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100 Q’s for God: Is everyone else just an idiot?

October 4, 2011

Here’s question 92 from the “100 Questions for God” series – I hope you enjoy it!

Although I doubt this is a uniquely American issue, the news media and recent political campaigns in the United States continue to reinforce a supposed chasm between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, rich and poor, North and South, … you name the interest groups, they’ll name the abyss lying between them. To suggest different groups will always see eye to eye is naïve. However, debates about important issues seem to have devolved into propaganda exercises characterized by:

1)     Selective use of information
2)     Selective ignorance of the facts
3)     Constant name calling & vitriol
4)     Earnest disrespect for the other side’s perspective
5)     More focus on winning than finding common ground
6)     Stubborn resistance to progress due to embedded beliefs which may not be fully aligned with the wishes of constituents
7)     Resolute commitment to obviously failed structures and systems to the detriment of innovation and social progress

…I’m sorry, was I talking about political or religious discourse?

While religious tolerance has advanced significantly from the days of the Holocaust, Inquisition, Crusades and Roman persecutions, the current tensions between Muslims and Christians suggest there’s still a long way to go. The apparent regression of political argument is not an encouraging sign either. Unfortunately, the mediocrity of discussion in these realms seems to be a function of a desire or tendency to focus on points of difference rather than seeking common ground

I’d be lying if I suggested I’d never described comments by a politician of an opposing perspective as “moronic” (and I reserve the right to do so again at a later date). However, after the initial unsophisticated response, we have an obligation to put ourselves in our detractor’s shoes and try to understand their perspective. Sometimes this leads me to a slightly modified perspective; on other occasions I have enjoyed significant changes in my views.

From a religious standpoint, I’m not suggesting any need for sudden conversions or earth shattering about faces. However, there is an excellent chance:

1)     We can learn by trying to understand someone else’s perspective
         (however dubious it may appear on first examination)
2)     Our differences are less than we think
3)     Each side has something to contribute to a better universe
4)     Any differences of opinion should not be attributed to a lack of intelligence on either side’s part
5)     Rejecting a person’s perspective without understanding it implies
a.      A lack of commitment to seeking out truth
b.     A latent fear of finding out something capable of modifying your views
c.     A lack of confidence in your own beliefs and their ability to absorb change and grow

Our own preparedness to honor other people’s intelligence and opinions has to reflect the underlying confidence we have in our own. If we don’t feel we have the brainpower to reject drivel or “morally compromising” material, we can choose not to participate in the discussion. However, if we choose this path we should also acknowledge this undermines our understanding of the issues and ability to make a fully rounded case for our point of view.


Idiocy is probably less prevalent than we might think. Instinctive rejection of opposing opinions without a thorough examination of the other person’s outlook is probably more common. If we have a genuine commitment to connecting with our God, we have an ongoing obligation to ask questions we think are important to us and our deity. Some of the answers to these questions may come through deeply considering the views of those who most frustrate, irritate and rankle us.


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