Learning thoughtfulness amidst the overwhelming data around us is challenging. In our desires for peace and justice, we must refine our critical thinking capacities and recognize what is timeless truth and what are timely opinions.
Here are some differences that make a difference:
Legitimate outrage about racism vs. anarchy and destruction.
Repairing historic, systemic injustices vs. calls for ending the family and imposing Marxism.
Repentance of prejudices of class, gender, and race vs. hatred for anyone with traditional values.
Passionate, principled debate vs. a cancel culture of personal destruction.
Building a world with true toleration vs. fear of violence.
Serious journalistic inquiry and allowing real evidence to further investigation vs. repetition of talking points and allegations.
Repairing our environment vs. alarmism cloaking wealth redistribution.
Accepting history as a tapestry of beautiful and broken narratives vs. cherry picking for agendas.
Treating every person with dignity and respect and respecting cultural diversity vs. blanket categorizations and generalizations.
Freedom of conscience allowing us to bring our best selves to the public square vs. privatizing any moral and religious convictions.
Let’s help the world be more thoughtful.
Dear conservative and progressive friends (and those of goodwill who dislike labels):
Throughout history movements for needed change are subverted by agendas contrary to the values of the initial advocates. Criminal justice and police reform, economic and educational change, ridding our souls and systems of racism – all of these and much more are worthy aims.
The well-orchestrated violence on the streets and the agendas of extremists are obscuring the legitimate (and painful) reform movements. When we stop reacting and start reflecting, there are creative ways forward that unite instead of divide.
Ethics are universal, but action begins locally. Better schools, new business opportunities, the end of banking and food deserts, and community-police cooperation…all of these require courage, wisdom, and love for neighbor, not burning buildings and refusing to listen to reason.
All of this begins with women and men who are thoughtful and refuse entrapment by ideological purity tests, Left or Right. Conservative friends unsparingly renounce racism and extreme nationalism and join with local leaders and foster conditions for flourishing. Liberal friends, renounce Antifa and other forms of violent overthrowing of government and honestly work with others for a more just world in the neighborhood.
Too many folks are paralyzed by fear of being seen as unpatriotic or unwoke. When this fear is replaced by faith in the Almighty, the courage to work toward justice, and the humility to discover pathways with others different from us, hope awakens, and communities thrive.
As we converse, we need to include complexity and nuance as we aim for understanding. I am not qualifying any forms of evil or injustice but aiming for wisdom. There are two (among many others) critical thinking errors that often emerge as we aim for civil debate in the public square: The first is over-generalization, especially about groups of people. The second false combination, where we assume because a person thinks a certain way about one issue they will align on several others in a particular manner.
People vary greatly and do not always fit in tidy political categories. For example, as someone deeply concerned about protecting the vulnerable from conception to coronation, I want to see better gun control laws, more access to medical care and mental health services, and reform in our educational and economic policies so access, equity, and opportunity improve.
Racism in any form is a moral evil, calling for personal repentance and systemic change. Such transformations require humility and listening by those historically in power. And solutions that actually work will not fit neatly into ideological boxes. With the help of many friends and mentors, I am listening to many voices, most of which are unheard in a world of clickbait and “gotcha.” Business leaders and laborers, parents and clergy, academics and authors, social service workers and local public servants are all helping me grow in wisdom.
As we respond to this moment, one message I am hearing can help. These are not my wisdom or words, but sisters and brothers on the frontlines. Their message to all well-meaning folks: Take time and find out what the people in the communities and neighborhoods desire and need and invite local residents to forge the solutions. Listening to parents and local business owners about education, work, housing, and other issues will yield wisdom.