David Brooks has an interesting column in the NY Times today. It is called “How To Engage a Fanatic.”
At the start of the article, he shares four disheartening stories of people not getting along:
- A political rant at a baseball game
- A university campus discussion about whether to allow extremists to speak on campus
- Conversations in Spain about the impossible challenge of talking with leaders of the Catalan independence movement
- A meeting of both pro- and anti-Brexit campaigners.
Reflecting on these experiences, he says,
Over the course of these experiences I’ve been rehearsing all the reasons to think that it’s useless to try to have a civil conversation with a zealot, that you’ve just got to exile them, or confront them with equal and opposite force.
To my surprise, he then explains why this is the wrong approach—and commends loving our enemies.
Here are his reasons - drawn from Stephen Carter’s book Civility.
- “You engage fanaticism with love, first, for your own sake. If you succumb to the natural temptation to greet this anger with your own anger, you’ll just spend your days consumed by bitterness and revenge. You’ll be a worse person in all ways.”
- “You greet a fanatic with compassionate listening as a way to offer an unearned gift to the fanatic himself.”
- “It’s best to greet fanaticism with love for the sake of the country”
Very interesting! Precisely because he doesn’t explicitly draw from any Christian sources, this might be a useful article for starting conversations. Of course, once we share a commitment to loving our enemies, we might ask where that value first came from…