Starting the conversation

Posted: Sunday, January 04, 2009

Check out this quote: "I'd say that the people at Christian Coalition events are nicer than the people at the Democratic Convention, by and large," by Al Franken.

Yes, believe it or not, Franken said that. Franken, of Saturday Night Live fame, is the author of several thought-provoking books including the anti-conservative tome "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them." The host of The Franken Show on the progressive Air America network, he is a pop culture icon embroiled in a high-profile post-election bid for a Senate seat from Minnesota. Franken ... (Sorry, I just wanted to write "Franken" one more time, because it is such a fun name - so compact, efficient and easy to say.)

(Now stop. By this point in the article, depending upon the speed of your reading, you are only about 15-30 seconds, about 120 words, into the piece. My guess is that many of you have already begun to form some opinion regarding what this article is about and made a few inferences about its relevance to you or its value in the overall scheme of the universe as you understand it. Would you admit it if you were wrong? Start reading again.)

Not only did Franken say that about the Christian Coalition, but he said a whole bunch of other interesting things, too. In fact, he said them while being recorded on videotape. So did Bill Maher (Real Time) and Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) - easily recognizable figures from what we commonly refer to as the "left" side of the political spectrum.

But you know what? Michael Reagan, Rick Santorum and Tony Campolo, well-known figures from the "right," appear on the same video making equally thoughtful comments. Huh. Still think you know what this article is about?

Fact is, we humans are constantly confronted with an information-driven post-Modern world packed with fast and furious content which we must constantly sift through, sort, decipher and selectively decide whether to reject or retain. Throughout this endless process we are striving to minimize our cognitive dissonance and maximize our sense of well-being.

We do this by employing unconscious message-truncating strategies like stereotyping, simplification and sound-biting. The obvious shortcoming of handling this continual deluge on a personal level is that one may reject content helpful to his spiritual growth and retain content harmful to it. At a societal level, the effects give rise to the domination of bumper sticker-quality dogma and frustrate our public discourse.

I never imagined Franken (oh, the joy) would issue such a compliment about the Christian Coalition. I also never thought that he and Michael Reagan could actually find common ground on a hot button topic like prayer in school, but they did. I have discovered over the years that a willingness to challenge my beliefs and carefully conceived ideas is vital to my personal growth.

I also have found the same to be true of a healthy community. In other words, in order to defuse the corrosive effects of too much information, we don't need more information, we need better information presented in a far less strident, divisive manner. We also need an intellectually honest civil dialogue.

It is in that spirit that I invite Juneau to a free screening of an ingenious and exhilarating film cleverly titled, "Lord, Save Us From Your Followers." I saw this film a few months ago and was so moved (to tears actually) by the power of its simple truth that I determined to show it to as many brave souls as possible.

I experimented on - I mean began with - several friends in town to see if the film had the same refreshing affect on others as it did on me. I was thrilled to learn that conservative evangelicals and liberal secular humanists both reacted in a strong positive way, some even offering financial backing to help with the effort - quite a testimonial in tough economic times. Lord, Save Us has now blossomed into a full-on campaign with newspaper ads, posters, and a widening circle of recommendations spreading like wildfire throughout town, culminating with the watch-phrase "Start the Conversation."

If you want to have your personal growth seriously tested while being seriously entertained (money back guarantee for those who don't laugh themselves silly - did I mention the screening is free?), then come out to the Goldtown Nickelodeon at 7 p.m. Jan. 6, 7, 13 or 14 to join with others desiring to start the conversation.

Still think you know what this article is about?

• Mark Everett is Senior Pastor of RealLife Church in Juneau. For more information, visit

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