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Stop Staring at Your Shoes

George Lakoff, a professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of Southern California, writes in his book Thinking Points:

America today is in danger. It faces the threat of domination by a radical, authoritarian right wing that refers to itself as “conservative,” as if it were preserving and promoting American values. In fact, it has been trampling on them. American values are inherently progressive, but progressives have lost their way. As traditional Americans, that is, as progressive Americans, we are beginning to lose our identity, the very values that have made America a great and free country–a country where tolerance has led us to unity, where diversity has given us strength, where acting for the common good has brought our dreams to fruition, and where respect for human dignity has increased opportunity, released creativity, and generated wealth.

Essentially, Dr. Lakoff and others suggest that intellectuals and progressives are losing the political battle because we overthink issues and make them so complex and nuanced that they cannot be communicated to modern people using modern technology.

He talks about the brilliant way the religious right has been able to frame issues so that the press repeats their talking points, while the left has tried to explain the complexity of an issue, which gets edited down to insipid and inane quotes.

I started writing Liberating Word because conservative people of faith are so much more willing to talk about God and the Bible than progressive people, and, when they do, we fall silent as if we have nothing to say. We stare at our shoes as if, somehow, who we are embarrasses God.

The truth is, of course, simplistic clichés about God embarrass us, but we too often have not done the theological study or work to refute what the other person is saying. Our silence only serves to reinforce the idea that they have a monopoly on God and Christianity.

As yet another season of inane theological pontification gears up, I hope you will have the courage at least to say, “You know, that is just not the kind of God I believe in.” Let them be the ones to stare at their shoes for a change.


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Rev. Michael Piazza

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