Worth Reading - 9/18

1. This piece is near gold. Seven habits of highly depolarizing people. It's worth a read and application.

In recent decades, we Americans have become highly practiced in the skills and mental habits of demonizing our political opponents. All our instruments agree that we currently do political polarization very well, and researchers tell us that we’re getting better at it all the time.
For example, Stanford Professor Shanto Iyengar and his colleagues recently found that, when it comes both to trusting other people with your money and evaluating the scholarship applications of high school seniors, Americans today are less friendly to people in the other political party than we are to people of a different race. The researchers conclude that “Americans increasingly dislike people and groups on the other side of the political divide and face no social repercussions for the open expression of these attitudes.” As a result, today “the level of partisan animus in the American public exceeds racial animus.”1 That’s saying something!
But if polarization is all around us, familiar as an old coat, what about its opposite? What would depolarization look and sound like? Would we know it if we saw it, in others or in ourselves? Perhaps most importantly, what are the mental habits that encourage it?
We’re confronted with an irony here. We Americans didn’t necessarily think our way into political polarization, but we’ll likely have to think our way out. A number of big structural and social trends—including the end of the Cold War, the rising importance of cultural issues in our politics, growing secularization, greater racial and ethnic diversity, the shift from the Greatest Generation to Baby Boomers as the nation’s dominant elites, the break-up of the old media system, the increasing ideological coherence of both of our two main political parties, among others—appear to have helped produce our current predicament.

2. Missionary Nik Ripken writes to ask what is wrong with Western missionaries.

We had already learned how important it was to listen. So we set aside time to listen to the believing culture inside a Muslim country, in rural and urban locations, among both young and old, both men and women, and those literate as well as oral communicators. They told us how they had heard of Jesus and his Bible for the first time. We were startled to discover that their experience was quite different from the experiences of most of the rest of the believing world.
In our earlier travels, we had learned that much persecution originates within governments and institutions of power. In the U.S.S.R. and China persecution was institutionalized. Persecutors were typically somewhere “out there,” and they employed means to find, punish, incarcerate, and kill believers.

3. PBS covers a school that has converted its football stadium into an organic garden. The students can work off their tuition by working in the garden.

HARI SREENIVASAN: He turned the football field into an organic farm that generates more than 20,000 pounds of organic vegetables every year, veggies that make it into high-end restaurants and into the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium.
MICHAEL SORRELL: I think this has saved our school. It saved it because it changed the narrative of the institution.

4. The story of a man who rejected Christianity, but came to recognize that his rejection of a version of Christianity was based on very Christian grounds.

“We preach Christ crucified,” St Paul declared, “unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” He was right. Nothing could have run more counter to the most profoundly held assumptions of Paul’s contemporaries – Jews, or Greeks, or Romans. The notion that a god might have suffered torture and death on a cross was so shocking as to appear repulsive. Familiarity with the biblical narrative of the Crucifixion has dulled our sense of just how completely novel a deity Christ was. In the ancient world, it was the role of gods who laid claim to ruling the universe to uphold its order by inflicting punishment – not to suffer it themselves.
Today, even as belief in God fades across the West, the countries that were once collectively known as Christendom continue to bear the stamp of the two-millennia-old revolution that Christianity represents. It is the principal reason why, by and large, most of us who live in post-Christian societies still take for granted that it is nobler to suffer than to inflict suffering. It is why we generally assume that every human life is of equal value. In my morals and ethics, I have learned to accept that I am not Greek or Roman at all, but thoroughly and proudly Christian.

5. Roald Dahl is a famous children's author, but there is a dark side in his writing and his life. This is an interesting and honest tribute from the BBC.

Maria Nikolajeva, professor of children's literature at the University of Cambridge, disputes the notion that there is any darkness in Dahl’s books for younger readers. “He is one of the most colourful and light-hearted children's writers”, she insists. But for all the funniness and dazzling linguistic acrobatics of his prose, she acknowledges that there are problems with his vision. Consider Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
“Wonka is vegetarian and only eats healthy food, but he seduces children with sweets. It's highly immoral”, she says. And then there’s The Witches, whose child narrator, having been turned into a mouse, decides against returning to his human form because he dreads outliving his beloved grandmother. He’d rather die with her, as his abbreviated rodent lifespan will guarantee. “This is a denial of growing up and mortality, but mortality is one of the aspects that makes us human”, Nikolajeva points out. “To tell young readers that you can escape growing up by dying is dubious  – drawn to the utmost an encouragement of suicide – and therefore both an ideological and an aesthetic flaw”.