You don’t have to love your enemies. You don’t even have to like them. But a founding principle of ILYBYGTH is that we should all try to understand those with whom we disagree. Indeed, as journalist and FOILYBYGTH* Trey Kay notes in a recent episode of his podcast Us & Them, there is a critical difference between disagreeing with someone and calling him or her an “enemy.”
If you haven’t yet checked out Us & Them, it’s worth a listen. Different episodes explore issues near and dear to SAGLRROILYBYGTH, such as neo-confederate history, gay rights, and conservative textbook watchdogs Mel and Norma Gabler.
In the most recent episode, Kay explores the question of the enemy. As Kay reports, these days it’s not shocking to hear leading politicians describe the opposing party as the “enemy.” What sort of tone does that set for our day-to-day civil discourse? Can I have lunch with someone who is an “enemy?” Could I work on a school board with one?
Trey includes parts of a conversation he had with your humble editor. We talked about the origins of the name of this blog, and about the difficulties of understanding those with whom we disagree. As I told Trey, this blog is, in part, an effort for secular folks like me to understand what conservative religious people might mean if they say “I love you, but you’re going to hell.”
As he included in the segment, I think there are more important goals than simply winning culture-war battles. If we disagree about issues of religion and politics, we need at least to try to include those with whom we disagree in a civil discussion. We can’t do that if we resort to knee-jerk demonization.
That’s easy enough to do with things we don’t really care about. But what about when it hits home? What about when it is a question of what our kids are learning in school, or what rights we have? For example, for creationists it can be very difficult (I imagine) to relax and talk civilly to someone who wants to teach their kids that humans were not created by God. For people like me, it is enormously difficult not to demonize opponents who don’t agree with us about same-sex marriage rights.
So what do we do? To start, we can listen to the Us & Them podcast.
*Friend of I Love You but You’re Going to Hell, natch.