The Elephant in the Room – New York Times


Link: The Elephant in the Room – New York Times.

Many people said they are simply tired of debating the policies that have split the country so thoroughly. They know where they stand; they know where their friends, neighbors and colleagues stand. Rather than shift their views or even play along in a show of tolerance, many said they have opted for retreat and the safe harbor of friends who agree.

The quote above comes from a New York Times article on the rising level of animosity in the United States between people of different political views. The article recounts a story of a mother and daughter who, after a period of extended silence following a long series of fights about the Bush Administration and the War in Iraq, finally began to speak to each other again on the condition that they would not speak of politics.

This particular quote seems striking to me because it seems to reflect a similar mood in the Anglican Communion and Episcopal Church. Bishop Bob Duncan gave a speech at Nashota House a week ago and reiterated the statement that there are 2 churches in the Episcopal Church, that they can not be reconciled and therefore they must live apart.

I’ve said this elsewhere, but I’ll repeat in the context of the quote from the NYTimes – if we do manage to figure out someway to break the Episcopal Church into two separate provinces, it will be a tragedy not just for the Episcopal Church, but for the Anglican Communion as well. If there’s no need to interact with people with whom you disagree, then there is no need to learn to live with difference in your own community. If you don’t learn to live with difference, you quickly lose your ability to tolerate even a little difference. (In other words, once you vote someone off the island, it becomes easier and easier to do again and again until you are in fact the only one left.)

In Freidman’s book “The World is Flat” he points out that a society’s ability to be tolerant is directly proportional to its ability to innovate and expand. When society becomes fascist and unwilling to deal directly with people it disagrees with, it quickly become a monoculture – and a fundamental learning in medicine and biology is that monocultures become extinct very easily…

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. Perhaps your readers should look at Ollie North’s new article:
    by Oliver North
    Vietnam and Iraq: Myth vs. Reality
    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Much is being said and written these days about how the war in Iraq resembles the war in Vietnam. The theme began during the 2004 presidential campaign with Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry describing Iraq as a “quagmire” and demanding a “date certain” for a U.S. pullout. Purveyors of the “news” in our so-called mainstream media picked up the beat — though many of them are too young to know anything more about Vietnam than what they learned from a movie. The “Vietnam deja vu” howl is now in full cry. But it’s a myth.Having now spent nearly as much time in Iraq as I did on my first “tour” of Vietnam in 1968-69, it’s readily apparent that the parallels between the two wars are practically non-existent on the battlefield. In the press and politics — it’s a different matter. The barons of bombast have decided that Iraq equals Vietnam. Those who make this argument…

  2. Thanks Jim. But I guess I’m having trouble seeing the connection between people on two sides of an issue being unwilling to approach people of a different viewpoint, and the article you quote which seems to be refuting an argument that I’m not making.
    What am I missing here?

  3. Self-Sorting of Parishes by Belief is a Bad Thing

    It’s not a good thing to self-sort ourselves according to our beliefs, to avoid people whose views we don’t like. When we do this, we miss out on the chance to learn from our disagreements, and to use that learning to fine-tune how we contribute to God…

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