Dr. Jay Hodges
Someone asked me recently, “What has happened to the idea of civil discourse in this country?”
It used to be that we could have debates that were not like having a war with someone; we could express our point of view without fearing that someone would tell us we were either crazy or that we were not real patriots.
We have come under a strange condition in our country called a “sequester,” and as best I can understand that we are being forced to undergo some terrific cuts in government services. Do you know how that has come about? It is because our representatives in Congress cannot come to a mutual agreement on how to handle the economy. A few years ago they set up this “sequester,” which would call for such terrible economic sacrifice that no one would find it acceptable and it would force our representatives to find an agreement.
But they did not find an agreement and they do not seem to be working hard to remedy the “sequester.”
The reason this has happened is that no one will bend on his or her understanding of what is true and right. One side is determined that their way is the only way, and the other side believes their way is the only way. I have heard statements from each side accusing the other of being intractable and not interested in the well being of our country, and I know that is not the truth.
It used to be that people in leadership could express their point of view and listen to their opponents with thoughtful and open minds, and then there would be compromise and agreement would be reached. That is civil discourse. It starts with the idea that the truth is larger than we think it is.
Unfortunately in the church we get caught up in the idea that only we are right and the rest of the world is wrong. Some time back one of my colleagues in ministry, a pastor of another denomination, told me that, because of something I wrote in this column, I was a child of Satan and would burn in the lake of fire. No, I have not lost much sleep over that accusation, but I was sad that he was not willing to consider another way of looking at a theological issue.
I hold different theological positions than other pastors and even some of my church members, but I am not willing to tell them they are wrong. I believe truth is bigger than what I understand it to be. Though I may think and believe one way, it does not mean I am right in my belief; I am willing to listen to others to hear what they have to say and then pray about whether or not I need to change myself.
I pray now that we can come to some reasonable place in our national debate where our leaders can be statespersons and not just politicians. I pray they can recover what civil discourse can mean. After all, your and my well being is at stake here!
Dr. Jay Hodges can be reached at Jayhodges610@yahoo.com .