Saturday, October 27, 2012

The more things change, the more they stay the same

J. and I were given tickets to see a local production of Shaw vs. Chesterton. We had a lovely evening and felt very pampered and grown-up. And the show was good.

It was actually very interesting. G. K. Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw, both famous writers in their own rights (Chesterton for his many books and essays and Shaw for his plays), were good friends and disagreed on about everything else. Chesterton was a Christian, Shaw an atheist; Chesterton believed in private property, Shaw believed in redistribution of wealth via socialism; Chesterton enjoyed food (a lot), particularly meat, Shaw was a vegetarian; and so on and so on.

The play was based on transcripts of actual debates which were held between Shaw and Chesterton. The topics were timely and sounded very, very much like the topics which are still being debated today, though they were held ~90 years ago. And while it was interesting to listen to each man's arguments for his view, what I found much more interesting was the relationship between the two men. We do not see a lot of examples of friendship between opposing "sides" these days. We see a lot of belittling of others, name calling, nastiness, and just plain meanness from all sides. There is very little respect happening.

And this is what struck me in listening to the debates between these two men. While they disagreed on just about everything, it was still very evident that they respected each other in spite of the other's views. The mutual respect made it much more interesting to watch and also made it possible to actually pay attention the arguments themselves, rather than focusing on the person delivering the arguments.

The thing which made this unique friendship possible, I believe, is that both men were so very similar despite their differences. Both men were highly intelligent, both were well-spoken and good communicators, both had healthy self-esteems, and both cultivated a slightly larger-than-life persona. They were equals in nearly every respect and they acknowledged the abilities of the other.

It has made me wonder about whether this is the only way a friendship like this is possible. Or, have we just lost the ability to acknowledge the humanity and value of someone who doesn't hold our own views? When did the lose the idea of civil discourse? Today it seems that we take it so personally if someone else dares to hold another viewpoint from our own, it is as if just the act of disagreement is a personal attack. Do we all hold our viewpoints so fearfully that they cannot withstand honest questioning and debate? You see, I have a lot of questions, but not a lot of answers.

Well, I have one answer. I believe that the ability to debate and discourse civilly in a learned skill which needs to be modeled for our children. I think it is healthy for children to see their mother and father disagree on something and be able to discuss the different sides of an issue without resorting to anger or name calling. It is important to see that merely disagreeing with someone does not mean that the relationship is in danger. Another place to learn this skill is at the dinner table. This is assuming that conversation actually happens at the table and people don't just sit down, eat, and bolt. Encourage debate among your children. Raise controversial topics and discuss them. Allow you child to suggest a viewpoint different from your own, but be sure to encourage them to support that view. I know some people consider this a scary proposition; a child disagreeing with a parent can be frightening proposition if the parent immediately jumps to, "If my child disagrees with me about this, then tomorrow she is going to throw over everything I believe in!" Relax, breathe, and create a safe place for children to 'try-on' different opinions. Train your children (and yourselves as you model this) civil discourse.

If you are in the Chicago area, you could go see the show yourself. There are two shows left (tonight and tomorrow afternoon), just call the Provision Theater. I recommend it. And now, I think I'm going to dig out my copy of Chesterton's Father Brown Mysteries. I read them before a long time ago, and am now wanting to reread them.
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These children still do not have families going forward to adopt them... keep praying!

Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Brandi. She is 6 years old. She lies in her crib and waits and waits and waits for someone to scoop her up and tell her how loved she is. Just imagine a grin on her face, her hair allowed to grow out. Imagine how transformed she will look when she is loved. Pray that she doesn't have to wait too much longer for her parents to find her.



2 comments:

MRK said...

I find this post interesting and timely. I am currently reading two books (both by the same author). Okay, wait, I'm currently reading 4 books, but the two that are relevant to this post are: "Parenting Beyond Belief" and "Raising Freethinkers." These books discuss the tenets of respecting another person even if you don't respect or share all of their beliefs. They talk about encouraging your children to question beliefs, to form their own beliefs, to not simply believe what's been handed down to them as tradition (though tradition has an important place, in many ways, it is not always a reason to take on a belief unless someone has first been given a chance to question it and to determine that they, too, share that belief). They talk about ways to think about teaching children morals and values without necessarily doing so within the framework of an organized religion. I think all of this is in line with your post, and I hope you and I can continue to find that we share many ideals and mutual respect even if we disagree about religion.

Jennifer said...

I just discovered your blog and loved reading this entry. I've been doing a lot of reading about Justice Scalia; and I'll admit that I wish I could be more like him and Justice Ginsberg. I don't have many friends on the other side of the political spectrum (family members but not friends) and so much of my identity and priorities are wrapped around my politics. Good thoughts!

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