mean-spirited words.

Last night I watched the Oscars in their entirety for the first time in my life.  It was… long.  But it was certainly more fun watching with friends and one of my newest friends – dvr.

It seemed as if the same films were nominated over and over again, and of all the films that garnered the most attention,  I’ve watched Slumdog Millionaire (I was delighted that they won so many times), The Dark Night (liked but thought it was long), and Benjamin Button (was ambivalent about it and thought it was long).

One movie I haven’t watched is Milk, but Tina and I are hoping to see it sometime soon.

In the acceptance speeches by the writer (DLB) and best actor (SP), they both made strong statements in support of gay rights, and penn’s comments were more pointed regarding the prop 8 bill in california.  Prop 8 dealt with the definition of marriage in California, and was highly contested and debated in California.  It came down to a very close vote (52% to 48%), but in the end, opposition to gay marriage was more fully supported in the state.

Last night, as I heard Penn’s speech, I cringed inside.  I could see that he believed passionately about Milk’s life and the message of equality, but I felt that the words he used in his acceptance speech were more divisive than helpful in promoting equality. Now, I know that his choice of words was likely tamer than most other opinions on the matter (he simply said that people who supported the ban should be ashamed, or something to that effect), but I thought it needlessly divisive nonetheless.

It sounds as if people were protesting outside the theater, and I’m sure that must have been an annoyance to him and others, but it’s interesting that he reprimanded them so quickly when his movie, as far as I can tell, involved demonstrations and protests as well.

It’s easy to paint different camps into “good guys” and “bad guys”, and I know how easy it is for me to convince myself that I’m a “good guy” (I’ve done it many times!).  However, it becomes increasingly difficult when mean-spirited words are used against people I disagree with, and that’s what seems to happen all too often in touchy political issues like this one.  It saddens me greatly when mean words are directed toward a whole group of people to dismiss their judgement and character, and those mean-spirited words simply alienates people more than convincing them of a different perspective.  I’ve learned this the hard way.

Richard Mouw, the president at Fuller, speaks about such sentiments in an editorial he wrote in newsweek http://www.newsweek.com/id/182531.

I know there’s been rhetoric from the evangelical perspective on a number of issues that tends to alienate others when it comes to healthy dialogue about political issues, but I’m afraid the same harsh, mean-spirited words comes from non-evangelicals too.  There’s a fundamentalism against fundamentalism that is equally as damning and hurtful.

I recall during the 2004 elections many evangelicals I knew were greatly disturbed by the Bush administration after GW’s first four years, and they were widely considering voting for Kerry.  But I also recall so much venom being thrown at Christians (as if they were all unreasonable and backward thinking), that it was difficult to convince people that not all Christians are Bush supporting clones.

What Obama has done well, I believe, is build a bridge to those same “narrow-minded” evangelicals without mean-spirited words.  In fact, I think he did a marvelous job of that, and I believe it helped him win the highest office.  I believe him when he says he wants every voice to be heard.

That doesn’t mean I’ll agree with every policy he puts forth, but I agree with the civility with which he listens (check out the previous link I put up about Obama’s speech regarding religion and politics – http://www.barackobama.com/2006/06/28/call_to_renewal_keynote_address.php.  Obama uses the term “fair minded words”).

It’s amazing how much it helps when mean-spirited words aren’t used.

Perhaps then, we can finally begin talking like Mouw proposes.

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2 responses to “mean-spirited words.

  1. Rich Villodas

    Great post bro. I felt the same way watching Penn at the Oscars.

  2. I never thought about it that way, but yeah, I often tend to use mean-spirited words when I try to defend my position, because for that moment, I feel like it gives me the upper hand. Usually when that moment passes though, I don’t feel all that great about the situation and how I handled it. I just wonder what it would look like to really “talk” about things as Mouw proposes, especially with such controversial topics as homosexuality.

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