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Demons, Demons Everywhere: The Devolution of Conversation

16

January 30, 2013 by eneubauer

The great Lincoln Douglas Debates

The great Lincoln Douglas Debates

I often lament about the devolution of conversation in American society. As a matter of fact I wrote a piece called, “The Middle Road” not long ago about the need for conversation in our hyper-polarized country. As I see it the real loss in demonizing our opponents is in the outcome. Simply stated, nothing gets done!  But it doesn’t end there.  Not only do we lose good outcomes in general but we lose the possibility of getting the best possible result because there is no debate.  We are so busy painting our opponent in the worst possible light that we cannot hear a good idea if it smacked us directly in the face.  Demonizing our opponents (or those we disagree with) causes others to distrust even if the substance of what is being said is positive or helpful.

This is a REAL problem:

Let me describe.  I am naturally inquisitive and I enjoy learning.  I have taken enough college and graduate level courses to know that I am not always the smartest cookie in the room.  In addition, I recognize that people unlike me often see things from a different angle.  This vantage point can be quite helpful.  Therefore, if I choose to listen carefully to my opposition I find myself learning quite a bit even from folks that I disagree with politically, religiously, or economically etc.  In order to learn you must first listen.  If you cannot, will not, or do not learn to listen then you will fail in your academic (& other) endeavors.

Therefore, I have learned to think about what is being said without reacting.  I have learned to take my view into the woodshed and work it over a bit before presenting it so that I do not make a fool of myself.  Finally, I have learned that all of us need a safe place with people who care (from different vantage points) to air out the opinions and ideas we are formulating.  Without this environment we are doomed to implement ideas that are LESS THAN.

At War:

In an era of war we have decided to be at war with our neighbors.  Our society has lost respect for people who are religious or those holding on fast to the Judeo-Christian ethic.  The partnerships that government and non-governmental / religious institutions used to enjoy are rapidly disappearing.  Marginalization of groups representing different ideas creates a “circle the wagons” effect and a siege mentality.  In order to combat perceived or real threats each group has to fight back with sufficient force.  It is in the fight that we lose our ability to listen, learn, consider and ultimately make the kind of decisions that impact the common good of all men.

Loss of Conversation: No one is listening…

Political parties have so hijacked the process they no longer represent the people.  Politicians spend time and money to convince people to adopt policies that were developed in back room deals where the idea of transparency is lost in an absolute sense.  Businesses, in order to get and stay ahead, have moved backwards by putting profit above people.  This diminishes the unemployed’s chances of acquiring and keeping a job with sufficient income to support his / her family.  This attitude affects the poor and undereducated in a disproportionate fashion and creates burdens on government assistance programs that are unsustainable in the long-term.  Academic institutions too have lost their way.  Not only are they stifling academic freedom and opinion but they have fallen out of conversation with the American student with cost-shifting policies that force unusually high borrowing rates for the individual while money into the system grows at enormous rates.

What are the solutions?

First people have to agree to disagree.  The idea that tolerance means that individuals with opposing ideas eventually agree is a distortion of the idea.  Tolerance means that each side spends time listening to the other in an atmosphere of mutual respect.  Then, in open debate, people from all different backgrounds can lobby or debate their view and the reasons why they came to a particular conclusion.  In addition, debate forces us to consider the implications of a decision.  Something we could learn from.    If we say YES today what does that mean 10, 20 or 30 years from now?  Can we live with that outcome?  Is there a better way?

In addition, we have to restrain ourselves from forcing people to convert.  In a religious context I have learned that questions people have about “conversion” have to come naturally.  I can’t convince someone to accept a thing or idea but I can argue as to why an interested party might want to consider following the Way, the Truth, and the Life – Jesus Christ.  Those who are not open or do not want to have a conversation should be respected.

At the same time the unconverted cannot put a public halt to these types of conversations nor drive the reality of history from our texts.  The unconverted cannot and should not be allowed to drive religion or opposing political viewpoints from public consideration even if they have been in the minority since the founding of this nation.  Although the unconverted or none’s may be on the ascendancy history is not kind to those who work at stifling opposing views.  The consideration of a diversity of opinions and the open debate of ideas allows for good, long-term results.

