerned Registered Voter Oct 25,2012 6:42 pm

    First, I fully respect and mostly agree with your point of view, Adam (and am glad to hear someone else watched the ‘civil’ debate). The moment a third party candidate that I feel convicted to vote for comes along – you better bet I’ll be first in line at the polls. I indeed want to see a third party in office in my lifetime.

    I wouldn’t encourage a “can’t win…won’t vote” mentality and don’t believe I have one (I’ve voted Democrat, Republican, third party, and write-in in previous elections – and never once chose the winner). The problem is, when there is no one one the ballot that you believe in, well then you really can’t win by voting.

    This can come from one’s lack of faith in politicians, but it also comes from flaws in the system preventing underdog candidates from gaining exposure, traction, or even their right to have their name placed on the ballot in many cases. It’s all not as democratic as it first appears and this is really sad to see in the 21st century USA.

    So, when we speak of ‘winning’, I believe that long-term we’d be better suited to improve the system and allow everyone reasonable access on ballots and to media profiles than to continue to vote for people who don’t fit our personal criteria for holding office. It’s not a ‘do-nothing’ attitude. It requires contacting senators, representatives, trendsetters, and judges to help bring change in a way that casting a ballot never will.

  4. Reply Adam Neumeyer Oct 25,2012 8:05 pm

    If you actually have no preference at all, then I would say your position is completely justified. That’s a very unfortunate position to be in, though. I hope, not only for your sake but for all our sakes, that the next election yields better candidates. (spell check says “sakes” isn’t a work, but I disagree)

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