Wrestling Our Way to Better Public Policy

August 13, 2009

Growing up I was fascinated with “TV Wrestling” and totally convinced that good and evil were at war in every match and only one could win.  Somehow in the simplicity of youth, my informal scorecard revealed that good won out over evil most of the time.  All was right with the world.

Then as a teenager in Detroit, I went to watch a live grudge match and my hero “Leaping Larry Shane” was pummeled by the bad guy, “Dick the Bruiser”  I was crushed and decided to leave the match early because my world of order and right and wrong felt like it was falling in around me.  Much to my surprise and chagrin, in the five minutes it took me to leave the arena and walk to my car, I encountered Leaping Larry Shane in street clothes behind the arena, also heading home . . . and looking very much alive and well.  I haven’t been back to a wrestling match or watched it on television since that night.

The health care debate seems to have turned into a bit of a grudge match.  Each side seems to be climbing higher on the ropes and piling on with ever greater ferocity.  The Town Hall meetings this week have seemed anything but civil.

Doesn’t it dawn on us that the fight is rigged?  Posturing and pouncing don’t really seem to win points anymore.  As a civilized society can we learn the skill of respectful dialogue, critical conversations and consensus building?  If not, let’s just turn on our television and watch professional wrestling.  At least that way, no one will really get hurt.

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Reconciling Reconcilers

August 3, 2009

A high water mark was reached last week when 35 Christian theologians, pastors and church leaders engaged in two and one half days of dialogue and training in conflict management at ICM.  Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists and others from across the theological spectrum participated in an experience they described as “once in a lifetime”.  We worked, we ate, we laughed, we ate, we cried and then we ate.  It was an incredible time for relationship building and in the process we all learned something:  the work of reconciliation in our churches is hard,  but eternally gratifying.

Why is church conflict so difficult to address?  Because it is based on our values and beliefs, the reasons behind our positions are less open to exploration.  Nonetheless, when we explore the reasons for our relationships and seek to create safe and constructive dialogue, a path to reconciliation is built.  I will never forget my new best friends.  I can’t wait to be with them again.

Click HERE to read an op/ed piece in The Tennessean that appeared in this morning’s paper.