Finally:

As a person of faith, I have to remember that the rules that govern my life hang on the two great commandments.  Have I loved God and my neighbor as I have loved myself?  Often the answer is no.  Religious people would do good to remember the true meaning of these commandments and whom they came from.  In addition, sacred scripture reminds me that at the end of the day those I am debating were also made in the image and likeness of God and deserve dignity and respect which cannot be violated because of disagreement, dissension, or a lack of faith.  I honor God and my commitment to Him when I treat everyone as I would like to be treated.  It is in this context that those I come into contact with will see my passionate love relationship with the Holy Trinity and know that (even though they may disagree) my desire for the common good is a fact – an objective reality.

May God have mercy on us all…

16 thoughts on “Demons, Demons Everywhere: The Devolution of Conversation

  1. Ray Baert says:

    Simply explained, God gave us two ears and one mouth for a good reason.

  2. Heather Neubauer says:

    Nicely stated, Eric. I pray we all take this wisdom to heart and really begin to listen to one another. I am reminded of something you have said for years…really listening is not just waiting for our turn to talk.

  3. [...] Demons, Demons Everywhere: The Devolution of Conversation – Eric Neubauer [...]

  4. Peter says:

    All true. All also completely idealistic. To have a conversation, you have to have 2 parties prepared to listen. Those opposing Judeo-Christian values have no intention of listening. Their goal is to demonize and to silence. To put it simply and somewhat biblically, you would be a voice crying in the wilderness. No one on the other side is listening or prepared to listen.

    • eneubauer says:

      Peter,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I agree that a conversation calls for both sides to listen. However, I would make the point that both sides are guilty of using the weapon of demonization to make “their” points and to garner support from their base.

      As a Catholic I have to reject the use of this weapon and work hard engage opposing views in a charitable fashion. In addition, I would challenge your assumption that the “other side” has no intention of listening. I have spent many evenings in deep conversation with those who disagree with me in exactly the atmosphere I describe in my article. There are those who are ready and we have to commit ourselves to building relationships and extending the hand of conversation to those willing to engage. For those who are not ready – God Bless them. To be blunt – I have to draw a line in the sand and reject this tactic which leads to horrible outcomes, isolates particular communities of people from one another and leads to anti-intellectual thought.

      It takes no creativity to demonize, to be angry, or to use “violence” against an “enemy.” Christ on the cross is where I would rather be any day of the week than with the religious leaders in their fancy offices thinking they won. Thinking they had the upper hand. Thinking that they convinced the governmental authorities that they were actually right about Jesus. They misidentified Jesus yet he went, like a silent lamb to the slaughter, and won reconciliation, redemption and eternal salvation for you and me. Therefore – in my idealism, in the embrace of charity and solid, time tested ideas I choose a different way.

      One has to chose to be daring sometime in life.

      • Eric,

        First off, I’d like to THANK YOU for being another voice that brings light the growing population of “nones” in the U.S.! However, I feel that many practicing Christians are uninformed as to what the “nones” are actually comprised of. most of them are not the “anti-Christian” propaganda folks. While this growing population of individuals with “no affiliation” to any church or denomination may technically be labeled “unconverted”, the majority of that group do still regularly attend some kind of Christian church service and do yearn for a personal relationship with Christ. However, like many other Christians, some never received proper Catechetical education or just don’t make the personal sacrifices one has to make to be a disciple of Christ. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:16…”If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!” Isn’t that the “mission” those who know the Truth are called to? That is, if the Catholic Church is still a “Missional Church” (specifically the Laity).

