Location: Granite Falls, North Carolina, United States

I'm an ordained United Methodist minister no longer pastoring churches, a former media producer with skills ten years out of date, a writer trying to sell my first novel, and a sales associate keeping body and soul together working for the People's Republic of Corporate America. I'm married to the most wonderful woman in the world, who was my best friend for 17 years before we married.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

On Convincing Ourselves

I read this on P. M. Carpenter' online column:

'Theologian and all-round genius Reinhold Niebuhr once put it succinctly: "Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt. It is when we are not sure that we are doubly sure."'

That explains why Faux News commentators, Rush Limbaugh, and the like tend to shout down those who disagree with them rather than debating the facts of the issues before them.

I remember one particular confrontation I had a couple of years ago and it still gets under my skin. I won't identify the parties involved, but I had been patiently listening to one Bush supporter lambasting liberals and going on and on about how terrible Democrats were, etc. Then another person present passed along a wisecrack about Bush and the Bush supporter went ballistic, calling us "you libs," and even, "Communists!"

I realize now he was trying to convince himself more than he was trying to change anyone else's opinion. This is why I have been called all sorts of names by those who respond to my letters to the editor. They are trying to convince themselves. I hit on a truth that makes them uncomfortable, and they go on the attack--ad hominem attacks.

So, if you have to get aggressive to get your point across, if you have to shout down your opponents, you need to look at how seriously you trust in the beliefs you are shouting about. If you didn't doubt it, you wouldn't have to shout it.

And I always remember one of my favorite quotes from the late newspaper columnist Sydney J. Harris: "The first one who uses labels such as 'liberal' or 'right wing' is the one who has lost the argument on its merits and is now falling back on name-calling."


Blogger Chris said...

Hi Tom,

Trying to email mom but apparantly I don't have the right email address. Can you email me the right one?

And good point on this topic.

March 17, 2007 at 2:55 PM  

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