CHRISTIANS CAN ENGAGE IN CIVIL POLITICAL TALK, EVEN WITH OPPOSING VIEWS, SUMMIT TEACHERS ASSERT
By Loretta Fulton
Scott Self and Cole Bennett are about as different politically as can be.
This is by their own admission. But, they are best friends, they are united in Christ, and they talk.
“How did this happen?” Self asked.
It happened–and happens–because both men are willing to try to understand where the other is coming from. Bennett knows that Self is a man who loves Christ first, and Self knows that about his friend.
“That makes a difference in who we are,” Bennett said.
Bennett is a professor in the Language and Literature Department at Abilene Christian University and Self is director of ACU’s University Access Department.
The two friends took a tag team approach to leading sessions at ACU’s Summit 2017, held Sept. 17-20. The class, taught in two parts, was titled, “The Christian Citizen: Christianity and Public Policy.”
Bennett projected a graphic on a screen from a 2013 book titled, “Three Languages of Politics” by Arnold Kling. The graphic showed three axes, with “Progressive” as the label for the first axis, “Conservative” the second, and “Libertarian” the third.
Each axis had words on each end with opposite meanings. The “Progressive” axis had “oppressed” and “oppressor” on opposite ends, “Conservative” had “savage” and “civilized,” and “Libertarian” had “coerced” and “free” on the opposite ends of its axis.
Whenever hot button political issues arise, it’s best to be aware of when you aren’t listening to someone on a different axis.
“We need to be able to talk on all three axes,” Bennett said.
Bennett listens to a particular podcast because of the civil conversation, as opposed to the strident voices on one side or the other that are usually heard on talk shows. There is a simple reason that the conversation is civil, Bennett said.
“It’s because they move on all three axes,” he said.
Likewise, Self and Bennett move on each other’s axis when talking about the size and role of government. It would be inappropriate, Self said, for him to say that Bennett doesn’t care for the poor just because their political views differ.
“How he does (care) is very different from how I care,” Self said.
People have the resources needed to try to understand another person’s point of view and to engage in civil discourse, the friends agreed. They are blessed with the capacity for compassion, forgiveness, joy, peace, and patience.
Bennett said that no matter what form the government takes, as a Christian he has duty to live according to the teachings of Jesus.
“I still have a responsibility to the poor,” he said, no matter how the government views assisting the poor. “I can’t ever give up my responsibility to God and my neighbor.”