        Either way, I recommend a good scan through “Faith in Flux” to get more detailed information about that population (in my opinion they are a bigger group than most realize, and could play a big role in the success in the New Evangelization). Here’s a link: http://www.pewforum.org/uploadedfiles/Topics/Religious_Affiliation/fullreport.pdf

        On another note, I can’t help but have mixed feelings about some of this blog post and the following opinions left by readers. I can empathize with the frustrations, but some of the statements made below are, in my opinion, exactly the polarizing view points that lead to your mention of, “nothing get’s done!” What happened to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7…”4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”? I fell into the trap of becoming an “unbeliever” so to speak, but I listened. It was a process, it was painful, but it was joyful too. I think back to a single conversation with a friend about Christ and faith that played a major part of my “reversion”. Had it not been done in love, I’m not sure I would have listened. I keep thinking of the parable of the lost sheep. Maybe I’m wrong…..who knows.

        You mention your earlier blog on “The Middle Road” (which I remember reading and still love) that, “We must be willing to participate in serious self-evaluation to see where we have allowed political polarization to impede us from fulfilling our mandate to Care For God’s Creation and in so doing ensure that future generations will enjoy those resources that many of us have taken for granted.” I understand your statement about having to “draw a line in the sand”, to a degree. But what about the folks that aren’t hostile, but just need a little nudge and maybe a slight challenge of faith?

        BTW, it is not my intent to offend anyone that commented on the post, and I think it was a thought provoking read. Great post, Eric!

  5. Eowyn says:

    I agree with Peter. I’ve been blogging for 3 years and have been subjected to the vilest name-calling from leftwing commenters: “moron,” “crazy,” “nuts,” “stupid”…. I have a Ph.D. and am a tenured Full Professor.

    I’ve learnt that the Left are the most intolerant of all. They are not interested in “listening” and do not hesitate to use our “tolerance,” “listening,” and “understanding” as a weapon against us. An example is their distortion of “Judge not, yet ye be judged” to justify moral relativism (which is really amoralism) and to shut us up.

    • eneubauer says:

      Eowyn,

      I do get it and I have heard the crazy intolerance from all angles. However, I have enjoyed conversations with those that I disagree with and benefited from their perspective.

      One last thing I would say – I don’t think we should lower ourselves to support the dumbing down of good arguments to wage a war that no one wins. I will look for those who actually want to engage. If that means that my circle of conversations diminishes a bit – so be it.

      • Bill Sr. says:

        Suffice to say we need to show respect for other peoples opinions and beliefs and as you say be cautious not to judge harshly. However, no Christian who wishes to maintain his faith and strengthen it should ever think those who willfully oppose the moral laws of our church and are activist in the agenda to eradicate Christian values from our society can somehow give us enlightenment on the social issues of the day. But we can with sound knowledge and use of scripture and doctrine as our guide listen in charity enough to be able to find which “demons” are driving their point i. e. the seven deadly sins.

  6. Eowyn says:

    Correction of my typo:

    It’s “Judge not, lest yet be judged.”

  7. Duhawk says:

    I agree with the thought on the lost art of conversation. Destroying ones opponent by any means possible has become the norm within all aspects our society. The last Presidential election was not about laying out a vision of what each man would do for the country but getting the base out. No facts just emotion.

    The real problem is that so many Americans lack intellectual curiousity and for this I blame the education system in this country. Everytime I hear the following statement “…teachers are not paid nearly enough…” I want to go through the overhead.

    Go into most of the public schools and any opinions that dissent from the teachers held beliefs will be addressed (and not in a good way). Instead of challenging the child to defend their beliefs (either being ready to explain why they believe as they do, or being given the chance to do a little prepartion) I have heard about some of these invaluable teachers putting down the student. If you want to know how we have learned not to converse but shout at each other look no further than the Public School teachers.

    I have no doubt that there are some really good teachers out there who encourage intellectual honesty and open debates on ideas, but these are not many. What this has led to is a young adults who have little tolerance for any ideas that deviate from what they believe.

