How surprising is it that two people with practically identical views can have a civil exchange? It's a touching episode, but this isn't quite a miracle of bridge building.
Ultimately, we felt it was important to factor in the people with whom Mouw is in a distinct position to have high authority: other conservative Christians, whom he is taking to task and challenging to greater compassion, humility and civility.
The attitude of several staff members who have written about the interview with Mouw has come through clearly enough: we know conservatives are wrong, and that we liberals are right, but some of us think we should still be willing to talk to them, or at least those of them who will say what we want to say to and about conservatives ourselves, such as that they need greater compassion, humility and civility. It's there in remarks of Ms. Moos (again), and it was just as clear in Ms. Tippett's post about the show with Mouw, which was practically an apology for even talking with him. She made it clear that the openness to change she was hoping for was entirely for change on the part of conservatives. Other staff have repeatedly posted poorly informed comments critical of conservatives in connection with Mouw's remarks.
This is nothing new. Speaking of Faith rarely had conservative guests, but on the few occasions it did (e.g. John Danforth and Jim Wallis), they were usually there to take to task other conservatives. Being continues this "let us help you remove that speck from your eye" approach to conservatives. How's that working out?
Besides flouting the standards of fairness and balance the show is supposed to uphold (check out the CPB ethics guidelines), this approach is largely self-defeating. The audience for the show is on balance already distinctly left of center, and those conservatives the show might hope to see change are mostly not listening. Why would they, when the show continually suppresses, treats unfairly, and ignorantly criticizes them and their views? Is that the compassion, humility and civility the show wishes to promote? Being mainly preaches to the choir it has created by its long-standing polarization.
For Being to live up to the ideals it sometimes invokes, it needs a staff and guests balanced among the various views and approaches to spirituality. Instead, by all visible manifestations, the staff is uniformly liberal, and most of the guests are too. This implies a greater interest in preserving and advocating the views it already has than in achieving and promoting greater understanding and allowing itself and its audience to learn for itself from real openness.
If the show ever seriously moves in the direction of real openness, then you might see some real bridge building. It has to happen inside the show before it will manifest outward to the audience.
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