Saturday, July 28, 2012

Seeking Apologia

The Christian faith has a long history of apologetics. Many turning points in the history of the church occurred with the publication of various martyr’s apologetic. We do not often hear these arguments today. Despite profound differences in theology between and within denominations, the foundation of the Christian faith remains fairly settled and people are rarely challenged to prove or defend that they are Christian.

I would like to see more genuine political apologetics. Over the last decade as both dominant political parties have staked out more extreme positions, little genuine discourse has been offered to justify the radical and fringe views other than that the view proves the greatest distinction that can be drawn to the stance of the other party. Rather than offer reasoned discussion, political debate quickly deteriorates to name calling vilification. We diminish the value of any idea different from one’s own by diminishing the person proposing it to a label. Calling that person a [insert favorite insulting epithet here] eliminates consideration of the idea no matter how worthy. Instead of reasoned dialogue, emotional vitriol dominates political theatre. Facts are inconveniently boring. Unfounded fear mongering is convenient drama.

As each side has migrated to its own pole, libraries have been composed regarding policy and position from each side. None of the books I have read (or scanned) reaches the depth of insight I believe achieves apologias. Most serve to further the distrust of the other side or to extend the author’s fifteen minutes and offer nothing of substance. I sometimes wonder if party leaders understand how to communicate core beliefs and let them stand along without placing different (not even necessarily opposing) ideas in a threatening context.

Strategies that rely on destruction of opposition make me question the vitality of any idea that it cannot stand alone. In the natural world, the weak and wounded are culled (usually by becoming lunch for the strong). We should be demanding ideas that thrive on their own merits without relying on debasement of any competing concept. Present an idea. Tell my why it is good. Trust that I can determine what idea works best.

Sometimes when we listen and debate the merits and not the fear-factor, we find that some combination of competing ideas creates the optimum solution. Rarely does “either-or” offer an option better than “both-and” or some combination of features of each. The use of fear to manipulate discussion to the emotional level only serves to isolate and divide. Forcing thought into the amygdala instead of the cerebral cortex eliminates any chance for problem solving or solution focused thinking.

I fear too many of the current leaders have worked themselves into intractable positions with no vision of how to work themselves out. The simplistic answer is to throw them all out and demand better. The realistic answer is for the moderate-middle to rise up and force those we have elected. We must demand clarity and action from our leaders. Demand that they adopt the apologias and clearly delineate their ideas, argue merit, and use facts to win the debate. Together we can have the best.

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