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SCOT BELLAVIA: “Open Mindedness” – How to Draw The Line

Last month, I wrote the inner monologue of a denier of Critical Race Theory considering the position of a proponent of CRT. I hoped to show what it might sound like to open our mind to people with whom we think we have nothing in common.

In another article, I wrote that open-mindedness is not to be taken to the extreme because it’s natural and right not to hear everyone out. My example there was my dismissal of Joel Osteen and SNL.

Today, I write about how to draw the line between the two practices, as they are not mutually exclusive. There’s no one size fits all principle. Each line is drawn on a case-by-case basis by the individual. What did that look like in my examples?

In the first article, I chose to listen to the interviewed author’s testimony as a runner because I also run. I wanted to write her off because I imagined she perceives the world through CRT-colored glasses and therefore anything she said was preposterous. But that’s an unfit rebuttal when her interview was about the lived experience of “running while black” not why CRT is a correct lens.

I’ve taken issue with the phrase “lived experience” before, but maybe I should retract some of that. “Lived experience” should be respected as a genuine perspective, even though it’s not a verifiable truth-claim.

Finding common ground opened my ears to the author’s statements. But the next step to greater human decency is to recognize that she deserves to be heard simply as a person rather than because we agree on something.

True open-mindedness is humble.

I had a different approach with Joel Osteen. The Bible and natural order tell us that leaders deservedly are subject to higher criticism; especially so for spiritual leaders.

I’m sure the first thing I heard about Osteen was that his teaching was unbiblical. So, when I listened to one of his sermons, I wasn’t trying to learn anything; I was there for the shock value of how misleading I knew he’d be. I didn’t need to hear more.

True open-mindedness is discerning.

Regarding SNL, I started off a naïve adolescent who giggled at the taboo. Essentially, I was the target audience for a show that, for some reason, considers itself a staple of America. But eventually I found the show be so politically one-sided that it’s not an entertaining pastime for half of the nation.

True open-mindedness has limits.

Other situations reveal more traits of true open-mindedness.

To throw out the life’s work of someone who committed something egregious would show open-mindedness to have standards. To consider the work of someone who repented after a life of egregiousness proves open-mindedness to be forgiving.

True open-mindedness is both respectful and discriminating. Its greatest characteristic is that it rejoices in truth.

It’s up to each of us to determine the beliefs we allow into or let out of our brains. We don’t have to justify to others what we have done with any one idea but we do need a justification for it within ourselves. So let our determination be humble, discerning, limited, forgiving, respectful, loving, and, the greatest of these: truth-seeking.

– Scot Bellavia

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