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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Let's Just Listen to Each Other

by Tom Pappas

I have two competing characteristics that create quite a dissonance.  I really love to be right. It’s one of my favorite things.  I also think of myself as having an open mind, even about the topics where I have a strong opinion – which is (see characteristic one) the right one.

A story in today’s newspaper indicated that as we listen to those around us with like opinions, we become more firmly set in those opinions.  As the news cycle transitions from the Republican convention to the Democratic convention this principle is perfectly illustrated by the thousands of delegates in their respective arenas. (Talk about a giant information bubble!)  Both groups are hearing what they like to hear and will go home more dedicated to their political views.

In another century when I was in college, my information bubble included talk about God making the world ready for the end times as the Scripture indicates. (Wasn’t imminent; didn’t happen.) Thinking back to those college days, I am embarrassed that I allowed my view of God’s world and my purpose to be distorted by not getting more information. When you hear only (or mostly) one topic it becomes the focus of your imagination and energy.

What to do?

Recently at the Adult Education committee meeting we looked at the calendar and said a collective “Oops!” when we realized that there was but one offering for October. (We like to have two or more.)  I chimed in and said, “What I really want to do is sit in a room with other Christians and talk about the election. Not argue, but talk, and listen.”  we’re going to try it. I hope lots of people with strong opinions come to do those things.

Doesn’t that seem like the way it should be? No need to scurry back to the protection of an information bubble to feel safe.  Let’s just talk. Let’s just listen.  My new goal is to look at those I disagree with as loved by God, someone to listen to, and possibly right.


  1. Over the last few years, and especially now, I listen for Christian content from the candidates. For me "Christian content" is that which speaks with courtesy and respect to all people, especially to opponents, and presents ones side truthfully. From this you may guess which candidates I support.

  2. Update from Tom:

    I believe we can truly have civil, thoughtful discussions. Bob Sittig is a former prison ministry colleague of mine from many years ago with 40 years of poli sci under his belt. He is most enthusiastic about the project. Jerry Johnston works for Nebraska Public Radio and NET is hosting a senate debate on October 1. Jerry will bring clips to discuss. He was asked to do all the sessions and we hare happy to have him for the one.

    Here’s how we are promoting the series.

    "Taking on the Taboos: Politics and Religion"

    In Chapter 11 of In Defense of Civility James Calvin Davis (Westminster workshop leader January 2012) indicates that the Christian community is where politics MUST be discussed. The theme of the E.N. Thompson Forum at UNL this Year is Religion: Rights and Politics, and the keynote speaker Robert Putnam’s topic on October 2nd is “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us".

    With the upcoming election in mind we will offer three structured discussions of the candidates and the issues. We will entertain every question that is courteous and sincere.

    October 7 Moderated by retired UNL Political Science professor, Robert Sittig.

    October 14 Moderated by radio producer, Jerry Johnston, with special focus on the Fischer-Kerrey campaign.

    October 28 Moderated by retired UNL Political Science professor, Robert Sittig.

    *October 21 is set aside to Report/and Celebrate WPC’s Day of Mission.