Preaching to the choir

| | TrackBacks (0)

I was involved in a vigorous, in-person discussion the other night over the Nashville Statement. While everyone involved professed agreement with the historic Christian views of sexuality and sexual identity, some felt that the timing was poor, in the wake of the Hurricane Harvey catastrophe. Others couldn't see the point of a statement that would not persuade someone who was not already convinced of the Biblical position. I defended the statement, which I have signed, saying that Christian young people need to hear a clear restatement of Biblical truth on these issues, crafted to address the particular points of attack being used against Biblical truth, because otherwise young people are only hearing attacks on the Christian position with no responses. Sometimes, I said, the choir needs preaching to.

This entry isn't intended to get into the specifics of the Nashville Statement, but rather to defend the notion of speaking out when you have no reasonable expectation of swaying large numbers of people to your view.

Julia Galef posted four reasons to Twitter recently in response to those who ask why she bothers "arguing with people online, since I'm never going to get them to change their minds." It seems to me that the first and second are particularly applicable to the debate over the value of the Nashville Statement.

Reasons it can be worthwhile to argue with people on the internet, even if you have no hope of changing their minds:
  1. To change the minds of less-committed onlookers
  2. To give relief and comfort to onlookers who share your view and wish someone would stick up for it
  3. To set an example of "sharing one's opinion even if it's controversial," a value norm to reinforce even if you don't change anyone's mind on that particular issue
  4. To set an example of "polite and reasonable argumentation," again a valuable norm in its own right

I would add a fifth reason: To build toleration for your view. Friends of yours who disagree will learn that your view is held not just by strange people they see protesting on the news, but by someone they know and respect. Even if they still strongly disagree with your view, they will be less likely to cast someone who holds it beyond the pale of polite company, because they don't want to cast a friend -- you -- beyond the pale of polite company.

Now, this does not always work. I can think of a few "friends" I've lost because my views on social issues. But in general, it can help to shift the "Overton Window" in the direction of your perspective, which can encourage your allies to speak out, which ultimately can move your view from beyond the pale to controversial but tolerable to conventional wisdom.

I have some experience with this. When I got involved with city zoning issues almost 20 years ago, there weren't many people in Tulsa who thought about, much less supported, ideas like protecting walkability or neighborhood character with design guidelines or using small measures (Roberta Brandes Gratz's concept of "urban husbandry") to revitalize downtown. While these ideas still aren't universally applauded, they now have a significant and vocal constituency among civically engaged Tulsans.

RELATED:

Pastor Steven Wedgeworth writes: "Beware the cool shame. It has unexpected power over people, even those you wouldn't expect. The only way to resist it is with guns blazing."

When friends are saying things that are true but unpopular, truths that could subject them to social penalties, I want to be cheering them on and encouraging others to do the same, not discouraging them from speaking out.

0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Preaching to the choir.

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.batesline.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/8026

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 8, 2017 10:19 PM.

Tulsa Near Northside design workshop was the previous entry in this blog.

Urban Tulsa Weekly column archive is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Contact

Feeds

Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
Atom
RSS
[What is this?]