I’ve sometimes tried to post articles here, now and again, that are written from a viewpoint I do not share. The authors may be of a different religious faith, or a different political perspective, or a more or less radical world view; but the common element is that I don’t share their views. Neither do many of my readers.
I think many of you understand why I do this. Others, however, do not. In the most recent case, earlier this week, I received comments like these:
- “Someone with a lobotomy wrote this.”
- “There are no people of good will on the Left. If they were of good will, they wouldn’t be Leftists. QED”
- “Sounds like it was written by a parent who just cannot blame one kid no matter how at fault or vicious they act. Praising this type of mushy logic framed as the virtuous center is well below your intellect. We all know who is tearing America down and why, it’s been admitted about 10K times. Some men get very sentimental and too understanding in their later years.”
- “My initial summary of Lipson’s codswallop I edited out, solely for respect of your blog and your preferences, but suffice it so say it’s something found in the former Augean Stables by the metric ton … Some crimes merit old time torture, not mere execution. His nonsense qualifies, ad extremis.”
- “Peter, this article you have copied isn’t even bovine excrement, it’s nightsoil, and a wast of time and electrons. I can look anywhere on the web to find the same sort of crap, I really don’t want to find it on your blog.”
The problem with all these comments is that they assume that only one point of view is right. All others are wrong to a greater or lesser extent. That’s precisely the assumption that many on the “other side” are also making. We’ve gone past the point where we’re prepared to listen to each other, and try to understand how the other is thinking. We now simply reject their viewpoints, and them for holding such viewpoints. It’s “my way or the highway”.
Friends, those of you who’ve read my work over the years know my background. I’ve seen far too much of war, bloodshed and violence for my peace of mind, and I’m seeing a ramp-up to it again in these formerly United States. I think it’ll be a tragedy if that should be our future. It may well be – it may, by now, be unavoidable – but as long as I can, I’ll try to provide an alternate viewpoint now and then, in the hope that some readers at least may be given food for thought. Do I really hate/despise/want to kill people with these views, just because they don’t see the world my way? Sadly, some already do.
There are those who consider this wishy-washy. I had that criticism in plenty after my thoughts on the Paris terror attacks in 2015 – see the comments there for yourself – but it doesn’t alter the fact that my views then are my views now. By “othering” the enemy, instead of recognizing our joint humanity despite our differences, we effectively harden ourselves. We make ourselves part of the problem. It may be necessary and/or unavoidable that we resort to violence to solve our problems; but I don’t want us to walk into that with the absolute conviction that we’re right, and they’re wrong, and the only possible solution is to kill enough of them that we make the problem – i.e. them – go away. To do that makes us, morally and ethically, as bad as the extremists on the other side. It’s like marriage or relationship counseling. Those of us who’ve done that have learned the hard way that – with the exception of domestic violence – there are almost always two sides to the situation, and that it’s hardly ever just one person’s fault. The same is true of other human interactions as well.
It’s certainly that way in politics and war. Do we rail against left-wing, liberal, progressive politics and the damage they’ve done to our country? (I certainly do!) Then let’s not forget what right-wing politics have also done to our country, and to many others. Think of the “neocon wars” of the past few decades. How many were justified? How many should have been ended and the chapter in history closed, rather than allowed to drag on in an attempt to impose “truth, justice and the American way” on societies and nations that wanted nothing to do with them? For the latest results of that, see what’s happening in Afghanistan as I write these words. Two trillion dollars, thousands of American dead, tens of thousands of American wounded – all thrown away, wasted, washed down the drain of history. Some of those opposed to our Afghan war may be left-wing or progressive in their views, but I don’t think anyone would argue that they’re wrong because of that – just as we wouldn’t argue that right-wing opposition to it was/is wrong.
For better or worse, I’m a Christian pastor. I’m also a man of deep experience in the extremes of human behavior. I’ve been shot at, and I’ve shot back. I’ve been wounded – nearly killed – and I’ve returned the favor. I’m not some pie-in-the-sky theorist, some head-in-the-clouds idealist. I’ve “been there and done that”, and my body bears the scars to prove it. (So does my mind, for that matter.) I’m not thinking and writing this way because I’m a “pajama boy” type, but because I’m a hard-bitten realist (and some of the bites still hurt!).
I know the evil that dwells in the hearts of men, because I’ve found it in my own, and I’ve seen it in the hearts of all too many others. Civil wars, and armed insurrections, and terrorism, and serving as a chaplain in a high-security penitentiary, will all do that for you – and I’ve done them all. They’ve all helped to make me what I am. If you think I’m somehow a “closet liberal” after all that, there’s nothing I can do to make you change your mind.
I try – I don’t always succeed, but I try – to let my faith inform my approach to life. That faith tells me that I must always seek to give the Holy Spirit room to move, room to change the hearts of men – including my own. Thus, when I provide viewpoints that I don’t share, and many of my readers don’t share, I do so to give us all food for thought; to make us realize, yet again, that there are other perspectives out there, and we ignore them at our peril. Just as any man of sense distrusts and avoids extremists, we don’t want to paint ourselves into an extremist corner if we can avoid that.
That doesn’t mean I won’t take a stand. I fully agree with the old saw that “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”. My positions are well-known to regular readers. I’m morally conservative, politically center-right, and philosophically Christian. Those aren’t about to change. However, the fact that I hold those views does not (and should not) blind me to the fact that there are others out there, and those holding them are as entitled to do so as I’m entitled to hold mine. If I try to ride rough-shod over opposing views, the Golden Rule essentially implies that I’ve given those who hold them permission to ride rough-shod over mine. If I expect them to have any respect and tolerance for my views, I need to have at least some respect and tolerance for theirs, even though I may oppose them vigorously. If I reject them along with their views, why should they not reject me along with mine? Recognizing that reality doesn’t make me soft or wishy-washy. It makes me a realist.
Sadly, that perspective, and my efforts, don’t meet with everyone’s approval. I’m truly sorry about that: but it won’t change who and what I am. I’ll continue to try to provide alternative viewpoints from time to time. I’ll go with Oliver Cromwell‘s plea (and he was anything but a “softie” or liberal shill) to the Church of Scotland in 1650:
Is it therefore infallibly agreeable to the Word of God, all that you say? I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.
I can be (and often have been) as mistaken in my approach as any other. I’m not infallible, and never will be – and neither will any of my readers. I therefore beseech those of you who get annoyed when I post something with which you don’t agree: “think it possible you may be mistaken”, even if you’re absolutely sure you’re not. Read others’ views and perspectives, even if you will never agree with them, and question your own fallibility, as I do mine.
If that doesn’t work for you, there’s always the proverbial approach, of course.
Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do, you’ll be a mile away and you’ll have his shoes.
Not very Christian, perhaps, but also very practical!