Subsisting on Punditry


by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

I like to give Dan specific instructions for hypothetical situations. For example, if I ever go missing, he is to fib a little on my weight so that it isn’t broadcasted all over the news along with my height and the last time I was seen. Also, if I’m in vegetative state for more than six weeks, he can pull the plug. (Now we’ve got witnesses.)  One of the most important things I tell him is this: Don’t ever, ever let me become the kind of person who has made up her mind about everything—you know, the kind of person who barks opinions at the TV, refuses to hear people out, and fears learning something new. To me, that would be a fate worse than the vegetative state.

But lately, I’ve been wondering if any of us are really capable of being open minded. As this “Daily Show” clip humorously reveals, we tend to see whatever it is we’re looking for.

[Edit: Clip no-longer available]

I read somewhere that human beings are in the habit of surrounding themselves with information that supports their presuppositions. It seems to me that the great thing about the information age is that we have access to so many perspectives and ideas. The sad thing about the information age is that we tend to take advantage only of those that affirm what we already believe. Conservatives watch Fox News. Liberals watch MSNBC. People who don’t like the sound of the Emerging Church read books against the Emerging Church. People who like the sound of the Emerging Church read books that support the Emerging Church. Calvinists go to Calvinist conferences and Calvinist schools. Armininians go to Arminian conferences and Arminian schools. We listen/read/watch with an endless supply of pundits to tell us how right we are, and we become more and more arrogant and decided and closed-minded as we go along.

I’ve noticed this especially now that the election is over and Barack Obama is president. It seems like those who voted for him think he can do no wrong, while those who voted against him think he can do no right. The former eat the New York Times for breakfast, the Huffington Post for lunch, and Keith Olbermann for dinner. The latter start with Rush Limbaugh in the morning, have some Anne Coulter for lunch (probably not particularly filling, considering her size), and move on to Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly for dinner. Being one of the few Obama supporters in town, I’ve been getting a lot of regurgitated Limbaugh/Coulter/ Hannity from my conservative friends, and to tell you the truth, it’s starting to stink.

But before I get judgmental, I remind myself of how I’ve been known to sneak a peak at the Rachel Maddow Show in the evenings.  I tend to read Brian McLaren, not Kevin DeYoung or Ted Kluk. I’d rather watch five hours of Barney than listen to ten minutes of Rush Limbaugh. I prefer Tony Jones’ blog to Mark Driscoll’s.

I’m as guilty as everyone else, but I’d like to think that I’m trying. I’d like to think that I do my best to hear people out, to read a wide-range of perspectives, and resist the urge to wallow in self-congratulations. So, in the spirit of the upcoming season of Lent, I’m considering taking a break from affirmation in order read a book I REALLY don’t think I’m going to like with an open mind. I know that several of you will be more than happy to make a suggestion, so let me know if you have an idea.  : )

What about you? What do you do to try and stay open-minded? Is it even possible?

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