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Healing Public Discourse

Here is a great opportunity for believers.

Nathan L. King provides excellent advice and counsel about bringing more civility into public discourse in his article, “How Intellectual Virtues Can Help Us Build Better Discourse” (Christian Scholar’s Review, Summer 2022).

Mr. King laments the sad state of public discourse – including conversa-tion, blogging, use of social media, and so forth – as having become filled with partisanship, anger, name-calling, canceling, and a raft of other unedifying behaviors. These are symptoms of an intellectual sickness that prevents us from treating others as we would like to be treated and not treating them in any way we would not want to be treated ourselves.

King’s solution is to cultivate healthy intellectual virtues to bring more grace and charity into public discourse and to make the public square an edifying source of discussion and solutions once again.

The virtues he particularly identifies as wanting in our day include fairness, humility, open-mindedness, firmness, perseverance, curiosity, and charity. He offers some good advice about how to begin establishing more of such virtues in our own mindset. He calls on us to nurture a vision of ourselves as more intellectually virtuous, and to recall that vision and add to it as needed. He also suggests we find some heroes whose example we can begin to emulate. We should also be careful to enter the arena of public discourse only on issues and topics about which we can be intellectually virtuous. Avoid hot-button issues that cause your anger to rise. Seek out issues you feel you can tackle with a more intellectually virtuous approach. Talk with those who disagree with you with a view to listening and learning rather than criticizing and condemning. Read widely from among the views of those who differ with you. Finally, we need to get training in intellectual virtues – by reading, looking to examples, becoming a good listener, and practicing the virtues we seek – so that we begin to grow toward the vision of the person we would like to be.

There’s plenty of good advice in this article which, were it taken seriously, could bring more civility back to the public square. Here is an opportunity for Christians to learn those practices of public discourse which will allow more grace to flow into those arenas and create more opportunities for edifying discourse.

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