Questioning Our Thinking, Recognizing Malfunction
Robin Bell, Th.M, M.Ed., Assistant Professor Christian Ministries
" A lot of our perspectives—they are particular. They’re not objective! And everyone has a particularity. That’s the wonder and beauty of being a human being. But we don’t get it. Instead we say, ‘I want my particular way of seeing the world—my lens—to be the normative or dominant lens for everyone.’
That’s where we get into trouble. We make the mistake, without thinking, that what we grew up with is normative. We’ve got to ask ourselves, ‘Is that way of thinking—does that reflect God’s mission in the world?’
Life in the Spirit teaches us how to question what we grew up with as fact. The Scriptures say, ‘Take every thought captive.’ That’s critical thinking, reflective thinking! So there’s a lot of malfunctioning going on in our Christian thinking. That’s why I believe that the world doesn’t want to hear what we have to say sometimes.
You never know when the voice of the Lord is going to speak to you through another culture. To say, ‘I won’t listen to this person here because they have a different perspective than I do,’ well, you might be limiting your own development as a child of God.
Here’s the funny thing—I always grow more when I’m in relationships with people who are different than me. So are we willing to allow the Holy Spirit to teach us to see Creation from different perspectives so that God gets the glory and we promote a healthy Kingdom-of-God culture? "
Being Salt and Light in Dirty Politics
Clyde Billington, Ph.D., Professor of History; ran for Congress in 2002.
" A lot of Christians have the idea that we shouldn’t be involved in politics, and to be very blunt, I think that is crazy. When the Lord talks about being salt and light, He’s talking about us being involved with the culture. If you’re going to be involved in the culture, you’d better be involved in politics because that’s where all the elements of culture work themselves out.
Everybody says politics are a dirty business, but living is a dirty business. And people say, ‘Oh, politics are so much dirtier now.’ Really? In a modern democracy, you change the government by vote. In the ancient world, you changed the government by killing the king.
Here’s a true story: when Julius Caesar was elected as Roman Consul, he didn’t like the other Consul—there were always two of them—interfering with his political decisions. So Julius had his followers collect the material out of chamber pots [toilets], and every time the other Consul would step out of his front door, Julius Caesar’s followers would throw that stuff all over him.
After awhile, the other Consul got the message. The entire year that Julius was Consul, the other Consul stayed in his house. Talk about dirty politics!
Dirty politics have always existed in the past—even here in America. Lincoln’s political opponents said some terrible things about him and his family. Dirty politics are not new, even in America! There really is ‘nothing new under the sun.’ "
The Power of Vulnerable Dialogue
David Fenrick, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Global Reconciliation and Cultural Education (C-GRACE), Adjunct Professor of Intercultural Studies
" By vulnerability, I mean real heart-sharing. Dialogue involves the art of listening to one another. It’s not talking at someone. It’s actually listening to their perspective, and not just listening to what they believe but why they believe what they do. To learn the story that shaped their perspective of something.
That’s different than just having a debate where your point is to win the argument. Even in a good debate, you’ve got to listen. If our point is to win or to show that the other person is wrong, well then we’re not really listening.
When we listen, I believe that’s where the Holy Spirit goes to work—to heal, reconcile, restore community, convict us of where our perspectives might be wrong, or where there might be a bigger perspective. Maybe we’re not wrong, but maybe there’s a bigger picture than what we’re seeing.
If none of us ever changed our minds, then it shows we don’t have a teachable spirit. That’s pride. Think about the times we thought we knew something, then discovered we were wrong. Well, maybe we should be more gracious to others. That doesn’t mean we give up our convictions. It gives us pause to listen more. "
Responding Like Christ, Examining Ourselves
Jacqueline Glenny, Ph.D. Professor of Speech and Business
"Christ in public really did some pretty dramatic things, upsetting tables at the temple and rebuking people. But as I look at it, He often answered people in the way that they presented themselves. For example, the pompous Pharisees: they were so opinionated and thought that they knew more than anyone else; Jesus really rebukes them publicly. So in a sense, what you give is what you get.
But on the other hand, we are not Christ, and we very much need to temper how we approach public topics because we’re not omniscient, and we are sinners. As a result, sometimes our opinion gets out of place. So it’s important to be tempered in the Word of God and have that as our biblical foundation.
The other thing is to attack the problem and the principle, not the person. So often we make it personality driven—about who said it—rather than principle driven, about what was said. We all have prejudices and we have to be tolerant on things that we don’t agree with.
If you ask God to listen to you and you want Him to listen to you, you ought to listen in kind to other people. As believers, one of our most important roles is to offer hope and kindness."
Expressing a Common Value with Divisive Issues
Kent Kaiser, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Communication and Senior Fellow with the Center of the American Experiment
"We have to view politics as a mission field just as we do everything else. Think of politics as being a field where you can’t use ‘Christianese,’ and you can’t push a Christian agenda in an overt way.
Try to figure out where you have common ground on values. I teach this formula for writing a letter to the editor and answering a hostile question from a reporter, for example.
Let’s take the gun issue and make it a hostile question like, ‘With all the gun crime on the streets, why aren’t you for gun control?’ I might respond, ‘Like most Americans, I believe it is the first priority to protect its citizens.’ Well, nobody’s going to disagree with that, left or right.
Then I express some facts: ‘I’m alarmed that Minneapolis has a higher crime rate than New York City, a higher homicide rate than New York City. A friend of mine was mugged near the Metrodome.’ But then my action would be, ‘That’s why I support a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence for anybody who’s caught committing a crime with a gun.’
If you express a common value, that’s what’s disarming. No pun intended. When you don’t just spout your policy position, but couch it in a value that’s common, express some knowledge about the facts and establish credibility. We can still disagree on policy, but maybe they’ll think that I’m rational and understand where I’m coming from."
Valuing Relationship, Truth, and Love Above the Desire to be Right
Melissa Mork, Psy.D., Department Chair, Associate Professor of Psychology
"For me, dialogue can go further when I value the relationship more than my need to be right or to prove to someone why he or she is wrong. To build a relationship with you, I need to listen to you as you speak to hear what really matters to you, what you value, etc. I’m not Jesus. I don’t already know all of this, and the only way I can attempt to understand you is by really listening.
Sometimes a person has been wounded in that area or maybe this is something that their family has held as a very high value. So I can let go of some of my very firmly held opinions if I value our relationship more than I value my opinion.
And what I believe to be right can be biblically sound, can be absolutely true, and yet, you will not be able to hear it until we have established a healthy relationship. And then the truth will penetrate. I think sometimes when we say ‘speak the truth in love,’ we really just want to speak the truth. We abandon the love.
Ask yourself, ‘What kind of relationship am I being called to develop here?’ [The Holy Spirit] might not be calling you to speak the truth at that point. He might not want you to speak at all. You know, He might want you to just shut up and listen."