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Inspiration for non-violent discourse

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As a member of the Village Square leadership team in Utah, I wanted to post a brief thought on this Martin Luther King holiday.

In December I came across a fascinating editorial about A.J. Muste by David Blankenhorn entitled “The life of A.J. Muste and trying to be a better Christian.” It’s worth reading how this white immigrant became an inspiration for Dr. Martin Luther King and how Muste’s life can inspire us to compassionately seek to understand and engage with those who disagree with us.

Here’s just a taste from this article:

Part of Muste’s genius is that he never succumbed to the belief that he spoke [complete] truth and that his opponents spoke [complete] error. He said: “You always assume there is some element of truth in the position of the other person, and you respect your opponent for hanging on to an idea as long as he believes it to be true. On the other hand, you must try very hard to see what truth actually does exist in his idea, and seize on it to make him realize what you consider to be a larger truth.”

Jay Griffith
Village Square Salt Lake City, Team Member



What do Glenn Beck and Abbie Hoffman have in common?

Could be more than you think.

One of the perks of this job is that people are always sending me links to intelligent authors conveying big ideas. Here’s one from last week I didn’t quite get up on the blog… The New York Times’ David Brooks comparing the Tea Party movement to the counterculture movement of the 1960’s:

…both the New Left and the Tea Party movement are radically anticonservative. Conservatism is built on the idea of original sin – on the assumption of human fallibility and uncertainty. To remedy our fallen condition, conservatives believe in civilization – in social structures, permanent institutions and just authorities, which embody the accumulated wisdom of the ages and structure individual longings.

That idea was rejected in the 1960s by people who put their faith in unrestrained passion and zealotry. The New Left then, like the Tea Partiers now, had a legitimate point about the failure of the ruling class. But they ruined it through their own imprudence, self-righteousness and naive radicalism…

Brooks cites a piece by Michael Lind in Salon comparing Glenn Beck to Abbie Hoffman. Lind contrasts a counter-establishment with a counter-culture:

A counter-establishment publishes policy papers and holds conferences and its members endure their exile in think tanks and universities. In contrast, a counterculture refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the rules of the game that it has lost. Instead of moving toward the center, the counterculture heads for the fringes. Like a cult, it creates its own parallel reality, seceding from a corrupt and wicked society into morally and politically pure enclaves.

It’s the building up of parallel realities – maybe more than anything – that is devastating our civic dialog and our ability to make good decisions. Take David Brooks. If you lean right and you immediately think RINO when you hear me cite Brooks, you should know that people I know on the left, would roll their eyes and say “puleeze” if I suggested he ever wrote anything left of “Heil Hitler.”

If a conservative centrist columnist looks like a brown shirt to half of us and a commie pinko to the rest, we may just have a bit of trouble brewing…

(Photo credit.)