Panel of Experts

Reflection on “Expert Panel Addresses The Problems, Potentials Of Mixing Religion And Politics” Religion News Service.  David Gibson. Huffington Post, 4.19.15

We know how 24/7 news works.  The vivid “Breaking News” sign flashes across the screen, a summary of the latest unrest, tragedy, gridlock, etc. is compiled and served up. Then “a panel of experts” spend hours, and sometimes hours and hours, dissecting, hypothesizing, guessing, about what happened, why it happened, what is the impact, what this event means in the larger picture, according to their particular agenda.

So I was chagrined to see yet another panel of experts discuss religion and politics. What is missing, it seems to me, is any understanding of what it means to be a part of a religious community, whether Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim. As an ordained minister and experienced church pastor, I can state rather definitely that any discussions in which people differ have the potential for growth as well as the potential for disaster.

What makes the difference is in the “ground-rules,” or more clearly, the moral requirements for discussion. We ought to listen carefully and without interrupting, reflect on what the speaker says, then respond – if at all – in a respectful manner. You may totally disagree with me, but if you do not shout, stand over me, call me names, and instead treat me with dignity and avoid personalizing our differences, we may get somewhere.

Nearly every religious group has some form of the “golden rule” as a guideline. “Do unto others …. Do not do unto others ….” We should be able to discuss nearly every subject which does not demean or inflate others. And if we are talking politics, are we discussing and responding to  the need for every child to have breakfast, including during school breaks? Are we discussing the awful truth about bullying, how to educate against it, understanding that solutions are only possible if we understand root causes?  Are we empowering persons with handicaps to have full access within our buildings? If not, why not? Are we protecting young women or are we burdening them with responsibilities?  Do we discuss how to help our elderly with added physical challenges and possible need for extra care?

Compassion, justice, and courage need to be at the core of our public discourse. I did not invent this view.

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