Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Shut Up and Be Open-Minded?

I had a high school history teacher whom I rather strongly disagreed with on political matters. I learned much from his class about American history, learning to keep my mouth shut, and tuning out toxic ideology.
The clearest memory I take from his class is exactly 5 words: “Shut up and be open-minded.” 
I think of him whenever I am exhorted to be “open-minded” by someone who disagrees with me. For his words would be echoed by many that I know in the journalistic and academic world.
When most people ask me to be open-minded, what they are really asking is that I listen to what they have to say. They want open-mindedness – to their views.
Now, asking me to listen is a perfectly reasonable request. But those who demand open-mindedness are often unwilling to listen to what I or others have to say. Many are quick to accuse others of close-mindedness, but slow to open their minds to others. (In fairness, I often exhibit the same intellectual dichotomy.)
True open-mindedness implies a willing to listen to ALL sides of a story, to ALL sides of an argument – no matter how ridiculous. Similarly, strict close-mindedness merely signifies that one’s mind is made up on an issue, that nothing can change it. Close-mindedness signifies that one knows he is right.
A balance is needed between close-mindedness and open-mindedness. We must close our minds to logical impossibilities such as squaring circles and ridiculous things such as zombie apocalypses. As Christians, we must also close our minds to heresies, even the popular heresies of today such as "one religion is as good as another." 
But we must be open to all logical arguments such as theological debates and political topics, such as how to best reduce poverty and the feasibility of "just war." We must be willing to consider all opinions on unsettled topics, and not simply cling to our own preconceived opinions. If we are initially right, we will better understand the fallacy of other's positions by examination of their arguments; if we are wrong, we will be better men and women for admitting our errors.

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