  8. Eric,
    This is another great and thought provoking article. I too, am appalled at the lack of tolerance and civil conversation in society today. I do tend to blame most of it on the liberal ideology of the media and academic elite in this country. They have done a swell job of brain washing the masses. They shun the ideologies that have kept our society together for centuries: religion, family, community. I also believe the rise of social media has darkened the discourse in the past few years. People seem to think they can be mean spirited in the anonymity of the written word. Some of the pages I like on fb are under assault by liberals and their intolerance everyday (pro-life pages for example). I have made an effort not to read the hateful ‘comments’. And it takes quite a bit of effort to let go and not react to some of them.

  9. john says:

    Often when it comes to defending my faith against atheists,left wing liberals,animal rights activists etc..I am called all sorts of vile names and my arguments mocked..I remain polite and if they do ask me why I believe what I do I simply say..I would tell you but it appears you do not want to be open to understanding my view..I doubt you’ll understand..this puts them on the defensive..makes them see they are being close minded and often then they are willing to listen.I also tell them I have no interest in converting anyone..I am only explaining my viewpoint.This is the best way to plant the seed..let God take over from there.I tell them that there is a God..try asking Him to reveal Himself to you..He will.We must simply be sowers..let God tend that seed and make it grow.Continue to pray.

  10. Sixtus says:

    First of all, our forefathers who built this Country on Christian values! The Judaic religion hates Jesus Christ. It’s all written in the Talmud for everyone to see! This once wonderful country has been highjacked by Judaic values. Look at Israel for example, they have no Constitution. Now compared to the U.S. Constitution the bill of rights which are being erroded everyday. One day the U.S.A. will look like Israel if it doesn’t already! To many Petty Laws at State and Local levels that tax the system and are discriminating laws aimed at the poor who just happen to be Christian! A lot of these laws are unconstitutional but the legal system which is more Judaic undermines the Constitution and resembles more of a n Israeli Justice System where police can arrest and detain you for talking back to a police man or preaching on a street corner, there is no Freedom of speech in Israel and in the U.S. Now you need a permit to preach in the street. It is illegal for a kid to set up a cool-aide stand in the front yard. Yes we are U.S.A. has morphed into a Big Israeli State. Where the Gentiles are getting the Palestinian treatment right here in our once beautiful country. What is criminal is we allowed it to happen. Next the police will be bulldozing your house here in the U.S. and no constitution to protect you!

  11. Sixtus says:

    Now that said in a broad manner! We have to be Christ like in a world that is opposite to Jesus Christ. There are demons on this planet. They are using Pride, Lies, and Manipulation! For Catholics the only way to Heaven is to be humble like Jesus Christ and the Blessec Virgin Mary. It’s important also to tell the Truth. It is also important to do the will of God. Like the Saints many were Martyred for being in the public place practicing their Catholic Faith. I feel It is impossible for a Practicing Catholic to participated in modern politics because to do so you would have to act like demon and devorce yourself from Jesus just to try and win an election! All Catholic Politicians compromise their Faith it’s nothing new and it’s quite disappointing, tolerating is actually not defending the Faith. Zip the lips and look the other way for that campaign contribution and then the payback to that contribution’s Lobbying Group! Just look at Vice President Biden! A Great Example!

  12. Sixtus says:

    This year is the Catholic Church’s call to Faith. Obedience to the Catholic Church is one of the most important virtues of the Church. It is a call from Jesus through the Church to all Catholic Politicians around the world to stand up and defend the teachings of the Church. An evangelization of the Public Arena. Which will Clash with the Judiaist culture, the Muslim culture, etc. Now this Evangelization can be by the actions of love and compassion. Not by yelling words that one regretts acouple minutes or hours later in a heated debate. Politeness in the the face of aggression of a politcal opponent in debate is a great example. Voting on laws that reflect the Church. That the love of the Catholic Church is to bring people back to Jesus Christ. Respect the human dignity of the people. The rights of peoples in accordance to the Catholic Church!
    St. Augustus was excellent at articulating the Catholic Faith and winning the hearts and minds of the public in the midst of the aggression of opponents. The world needs more St. Augustus’ for Love and Compassion lived and witnessed for Christ. Yes tolerance without the Compromise!

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