Friday, January 14, 2022

Don't Read This Blog

 I was watching a video that has been making the rounds on the interwebs in which a host of a show said that if people didn't like their show then they shouldn't watch.

This reminded me of an interview a few years ago when a writer on a comic book was asked about their very outspoken political views.  This person's response was "If you don't like my politics, don't buy my book."

My first reaction to this is that this is a horrible business model.  In a world of consumer-driven entertainment, there is a constant struggle for more people to experience and purchase your art.  There are not an unlimited number of customers.  I am not a businessman and do not have any business training.  But I do work at a private school where we depend on people spending their hard-earned money on a not-inexpensive education.  We are not merely a business.  We are dedicated to building up the kingdom of God with the students and parents in our community.  But I do my best to respond quickly to any parent question or concern because these are still my customers who pay my salary.  

But I think there is a deeper issue with rejecting an audience.  I believe it was one of the above people who also stated that they didn't want members of a particular political party in their audience.  This I find more disturbing, and not from a business perspective.

I am a writer.  In the grand internet eco-system, this is a very small pond.  But I write online because I want as many people as possible to read these words.  I expect that not everyone agrees with me and that is fine.  

I've mentioned in the past that, like the person mentioned earlier, I have very strong political convictions.  But if you notice, I almost never bring them up here.  The reason for that is because political divisions tend to create immediate walls to conversation.  Once someone talks about supporting Democrats or Republicans, it becomes incredibly easy to tune them out.  But I don't want that.  I want people to read what I have to say because I think it has value.

The only times where I delve into that mine-field are in places where my faith compels me.  I have written about controversial things here like abortion, euthanasia, and upholding the integrity of marriage.  These are hills that I will die on.  If I lose readers, so be it.

But though I am resolved to keep my religious convictions rather than readers, I still do not want to lose those readers.  Even if you disagree with me, I want you to read my work.  That is the entire purpose of dialogue.

There are many reasons why Plato was wise in writing his philosophical works in the form of dialogues.  One of the most important reasons is that it opens up the world of philosophy in a way that is dramatic and easy to understand.  But one of the other reasons is that he taught us through Socrates that real learning occurs through dialogue.  We grow when we encounter ideas that are not our own and we can engage with them and test them to see if they are true or false or somewhere in between.

I could not imagine saying something akin to "I don't want you to read my work unless you completely agree with me."  That would imply that I have so little confidence in my ideas that I don't think I can convince you to agree.  

Perhaps I am being uncharitable to the people mentioned above.  Perhaps they merely wish to be free of those that they perceive as harassing them.  But what better way to reduce the number of antagonists in your life than to open them to your ideas and change their minds.

One of the most amazing stories I have ever seen on the internet is the story of Daryl Davis.  He is a black blues musician who makes friends with members of the KKK.  Davis goes out of his way to encounter members of this white supremist hate group.  He would sit down with them one-on-one and ask them why they held their racist views.  Through dialogue and friendship, Davis rescued over 200 men from a life of racist hatemongering.  Could you imagine if Davis refused to engage, how many of these men would still be lost?

One of the things that bothers me too about telling people not to encounter your art is that it sounds almost like a purity test.  Unless someone meets your particular moral standards, then they are not worthy to experience the precious jewels of your creativity.  Again, I may be more than a little uncharitable in my interpretation, but this impression is sticking with me.  It would be incredibly arrogant of me to place myself above my audience and not see myself as either an equal in dialogue or even a servant, looking to make their lives better.  

As a theology teacher, I try my best to engage in open dialogue with my students.  There are places where I must take a firm stand on what the faith teaches, but I try to listen to where there are spiritually and respond to their needs.  I would never tell them: "If you don't like this teaching, then leave this school."

Closing the door on others to encounter your art only means closing the door to opening their minds and hearts.  Whenever you put yourself out there in an artistic or creative way, you are vulnerable to criticism and rancor.  That is part of the price of encounter other people in a fallen world.  But if we want to reach each other, we are going to have to be open to each other and invite others to hear us.

For that reason, I will never say to you: "Don't read this blog."

No comments:

Post a Comment