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Reforming Political Discourse 

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Reforming Political Discourse

 

Moderator

Harold Heie, Senior Fellow, The Colossian Forum (TCF

PURPOSE and HOPE

The political climate surrounding both the Obama and Trump presidencies has been marked by a hyper-partisan attitude of “we’ll do this without you” from the majority party and an attitude of “if you’re for it, we’re against it” from the minority party. Every available political tool is wielded to defeat what the other side wants to accomplish. News sources are so polarized that the preferred party is presented as doing no wrong and the opposite party nothing right. The news from the right and left often seems to be covering different planets, with people listening only to an echo of themselves.  Policy discussion is marked by talking points that inflame one side and caricature the other. As this melee teaches us how not to communicate with each other, families and communities are so divided that political discussion and life together becomes increasingly uncomfortable and sometimes impossible.

Do Christians have resources for working together across political differences that offer an alternative to the current appalling state of political discourse? The purpose of this electronic conversation is to point to such resources by:

 

  • Proposing a Christian Perspective on Political Discourse
  • Discussing the Strengths and Weaknesses of the proposed Christian perspective on Political Discourse
  • Modeling the proposed Christian perspective on Political Discourse by discussing The Nature of Politics and selected contentious public policy issues.
  • Discussing a possible Way Forward for Christians

The ten subtopics for conversation will be:

  1. Talking Past Each Other or Worse (September 2017)
  2. A Proposed Christian Approach to Political Discourse (October 2017)
  3. Are There Limits to Free Speech and Civil Discourse? (November 2017)
  4. The Notion of Politics (December 2017)
  5. Party Politics and Beyond (January 2018)
  6. The Role of Money and Special Interests in Politics (February 2018)
  7. America With or Without Walls (March 2018)
  8. Wealth and Poverty in America (April 2018)
  9. Healthcare in America (May 2018)
  10. Case Study Conversations Regarding Political Discourse and Political Action Within Churches and Christian Para-Church Organizations (June 2018)

Leading questions have been formulated for each of these subtopics. For each subtopic, two or three conversation partners, chosen because they are likely to have significant disagreements in their responses to these questions, will post three pieces during the month, using the Methodology described below.

Although one cannot predict beforehand the results of a respectful conversation, the HOPE for this project is that the conversation partners will demonstrate respect for one another in the midst of their disagreements and will uncover sufficient common ground to foster ongoing conversations.

Methodology

The protocol for postings by the conversation partners for topics 1-9 is as follows

On the first day of the designated month, each conversation partner will post a blog of approximately 3000 words that addresses the following questions:

  • In summary form, what is the position you currently take relative to the Leading Question posed for your sub-topic?
  • Drawing on your biblical/theological understanding and other formative influences in your life that you identify, what are your reasons for taking the position you have taken? If appropriate, include a “personal story.”
  • What do you believe is “at stake” for Christians relative to your sub-topic and what concerns do you have about what could happen if your position is not taken?

By the tenth day of the given month, each conversation partner will post a blog of approximately 3000 words that answers the following questions relative to the initial posting of the his/her conversation partner(s):

  • Agreements: What can you affirm about the other person’s position and his/her reasons for taking that position?
  • Disagreements: What concerns do you have about the other person’s position?
  • What key question do you think the other person has avoided or has not addressed adequately?
  • What insights can you glean from the other person’s initial post as to ways in which he/she is seeking to be faithful to his/her particular understanding of commitment to the Christian faith?

By the twentieth day of the given month, each conversation partner will post a blog of approximately 3000 words that responds to the 10th day posting(s) of his/her conversation partner(s) and answers the following question:

  • In light of the conversation that has taken place, what are the issues that you believe all the conversation partners need to give more thought to as a basis for ongoing conversation?

The protocol for postings for topics 10 will be formulated and posted by June 1, 2018

Throughout any month of conversation, any reader of the web site can submit a comment on any prior posting in a “moderated forum” in which the moderator will read all submitted comments and post those submissions judged to satisfy the “Guidelines for Posting Comments” that are listed in the Conversation Guidelines.