Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when families can gather for worship and fellowship. We are in the holiday season of the year, a time when most people long to be home with family. It appears that COVID-19 will limit travel to be with family as well as the size of group that can gather. It appears that the end of 2020 will be much like the rest of the year – miserable.
Our immediate family stretches from Alaska to Pennsylvania and down to Texas. Even though some members of the family see each other on a regular basis, most of us are isolated to one extent or another. It appears that most, if not all, of our family will be feasting in our individual homes but gathering by Zoom. This is far from being an ideal situation, but it is much better than it could be without technology.
Many families have suffered from the political rhetoric of the year, and many individuals dread Thanksgiving dinner with relatives because of political discussions. Seth Griffin is a high school student and debate coach from Indiana as well as a Fellow at Heritage Foundation Academy. He suggests that there are three reason why so many people cannot have “civil discussion about some of the most important issues.” Here are his three reasons:
1. We put our identity in politics. [He wrote that declining religion in America is forcing people to find other places to put our faith. He said that people can determine where they put their faith by asking themselves these questions:]
· What do you do in your free time?
· What brings you the most satisfaction?
· What is your purpose in life?
What you put your faith in becomes your purpose, your meaning. Many today have placed faith in their politics, their preferred policies, and their version of a utopia. Political leanings are no longer opinions, but an identity that stems from the belief that politics is the best way available to make the world a better place.
This can lead to people thinking that if everyone just listened to them, then the world’s problems would be solved. People with opposing opinions are enemies to be attacked personally. Our responses can lack empathy or compassion. As a debate coach, I teach my students that debate is not a matter of being right but of understanding and refuting the opponent. To persuade, you must understand those you seek to persuade.
Any beneficial political debate must start with both sides admitting they don’t know everything and they can be wrong. Without this, the conversation will begin with statements of belief but end with a competition to see who can throw out the most insults.
2. Cancel Culture Cancels Productive Conversations.
For people who place their faith in political ideologies, to admit they are wrong is to fundamentally destroy who they are. So they resist hearing different beliefs that might threaten their identity. All others must be “canceled.” …
3. We fail to think deeply about our own beliefs.
In the past, philosophers and political leaders could explain their logic and worldviews in ways commoners could understand. This skill is sorely lacking in modern America.
Americans who place their identity in politics fear thinking deeply because they might be wrong. And if they are wrong, they are destroyed. They respond by following news sources that confirm or at least avoid offending their beliefs.
Often, two people discussing from different perspectives often don’t even acknowledge the same sets of facts. Without the ability to agree on some truths and look deeply for others, they struggle to have productive discussions. They become so used to hearing what they want to hear that they don’t respond well when someone counters their beliefs….
To make your political discussions more beneficial, start with a recognition that you don’t know everything. Be ready to listen and ask questions. A more civil political climate doesn’t start with the politicians or the other party. It starts with all of us.
When we put our faith in politics, it causes us to shut down opponents rather than hear them out. It substitutes feeling for thinking. The change for this must come from within all of us. If we can focus on listening, asking questions, and being civil, we no longer have to fear Thanksgiving dinner.
This young man shows a lot of wisdom. Even though he is a debate coach, he encourages family members to have discussions rather than debates about difficult topics. Families can be strengthened by civil discussions about politics and other difficult discussions, and strong families can strengthen communities and nations.