Can we disagree on important issues and still get along? These BU guests say ‘yes.’
One’s a leading conservative voice, the other a leading progressive intellectual. They disagree on virtually any issue you can think of — but they agree on this:
When seeking the truth, we must be willing, even eager, to engage with those who believe differently than us — and to do so in love.
That was the message Drs. Robert P. George and Cornel West brought to the Baylor campus last week in the final major Conversation Series event of the fall. All semester, the series has focused on ways we can improve our ability to communicate with one another across idealogical boundaries — ways to get pass the “us vs. them” approach that dominates so much of our society.
George and West each encouraged the Waco Hall audience to pursue the truth in a civil manner that allows one to hold on to one’s integrity.
“What makes civil discourse civil is not that it’s polite — though that is good, when you can be,” said George, a professor at Princeton and founder of the school’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. “It’s that you are not just teaching, but are also willing to learn. You’re willing to work with that person… treating the other not as an adversary to be defeated, but as a friend with whom you are in common pursuit of truth. … As Christians, it’s our task to speak out in truth, but to do so in love.”
“We live in a time in which, lo and behold, we have these kinds of conversations, and people think it’s a rare thing,” added West, a Harvard professor and son of a Baptist minister. “Love is never reducible to politics. Deep, genuine friendships are never reducible to public policy. … Our young people have been so saturated with market forces that they describe themselves as a brand… I say, I’ve got a calling to the Kingdom of God — that’s not a brand.”
That call to show Christian love resonated in West’s and George’s words.
“In this particular moment, Christians have a very important role to play in being a spiritual leaven in the loaf,” said West. “Those of us who still want to be part of a Christian tradition, we gotta do it with a smile on our faces.”
“We direct our passions; our passions don’t direct us,” explained George. “So there will be righteous anger, but ‘righteous’ comes before ‘anger.’ … Otherwise, it’s ‘Katy bar the door;’ there’s no stopping it.”
Complete video of the George/West event is available online, as is audio of a faculty panel on civil discourse from earlier this semester. Stay tuned for details on future Conversation Series events next semester.
Sic ’em (in a civil manner), Bears!