A fine mess, Ollie!

One of Stan Laurel’s most-quoted lines pretty much sums up where we are in this country just now. How did it happen?

While MizM has been covered over with term papers, I’ve been contemplating the tough question of how the left and the right, political and religious, might be able to get out of their respective entrenched positions and start talking to each other in ways that can be heard. (Of course, we’d have to want to do it, but let’s assume for the sake of this reflection that there’s a critical mass with that desire. I had mine rekindled by taking the Pax Christi nonviolence pledge last week.) As I think about this, I have wondered how in the world we ever got to this extreme polarization in the first place.

The other day I read a column about road rage that contained a clue. It’s a concept called “naive realism,” which is basically the assumption that everybody sees the world the same as I do. The naive realist doesn’t see that her view of the world is just as much an interpretation as is everyone else’s view. My divinity school advisor was fond of quoting Eric Hoffer thus: “Be careful how you interpret the world; it is like that.” There’s a cool paper from Stanford on the implications of naive realism for social conflict and misunderstanding, if you feel like really getting inside the concept.

For a couple of recent examples of how this plays out, see the flaps in the North Carolina Baptist congregation, where 9 members were voted out for being Democrats, and at the Jesuit publication America, where the editor was forced out for differing from the Vatican. I’m still not clear on how we get out of the polarization, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be by dissing and name-calling, or by banishing those who differ from us. Humility all around and real listening on both sides could be a start to get us all out of this morass.

One huge factor shaping the consciousness of the evangelical community is the growing power and reach of “Christian media.” In case you missed it, here’s an informative piece on the subject from CJR entitled, ironically, “Stations of the Cross.”


2 thoughts on “A fine mess, Ollie!

Add yours

  1. abc–
    You pose a good (and important) question. I don’t think I have any answers to it, and I’m not even sure I want to hear what evangelicals have to say, since they’ve never said anything that made sense to me. But I do remember something from a Stephen Covey book (7 habits?) that I’ve carried with me for years and keeps me honest when I think about it. He said that it was important to listen to others because they might know something you don’t, and you could learn something from it. I value learning, so this makes me think that I just might learn something if I try listening, again. Heck, if there’s hope that I’ll listen, then maybe there’s hope others will, too.

  2. You have a riveting web log
    and undoubtedly must have
    atypical & quiescent potential
    for your intended readership.
    May I suggest that you do
    everything in your power to
    honor your Designer/Architect
    as well as your audience.

    Please remember to never
    restrict anyone’s opportunities
    for ascertaining uninterrupted
    existence for their quintessence.

    There is a time for everything,
    a season for every activity
    under heaven. A time to be
    born and a time to die. A
    time to plant and a time to
    harvest. A time to kill and
    a time to heal. A time to
    tear down and a time to
    rebuild. A time to cry and
    a time to laugh. A time to
    grieve and a time to dance.
    A time to scatter stones
    and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a
    time to turn away. A time to
    search and a time to lose. A
    time to keep and a time to
    throw away. A time to tear
    and a time to mend. A time
    to be quiet and a time to
    speak up. A time to love
    and a time to hate. A time
    for war and a time for peace.

    Best wishes for continued ascendancy,

    ‘Thought & Humor’
    Cyber-Humor & Cyber-Thought
    Harvard Humor Club

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