agreement: (n) when two parties hold the same position
engagement: (n) when two parties communicate in order to express and clarify positions
Only is your local newspaper are you likely to read a back-and-forth exchange between writers of letters to the editor. Then again in a rural community, a reader could just look you up in the phonebook (yes, we still have those paper edition books) and give you a call.
Twice, I have gotten unsolicited phone calls in response to letters that I have written. Once, one of the Country Commissioners called to clarify local codes which restricted something that I suggested. He also thanked me for the variety of topics I responded to and encouraging people to think.
The second occasion, a woman went on a rant about a funding issue which I questioned. I eventually figured out that she agreed with me, and boy did she tell me some information that did not make the local press.
In response to my recent letter about forgiveness, I also received a grateful call…. and then a written response which at points suggested that I did not know what I was talking about politically or theologically. What I found intriguing was that the writer’s name was not included with the response letter. Of course that required a response, both to figure out who would not attach their name, and correct some of their false assertions about my position.
As it turned out, when the editor published my response to the response, they apologized for omitting the other letter’s authors name. No secret there.
I’ll see of the tennis ball of ideas gets returned over the net.
Editor and Un-Named Writer(s):
In response to my Letter to the Editor (1/21/2021) about forgiveness, which I wrote in response to a guest editorial about how Christians might restore their reputation (1/6/2021) “after their association with he most debauched president ever”, a reader(s) responded (2/3/2021) with several clarifications from their perspective. They invited me to join them. I’m certainly open to discussion and will take up their invitation.
First, I wish to thank them for taking the time to read my letter, to compose their ideas, and write a response (it was not clear whether they read the 1/6/2021 guest editorial). I also want to thank neighbors and friends who read my letter and call me up to engage in direct conversations.
The writer(s) addressed three topics, 1) their position that Mr. Trump is a Godly leader, 2) their impression that I had only a limited definition of forgiveness, and 3) patriotism and displaying the Flag of the USA. I shall address these in reverse order.
I was a bit puzzled that they included the concept of “NOT flag burners”. I do not believe that I mentioned nor suggested that burning the flag was a action that I endorsed. I have never burnt a flat (draft card nor bra). I believe in a respectful display of the flag. I display our flag on days of significance for our nation and state. I accept that others have different methods and occasions on which they display flags to attest to their patriotism.
What I question as “flag waving” are people who wear the Flag as a cape as if they were Captain America, or break out windows and beat Capitol Police with flag poles. I have seen people wear representations of the Flag in all sort of clothing (head scarves, T-Shirts, swim jams, pajamas, and who knows where else). I see the flags left up for long periods of time, if not indefinitely, with no illumination at night. I see tattered flags which should be honorably retired, several of which I have driven by recently with Trump flags on the same pole. I have seen the Flag of the USA displayed along with the Confederate Battle flag hanging from tree branches, a somewhat confusing combination of secession and union out on a limb.
From what the writer(s) have mentioned, they do no participate in these actions. Thus, I will accept that they display the Flag patriotically at rallies and on other occasions. I am okay with this. I hope we have a good-natured elbow bump about respecting our Flag in our own ways.
As to the concept of forgiveness, the writer(s) talked about forgiveness including repentance for a wrong action and “turning from them (the wrong action), and going in a different direction”.
I know that I outlined a long sequence of three levels of forgiveness, so our agreement may have been missed. Forgiveness 1.0 is “forgive-and-forget”. Forgiveness 2.0 is “repent-and-sin-no-more”. Forgiveness 3.0 is “bear-the-burden-of-someone-else’s-sin”.
Thus, Forgiveness 2.0 is exactly as the writer(s) have said, turn and go a different direction (sin-no-more). We have no conflict here. I hope we have a second elbow bump about repentance and new behaviors are the way to go.
That brings up their third point, about whether Mr. Trump is a godless leader or Godly leader. The writer(s) list numerous points of policy and action advocated and acted on by Mr. Trump, which they propose demonstrate Godly leadership. I could offer a counter list and arguments which I believe shed a different light on Mr. Trump’s behavior over the last 50 years. But that would much too long of a discussion for this column.
What I believe is important is not that the writer(s) and I agree, but that we engage. This is what civil society is about. We each have the freedom to present our position. We can consider the data that supports each side. We can contemplate the underlying beliefs which guide our conclusions. When we connect knowledge with faith, we have wisdom. I hope we have a third elbow bump here, like two team captains shaking hands with the coin toss and the National Anthem.
I look forward to the writer(s)’ future letters, opinions, and questions.