Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Agree to Disagree

Two somewhat unrelated issues that have made the news recently: the Tempe "pastor" prays that President Obama would die from brain cancer, and the outcry against Obama's education speech he'll give today to American students.

Both stories raise a question in my mind: what are healthy ways to engage people who share differing opinions and worldviews?

The parents and administrators who opposed Obama's speech before even reading the transcript model the same attitude of the people in Acts 7 who "covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they rushed at him." Even if one does not agree with all of a person's policies or values, that person likely has some wisdom we can all learn from.

On the other hand, I can't imagine I'd learn anything valuable from a person so filled with hatred that they would pray for the death of a person and call it "Christianity." There comes a point where someone's values are so opposed to anything worthwhile or true that any real wisdom they might share gets lost. I'm open to ideas that have potential for good--like the importance of working hard to get a good education--but don't want to waste my time or hurt my soul by listening to dogmatic hatred.

So how does one find a balance between listening to differing views and holding fast to one's own convictions? My only answer is humility.

How would you respond to either the "pastor" in Tempe or the people decrying Obama's speech?


  1. My kids school didn't show the speech this morning because of a few upset parents. I think it is silly. We will be watching it together when they get home.

    I know that isn't answering your question, but we do have the opportunity to help our kids handle things differently. And open discussion with them, and teaching them how to think through things is most important.

  2. The Tempe pastor's comments are completely wrong and that kind of behavior sickens me. There's no excuse for it.

    As for Obama's speech to students, the Democrats were against George H.W. Bush's speech to students back in 1991, so I don't see why Republicans also can't protest a speech. Seems fair. The 1991 Democratic majority leader in the House of Representatives Richard Gephardt said, "The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the President, it should be helping us to produce smarter students." Patricia Schroeder, then a Democratic member of Congress from Colorado, said H.W. Bush's speech showed "the arrogance of power," and that the White House should not be "using precious dollars for campaigns" when "we are struggling for every silly dime we can get" for education. And you know what, I agree with them. The same should go for Obama, right? It's like you said, you have to balance between listening to differing views and holding fast to your own convictions, but it doesn't look like the Democrats want to do that either, so we're back to square one.

    Personally, I don't think Bush needed to address us in '91, and I don't think Obama needs to address students now either. Fair is fair. It just bothers me when the media and the left try to paint the Republican party as a bunch of whiners and crazies when the Dems did the same exact thing. It's all about hypocrisy in my book.

    And it's hard for me to believe that Democrats wouldn't be doing the same thing if George W. Bush had wanted to address our students last year.

  3. I would not have had enough of a problem w/the Obama speech to protest. I think school hours could be better spent and probably wouldn't have liked it, but we would have talked about it as a family.

    What is interesting to me is that the parents protesting have enrolled their children in public school for approx. 30 hours per week. Are they monitoring what each teacher says during that time? It kind of seems like a double standard to allow your children to hear "whatever" for the entire school year and then monitor & protest one short speech. Do you really know what your kid's teachers said to them this week? Their pastor? Their coach?

  4. Sorry Joel - just realized that I never answered your specific question. "Healthy ways to engage?" "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care". We need to show that we do care about the person w/opposing views & their concerns. They are believing an opposing view, because they believe it will meet a need they have. Can we calmly show them the long term effects of their view? Can we show how our view might also meet their needs? Can we be respectful enough to realize that there may be some truth or good in their view?

    Keep in mind, I am NOT saying to compromise our values, more just try to understand why they believe what they believe and be able to dialog with them.

  5. Lori, I'm with ya. Teaching kids how to think is just as important as teaching them what to think about.

    Cam, there's nothing inherently wrong with protesting a speech, but protesting based on a false assumption about the content--which was quite conservative in its tone as it promoted personal responsibility--seems foolhardy. Calling it "socialist propaganda" when it in fact promotes personal responsibility and overcoming adversity just doesn't make sense to me. To be honest, it makes conservatives look quite silly.

    Dawn, seeking to understand before being understood is an incredible value in life. You bring up a great point about public school in general.

    Anyone want to tackle the story of the Tempe pastor? :) How would you explain his actions to someone who isn't part of the church?

  6. I agree that "socialist propaganda" is overboard, but those are the people and the signs that you see on the news. The reason people are scared and confused is because the White House originally said "write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president" and later changed it to "write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term education goals."

    It's subtle, and I'm willing to be called crazy, but there's a lot of hero worshiping in this whole event. "What is President Obama inspiring you to do? How will he inspire us?" It is "important that we listen to the President. Build background knowledge about the President."

    Do I think Obama's intentions were to corrupt and takeover the minds of our nation's children? Not at all. Is the White House and Department of Education going about addressing our kids the right way? Well, there wouldn't be all this controversy if they were.

    And I've always stood by the statement that announcing a problem with no solution is just complaining, so here is my suggestion the next time a President wants to talk to our kids. How about the President doing a live speech with a former president from the opposite party? Why not ALL of the living former Presidents? That would have certainly clear up any issues the conservative movement had. Unfortunately, the White House made little attempt to clear up any confusion and are using Obama's spotlight to do God knows what.

    I still believe the President, whether it be Obama or Bush, doesn't need to talk to our kids. Hearing Bush's speech in '91 didn't influence me to study harder and I doubt it pushed anyone else in school at that time. It's a waste of time. Time that could be spent on more important matters.