Gee I miss talking with people, especially those who disagree with me. In recent years the number of people I can disagree with and still remain friends has been reduced to one.

Thank you, Jon!

This is a slippery slope that leads nowhere, at least nowhere good. Allow me to suggest how we got here and how we can get back…

The Golden Rule

Somewhere along the way we broke the Golden Rule. Following it is the simplest thing. You just treat others the way you would want to be treated. Simple. The principle of reciprocity goes way back, to ancient Egypt and before. “Do to the doer to make him do,” are the words preserved in hieroglyphics. The Romans were more self-interested, “Do ut des” or “I give so that you might give.” The Old Testament rendered the purest principle, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19.18).

My only friend, Jon, is a buddhist and tells me that the Golden Rule translates to the principle, “I am the beneficiary of my deeds… my deeds are the ground on which I stand.” Whether those deeds be acts or words, what goes around really does come around.

Imagine the bad things that would disappear if we practiced this rule, things like road rage, Facebook rants, backbiting, sarcasm and outright insults. You hate those things when they are directed at you. That should shape the way you talk. If we followed the Golden Rule, conversations, even with people who don’t share our view, would be enjoyable and productive. 

Diversity Code

The Golden Rule has been replaced by a Diversity Code that  affirms the essential value of every person, except those who disagree with you. That’s right, “diversity” is the word that is intoned by religious people who can’t tolerate the little people who hold different views from them. An opinion, that thing we used to have and discuss with others, has become a virtue of the highest order, and opposing it has become a sin.

The word, “diversity,” is now code for, “You better accept what we’re saying and not disagree or else we’re coming after you.” If you dare criticize a policy like affirmative action you’re a racist; if you question the wisdom of reparations, you’re a racist; if you urge border security, you’re a racist.

And if you say, “Let’s talk about it,” you’re told to just follow the code and get into line. Many who preach diversity can’t tolerate differences.

Virtue Signaling

In this brave new world where only one opinion matters, the goal is not mutual respect but mutual destruction. Every conversation becomes a no-questions-asked platform for virtue (as defined by me, not you). This platform is a launching pad for verbal missiles aimed at opposing views and designed to shut down conversation before it breaks out.

Those who are deterred choose instead to send signals that they are not targets of attack. “Don’t shoot me! I’m one of you!” After all, yielding to pressure beats the alternative. Just ask Mark Duplass, liberal filmmaker who, after appearing on the Ben Shapiro’s conservative podcast, dared to tweet, “If you are interested at all in ‘crossing the aisle’ you should consider following @benshapiro.”

Missile launch! Duplass immediately deleted the tweet and fell into line.

Blame Game

All of this naturally leads to where we are today. Those on the “other side” must be bad people who are going to hell. No forgiveness here for the sin of disagreement. If there is no room for discussion, then there is no room in heaven for those who dare start one. They are the fools who rush in where even angels fear to tread.

I am a minister and I understand the difference between the religious world and the secular world, or at least I thought I did. Christians and other people of faith hold and share values that are fixed by God and not up for discussion. But now it seems that the line between the two worlds has blurred and God has been replaced by Orwell’s Big Brother who watches over us and insures that, “the best discussions are those that tell us what we already know.”

So, how do we find our way back? Is it as simple as retracing our steps? Unfortunately not. These twisted paths are now well-worn. It’s going to take new platforms that aim at opinion sharing and open discourse. It’s going to take a new breed of social justice warriors who who are as committed to respecting the opinions of their enemies as they are to being right. 

We have not reached the point of no return, but we need to find the Jons in our lives and hope that the circle grows.

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