July / August 2021 - Message From The Pastor:
I propose a church-wide summer read: Don’t Label Me: How to Do Diversity Without Inflaming the Culture Wars, by Irshad Manji. She is the founder of the Moral Courage Project. She lectures with Oxford University’s Initiative for Global Ethics and Human Rights. Her book is a brilliant effort to build constructive communication and repair divisions laid bare by our overheated public discourse. I think it will be an excellent summer read for First Congregational Church of Walpole, UCC.
I discovered Manji while watching Firing Line with Margaret Hoover on PBS. Hoover is the host of an iconic show created by a legendary conservative, William F. Buckley. Manji is a progressive, queer, Muslim. What I saw was an animated, mutually-respectful discussion between two highly intelligent women with strong views, giving off more light than heat. See for yourself. Originally aired on 5/21/21, the episode is available on YouTube. Could their example guide Americans to healthier public discourse? My hope is yes.
Don’t Label Me was written before the 2020 election, and Manji is candid about her opposition to Donald Trump. At the same time, she openly criticizes progressives for their part in our dysfunctional predicament. She writes: “More and more of us in the diversity crowd label people as ignorant and insidious if they hold opinions that diverge from our script. We rally for diversity of appearance but we flake on diversity of viewpoint.”
Manji cited a 2018 Harris poll that indicated one of the uniting characteristics Americans share is an openness to “alternative viewpoints.” Sadly, beneath that hopeful finding, she concludes, “…the deflating reality is, people generally mean that other people should be open to their viewpoints.” But for Manji, this is a starting place. She counsels that we all need to listen and ask why people hold the views they do. This is the only way to build the trust necessary for what she calls, “Honest diversity.”
Nobody wants to be labeled. We are all more than the labels others give us. We are all more interesting and more complicated. Human beings are infinitely dynamic. Labels are reductive at best, generally limiting, and usually inaccurate. Everybody loses. I hope to expand this conversation to include as many in the Walpole community as would like to participate. I have submitted a piece to the Clarion to extend the invitation. You have two months to read the book. The book is widely available. I ordered my copy through a local independent bookseller. I will announce a date for the discussion in the September Parish Visitor. Until then, enjoy your summer.
- In Christ, Richard Malmberg