Current Conversation: Reforming Political Discourse

THANKS!

I wish to express my deep appreciation to the 23 conversation partners who made such marvelous contributions to my recently completed eCircle on “Reforming Political Discourse.” You all dealt very effectively with some contentious issues regarding politics in America today and you expressed your disagreements with your respective partners with great respect and love. This project would not have been possible without your splendid work.

As for three of my previous eCircles, I am now working on a book manuscript that hopes to capture the highlights of this eCircle. I am aiming to complete this manuscript by November 1, 2018, with a publication date shortly thereafter. My tentative title for this book is Reforming American Politics: A  Christian Perspective.

Below you will find a copy of a talk I gave on June 9, 2018 at the bi-annual conference of Christians in Political Science held at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain in Georgia. This talk presents the foundational premise behind this eCircle; my reflections on the “pre-conditions for a respectful conversation in politics and beyond”; a Table of Contents for my forthcoming book; and some “preliminary findings” that will eventually be elaborated upon in the book.

Harold Heie

RESPECTFUL CONVERSATIONS IN POLITICS AND BEYOND

I am the token mathematician in this splendid gathering of Christian political scientists.

I was delighted when Kim Conger, a member of the CPS Cabinet invited me to give a talk on the topic “Stability of the Numerical Solution of Hyperbolic Partial Differential Equations in Three Independent Variables.”

Just kidding! That was actually the title of my doctoral dissertation.

Read More (RPD Conclusion)...
 

Topic #1: Talking Past Each Other or Worse (September 2017)

In preparation for a conversation about the possibility of a “Christian Approach to Political Discourse” (subtopic A2), we will first analyze the current dismal state of political discourse, as illustrated by the reactions of two conversation partners to two reports (presented below) on a recent political news story: One report from a left-leaning commentator and one report from a right-leaning commentator.

Leading Question: What are the goals of these reports? What audiences are they appealing to? What rhetorical tools are being employed? What do you find to be helpful in these reports? What do you criticize in these reports?


 

Topic #2: A Proposed Christian Approach to Political Discourse (October 2017)

Leading Questions:  What are the reasons for the current appalling state of political discourse that often leads to demonization of the other, name-calling, questioning of motives and broken relationships? What are the characteristics of a constructive political discourse from a Christian perspective? What does it mean for Christians to love their enemies in politics?

Conversation Partners: 


 

Topic #3: Are There Limits to Free Speech and Civil Discourse? (November 2017)

Leading Questions: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed Christian perspective on political discourse (Subtopic 2)? Are there ideas so repugnant and dangerous that they shouldn’t be allowed to be uttered in public? What is wrong, if anything, with passionate speech? Are there limits to civility? Is the call for civility a means of control by those in power? Is the call for civility a means to marginalize those “who have no voice?”  

Conversation Partners: 


Due to a death in the family of one of our conversation partners, the November conversation was not able to be continued beyond the November 1 postings. This subtopic will be addressed again, in its entirety, in July 2018 (with new conversation partners, due to the unavailability of Julia and Micah)

 

Topic #4: The Notion of Politics (December 2017)

Leading Questions: What does “politics” mean and what are its aims? What are the characteristics of a well-functioning political system? Is our current political system functioning well? If not, why not and what can be done to address the current dysfunction? What distinguishes a Christian political engagement and how can such engagement contribute to a well-functioning political system?

Conversation Partners: 

CLOSING READER COMMENTS

In addition to the comments submitted by readers for the individual postings of the conversation partners on the 1st, 10th and 20th of this month, some readers may wish to submit comments on the entire month’s conversation.
To do so, follow this link.


 

Topic #5: Party Politics and Beyond (January 2018)

Leading Questions: What are the political priorities and values of the Republican and Democratic parties in the early 21 st century? How well do these values and priorities comport, or not, with Christian values? If not, what changes in priorities and values need to be made? Should Republicans and Democrats transcend their particular ideologies?  If so, how?

CLOSING READER COMMENTS

In addition to the comments submitted by readers for the individual postings of the conversation partners on the 1st, 10th and 20th of this month, some readers may wish to submit comments on the entire month’s conversation.
To do so, follow this link.


 

Topic #6: The Role of Money and Special Interests in Politics (February 2018)

Leading Questions: How have money and special interests influenced politics, for good or for ill? What is your position on the Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court? Should the role of lobbyists for special interests be restricted? Should there be stricter conflict of interest rules? What are the implications of your position for President Trump’s “negotiating a deal” approach to politics?

