Monday, December 7, 2015

Emotional Correctness


With two mass shootings in just the past two weeks in America, and a presidential election which is getting more and more vituperative and pejorative every day, with the two opposing sides calling each other horrendous things, perhaps it is a good place to begin this Monday morning with a blog post about kindness and listening.

Sally Kohn, a liberal political commentator on FOX NEWS (for those international readers of my blog post, FOX is the leading conservative and right leaning news station in America).  Sally also happens to be a lesbian and a regular advocate for same sex and gender equality issues.  She recently gave a TED talk about the topic of:

Emotional Correctness

In this talk, Sally discusses why she thinks liberals and conservatives need to focus more on "transcending their political differences and actually listen to one another" (Huffington Post).  In her own words; "For decades we've been focussed on political correctness, but what matters more is emotional correctness.  Emotional correctness is the tone, the feeling, how we say what we say, the respect and the compassion we show one another.  What I've realized is that political persuasion doesn't begin with ideas or facts or data - political persuasion begins with being emotionally correct."

Kohn goes on to say that as a commentator on FOX NEWS, what she has been most surprised about is how kind and how nice her colleagues are.  She said in a recent NPR interview that; "Sean Hannity is actually one of the nicest people I've ever met.  He's always looking out for people, and there is just about nothing that he wouldn't do for you."  Kohn muses that she feels that liberals in America, while in her opinion are more correct politically, are often at the same time more shrill in their delivery of their ideas and tone deaf about them.  She says that liberals can be downright rude in the presentation of their ideas.  Conservatives are more kind and better listeners, Kohn suggests.

At various different stages of my life, I personally have experienced both liberals and conservatives to be quite unkind at times.   As an undergraduate, I went to a liberal arts college in the Midwest that was extremely liberal.  The unkindness I experienced from some of my liberal colleagues there still remains with me.  If I remember correctly, the local college paper's editorial section labeled me a; "but sucking preppy from Utah - if I ever saw one."  At the same time, I have also had the experience of pastoring a large conservative church in the conservative, evangelical bastion of Colorado Springs.   Some have said that Colorado Springs is the, "Vatican of Evangelicals".  While I found abundant evidence of the kindness of conservatives that Kohn suggests in her TED talk, I also experienced some of the most mean spirited dialogue (and frankly horrible behavior), I have ever beheld.  I will never forget one leading conservative pastors in Colorado Springs, told me as a side note over lunch once that; "Conservative Evangelicals Christians are the meanest people you will ever meet".

Of course it is the height of cliche and a resounding platitude to suggest that either liberals or conservatives have the lock on the market of either elevated rhetoric or mean spirited debate.  Both sides have a plethora of examples of both.  But in this season where the divergence of opposing opinion and disagreement is so great in America, and where the world in general seems more riven with disagreement and anger and fear, perhaps a play out of Sally Kohn's playbook wouldn't be the worst idea.  Maybe we need more;

Emotional Correctness

Maybe Sally is right - we really do need to just listen to one another, with a higher degree of self-respect and self-acknowledgment.  And when we listen, we should see the other person as someone who has value, and is, in Christian terms, made in the image of God.  Their worthiness does not boil down to what they say, but rather, who they intrinsically are.

In the end, in Sally Kohn's own words; "Compassion is a form of trust and faith and hope"!

All For Now,

GB

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