Andrew Sullivan of Atlantic Monthly recently published this note from one of his readers:
“I have a friend – one of my very best, actually – who I affectionately refer to as my “anti-me”. She is everything I am not.
She is Republican, Evangelical, Christianist, and Liberty University educated. She married at 22 followed in short order by 2 kids. She lived in the suburbs when we met and now lives in a rural area outside of a very small town. She is homophobic, anti-abortion, and a Tea Party sympathizer. She loves Sarah Palin. She thinks Barack Obama is an over-educated socialist who is trying to ruin America.
I am a Democrat, a skeptical Catholic, never been married and with no kids. I live in the city and can’t imagine living in a small town. I have gay friends and gay relatives and I am pro-gay marriage. I am pro-choice. I think Sarah Palin is an uneducated extremist who is trying to ruin America (to say the least). I voted for and continue to support Obama.
There is no reason that we should be friends. But we listen to each other. We talk, civilly, about the things we disagree about but it doesn’t dominate our friendship. We respect each others’ viewpoints, even when we think it is the craziest thing we’ve ever heard. I think I have become a better, more intellectually well-rounded person because I know her. I am less quick to judge and more open to hearing new ideas. I challenge my own beliefs more and I am better at examining view points I oppose.
We should all have an anti-me. ”
Steve continues … I find I agree with this anonymous reader. We live in an age of intentional ignorance and information cocoons that keep up us from even knowing what other people are thinking. As such we predetermine that dialogues are diatribes instead of conversations. There cannot be an honest exchange of ideas because neither honesty nor accuracy is really valued. Protecting our position or proving our point is the main motivation in communication.
In a truly democratic society (which we all claim to value), such intellectual isolation is anathema. When Jesus says, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” he meant that the truth never need fear other opinions or ideas, for the Truth of God will ultimately be understood and embraced by those who want to be truly free. More of us fit Jack Nicholson’s famous outburst in A Few Good Men, “Truth–you can’t handle the truth.”
To one like myself, who truly wants to connect people to God, the anti-mes are invaluable. They help me see and understand others–their dreams, their burdens, their beliefs, their fears. If I don’t know and understand the people not like me then my attempts to communicate the Good News to them is simply shouting into a wind storm. My words go nowhere and do no good because no one can hear them.