CLOSING READER COMMENTS

In addition to the comments submitted by readers for the individual postings of the conversation partners on the 1st, 10th and 20th of this month, some readers may wish to submit comments on the entire month’s conversation.
To do so, follow this link.


 

Topic #7: Immigration (March 2018)

Leading Questions: Are current immigration laws and deportation practices just? Is so, why? If not, why not and what changes should be made? Is there a way for Christians and Christian churches to respond to undocumented immigrants that will avoid harm to both undocumented immigrants and citizens?

CLOSING READER COMMENTS

In addition to the comments submitted by readers for the individual postings of the conversation partners on the 1st, 10th and 20th of this month, some readers may wish to submit comments on the entire month’s conversation.
To do so, follow this link.


 

Topic #8: Wealth and Poverty in America (April 2018)

Leading Questions: America is increasingly divided between rich and poor. What are the root causes of poverty and wealth disparity in America? Is there a connection between wealth disparity in America and disparities in the rest of the world?  Is there a biblical and Christian ideal for the distribution of wealth, both nationally and globally? How should Christians respond personally and politically to national and global poverty and wealth disparity?

Conversation Partners: 

CLOSING READER COMMENTS

In addition to the comments submitted by readers for the individual postings of the conversation partners on the 1st, 10th and 20th of this month, some readers may wish to submit comments on the entire month’s conversation.
To do so, follow this link.


 

Topic #9: Healthcare in America (May 2018)

Leading Questions: Is healthcare a public good that everyone has a “right” to (and therefore government has a role to play in securing that “right” for everyone) or is healthcare a private good; a “privilege” that is primarily the responsibility of each individual with minimal governmental assistance? What are the problems with the healthcare system in America? How can the present healthcare system be improved? Is there a Christian perspective that can inform such improvement?

Conversation Partners: 

CLOSING READER COMMENTS

In addition to the comments submitted by readers for the individual postings of the conversation partners on the 1st, 10th and 20th of this month, some readers may wish to submit comments on the entire month’s conversation.
To do so, follow this link.


 

Topic #10: Case Study Conversations Regarding Political Discourse and Political Action Within Churches and Christian Para-Church Organizations (June 2018)

Case Study #1: Kalamazoo (MI) Mennonite Fellowship A church that encourages its members to become involved in social service ministries that serve persons in need (e.g., the homeless, the hungry); that has church-wide social service ministries; but does NOT take church-wide political positions or initiatives (whether or not it encourages its individual members to be politically active).

Contributor:

Leading Questions: What kind of social service ministries does your church provide? How do you encourage your members to become involved in social service ministries? Do you encourage your members to be politically active, and why? What are your reasons for NOT taking church-wide political positions or initiatives?

Case Study #2: First Congregational Church – Kalamazoo (MI) – A church that encourages its members to be politically active and involved in social service ministries that serve persons in need (e.g., the homeless, the hungry); that has church-wide social service ministries; and SELECTIVELY takes church-wide political positions or initiatives.

Contributor:

Leading Questions: What kind of social service ministries does your church provide? How do you encourage your members to become involved in social service ministries? What are your reasons for selectively taking church-wide political positions or initiatives? What types of issues have you selected and on what basis did you make that selection?

Case Study #3: Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice – A Christian para-church organization that believes that reforming/redeeming the political realm is an important activity for Christians; that Christians should carry out social justice ministries that persons in need; and that provides resources and others assistance to help its church constituent members and their congregational members to carry out these responsibilities.

Contributor:

  • Kris Van Engen, Congregational Justice Mobilizer for World Renew and the Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice

Leading Questions: How do you encourage individual Christians and your church constituent members to become involved in political activities that reform/redeem the political realm and in social service ministries that serve persons in need? What kind of resources do you provide for such individuals and churches? What has worked well? What hasn’t worked well?

CLOSING READER COMMENTS

In addition to the comments submitted by readers for the individual postings of the conversation partners on the 1st, 10th and 20th of this month, some readers may wish to submit comments on the entire month’s conversation.
To do so, follow this link.



Topic #11: Are There Limits to Civil Discourse and Free Speech? (July 2018)

This July conversation is a “Redo” of the November 2017 conversation on this subtopic that was truncated after one posting due to a death in the family of one of the original conversation partners.

Leading Questions: Are there limits to civility? Is the call for civility a means of control by those in power? Is the call for civility a means to marginalize those “who have no voice?” Are there ideas so repugnant and dangerous that they shouldn’t be allowed to be uttered in public? If colleges and universities are committed to the quest for “truth,” what are the limits, if any, on free speech?