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David Hegg: A search for reasonable thinking

Posted: January 20, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 20, 2013 2:00 a.m.

If you have been keeping track of our national conversation over the past few years you are probably keenly aware of the current drought in reasonable thinking in our country. At the center of this decay is the erroneous belief that differences of opinion amount to bigotry.


Recently an evangelical clergyman was deselected as a participant in President Obama’s inauguration because he had taught what many recognize as the biblical view of sexual purity in a sermon 15 years ago.


He was exercising his religious freedom and freedom of speech.


He did so in a very winsome, straightforward manner.


Since then his passion to see young people live honorably, and join in the effort to stop human trafficking has gained national attention, and made him a confidant of the President.


Yet, in what some have called a display of Moral McCarthyism, he was dismissed from offering an invocation simply because he dared to hold an opinion that was considered divisive.


He taught that homosexuality, like fornication, adultery, bestiality, and all other forms of aberrant sexuality, is contrary both to God’s law and design for human relationships.


He presented his religious opinion and, on the basis of this, has been branded a bigot, and labeled persona non grata.


But is that reasonable? Are we really ready to say that differences equal bigotry?


Given that tolerance presupposes differences while calling on the parties to "tolerate" one another, are we actually seeing the death of tolerance at the hands of those arguing most loudly for it?


What we desperately need is a timeout, and a commitment to recognize what it means to be reasonable.


America, like every great civilization, was founded on the idea that reasonable people could reasonably discuss their differences while still respecting one another as partners in this thing we call humanity.


Our founders recognized that in the human condition there will always reside the desire to dominate and subjugate others.


To curb this harmful drive they created checks and balances related to power, while guaranteeing certain rights and privileges to the rank and file.


Of primary note were freedom to pursue our different religious passions, and the freedom to express our opinions without fear of reprisal from those with ruling authority.


But it is apparent that these freedoms are currently being eaten away slowly by those who no longer want to hear opposing opinions.


One of the ways we are seeing this unreasonable way of thinking is in the labels that are being thrown around.


In this case, those who are opposed to homosexuality are labeled homophobic, which conveniently makes it appear that it is fear, not reason, that undergirds their opposition. But even the idea of labeling people on the basis of one opinion is overwhelmingly prejudicial and intolerant.


If we give someone a pejorative label because they hold to an opposing view, can we really call ourselves tolerant?


And if, through the use of pejorative labels, we erode any basis for discussion, can we really continue to say we are reasonable?


As a professional theologian I have often had to re-examine the strength of my own positions, as I studied the Bible more thoroughly, and recognized the ways in which my own preferences had shaped my thinking.


Early on I was quite reticent to consider that I may have been holding erroneous views, and reacted negatively to any accusation to that effect.


But over time I have come to realize that there is no honor in being wrong.


Further, I have come to appreciate the fact that if the view you hold is right it can withstand every critique, every opposing argument. And, in the case where a critique actually uncovers something that needs to be corrected, my opponent has become a friend in helping move my view closer and closer to the truth.


It’s time to remember reasonable thinking is tolerant thinking, and it is always ready to hear and value an opposing view as long as that view comes reasonably, and with a sense of respect for the process. And maybe that’s the problem at the bottom of all this.


We are steadily losing the virtue of respect for those with whom we differ. And, unfortunately, many are starting to call that reasonable.


David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. "Ethically Speaking" runs every Sunday.



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