The words almost seem comical: “I’m a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Trump.”
And she wrote an op-ed about it for the Washington Post.
And through it, a lesson can be learned for all of us – regardless of how we voted.
I’ll let you read her narrative and the specific reasons for her choice. But the point is that she voiced things that I’ve been trying to put my finger on throughout this last election cycle. And not just the election cycle, but a year or more of widespread protests and deep set division.
In a nutshell?
We have forgotten how to listen.
Listening, at its most foundational, is being quiet while another person speaks. And then, as they speak, hearing what is being said. Paying attention to words and feelings, facial movements and body language. The goal of listening – real listening – is trying to understand what is being said.
You don’t have to agree, and there can be a time to reply (as opposed to not listening at all but just waiting for your turn to speak; or, more commonly, interrupting to do so)…
… but at the heart of listening is empathy. You want to grasp how they feel, and why they feel it.
It seems we’ve lost that art.
And with it, common public discourse.
Now it seems as though we instantly revert to whatever it takes to silence the speaker. Mostly by calling them a hater, a bigot, a racist, a homophobe, a liberal, a fundamentalist, a… well, you get the point.
Whatever “label” we want to put on them that we feel will marginalize or demonize them.
Yes, social media is the match that has set fire to this pile of kindling, but you can’t simply lay the blame on Twitter or Facebook. Social media has facilitated this dis-ease, but it did not create the disease. If people are not allowed to openly share, to openly discourse, to openly dialogue, they go underground with their feelings.
And then it comes out in very unhealthy ways.
So the next time we find ourselves talking over someone,
… about someone,
… past someone,
... perhaps we should stop for a moment and consider talking…
… with someone.
And once we do, engage in the lost art of listening.
It’s not about agreeing… it’s about understanding.
James Emery White
Asra Q. Nomani, “I’m a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Trump,” The Washington Post, November 10, 2016, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.