Pandering to Pandas…REALLY???

pandering to pandas

by Kenneth Justice

~Many years ago the pastor of a large Evangelical Christian church confided in me, “Kenneth, the majority of my congregation is racist“.

The church met at a historical church building situated in a massive multi-racial ghetto; 99% of the congregants who attended the church were white people who drove in from the suburbs.

The pastor’s confession really upset me, “Why don’t you preach a sermon on racism then?” I asked

Because I would be afraid of losing my job….and I have a wife and children to support” he said

The pastor felt as though he was caught between a rock and a hard place; the congregants were the one’s who contributed their tithes and paid his bills. The pastor’s entire fiscal situation was dependent on placating and pandering to his congregants; if he said something that pissed them off he feared losing his job.

For me at the time, I was a pretty idealistic young man; “if people are racist you confront them to their face and tell them to get their act straight or f*** off!”was my attitude. Is that a little bit too ‘un-Christian’ of me? Of course, it was easy for me to tell the pastor to do that…..I wasn’t the one whose paycheck was on the chopping block if the people got pissed off.

So much of life feels as though we must pander to people;

—) We are careful what we say to our boss or clients as we don’t want to rock the boat

—) We tiptoe around relatives in order to not have to deal with a massive argument on Thanksgiving

—) Politicians pander to lobbyists and special interest groups in order to keep a steady stream of money coming in to their coffers

Its funny how people can seem so nice and friendly as long as you are pandering to them. But say something that rocks their world and you will find out how they will really treat you.

Its sort of like a panda bear; they are these majestically beautiful black and white creatures. We create little panda bear stuffed animals for children to hug and play with……but if you happen to get on the wrong side of a real life panda bear you will find out that they can be just as vicious and terrifying as any other wild creature.

Every day that I write I am faced with a question; do I pander to my readers or do I tell them what I really think about something? If you are of the mind that “Kenneth writes some pretty controversial articles” and that I have balls of steel….you should see all the articles I write and don’t publish; perhaps I’m not quite as gutsy as you think.

For every article I publish; there are five others that I simply don’t have the guts to post to the public. I am just as human as the next person and I don’t have some natural desire to piss people off. So am I guilty of pandering to people? I’m not sure. Am I guilty of being less-than-authentic because I don’t publish everything I write? I’m not sure.

The reality of the situation is that if we go around like little Napoleons telling everybody what ‘we’ think is wrong with them, the world, or whatever….than we risk alienating ourselves from a lot of people. The simple fact of the matter is that not all of our opinions are right. There are many things we believe with all of our heart…..which are simply false; we are not little gods with inerrant knowledge about everything.

Even when it comes to my Christian faith; I hold out the possibility that I could be wrong about things. If I’m not willing to admit that there are some ‘truths’ which I hold dear….that may actually not be true…..than how can I honestly say I am a truth seeker?

Isn’t this the problem we see with so many people in the religious community? Whether you are a fundamentalist Christian, Muslim, Hindu or fill-in-the-blank; too many people begin their equation with; “I am right about everything“…..and they have then successfully closed the door on any potential intellectual or spiritual growth that could have taken place in their life.

Even an atheist who says, “It is impossible that I am wrong about the non-existence of god” is demonstrating a pretty closed-minded attitude in which they’ve successfully closed the door to any positive communication with others.

Just as I the Christian should admit that I could be wrong about god existing…an objective atheist should admit that they could be wrong about god not-existing…..right?

When it comes to writing for public consumption we have to find that happy medium between laying bear all of our radical thoughts and ideas….and writing an intellectually honest piece that leaves the door open for positive conversation to take place.

I’m still trying to figure out that balance….but I hope that I am not guilty of pandering to pandas.

I can smell the aroma of a fresh brew of coffee…..time for another cup,


Categories: Culture & Society

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47 replies

  1. it seems maybe you’re being guided by inner vision/wisdom/goodness. you know.

  2. Once, one of my teachers said to us “just the simply fact you are saying you are apolitical means you are involved in politics.” We can apply this for “i don’t believe in God” means the simply fact you mention God is because, God exist.
    Going back to your topic…the truth is relative and the best way is, to keep the balance between things/truths/corruptnesses (not using lies). Another relative truth is, we as humans have a limit or limitations and sometimes we forget about balance and yes, we can easily say to our empoyer: f*** off and we feel so good. I’d rather speak my mind than (to kiss an ass or in polite manner) to wear gloves. So it’s up everyone…culture, education, situation. And as me, I’d love to hear an ugly truth than a stupid lie. So Kenneth, try us take the risk and speak your mind, you can lose your readers or duble them 🙂

  3. I’d like to see some of your unpublished things, but I think you do a great job 🙂

  4. Also remember there are sometimes ways of saying things that can state your point in a way to make people think and not have them go ballistic on you……….which I think your doing really well at.

    • “Also remember there are sometimes ways of saying things that can state your point in a way to make people think and not have them go ballistic on you”

      quite true :0)

  5. ditto to the above comment.
    I am grateful I have been “brought” if you will, to your blog. With that said, it seems you are hitting the nail on the head with every single post lately least for me.
    This one in particular hit hard at home. My very dearest friend in the world was a pastors daughter where we attended church. I practically lived at the parsonage. She, an only child. Lovely parents.
    The church had never seen so much growth as when her dad was pastoring. He brought newness and life. There is a USCG and boot camp for rescue swimmers here…many had started attended the church…including a black man. Three of these USCG men were leaving out soon (transferring) including the black man, and had asked the pastor to baptize them. You would have thought the church was going to uprise from the ground. The deacons told the pastor that if he baptized the black man he would be fired. HE BAPTIZED ALL THREE.
    30 days later the pastor was gone. I lost my friend. But only to distance.
    Now as a mature adult, I can see that the church tried all they could to stop ONE man (the black man) from recieving GRACE. GOD WON. You can’t out’do God.

    And I ?
    I still have my best friend. Her name is Kim.

    Thanks Kenneth.

  6. As a musician, I am constantly faced with having to choose between playing what I want to play (and share) with my audience, and what THEY want me to play. Even throwing a party at my house, I feel I cannot share the music that I love and am inspired by.

    One of my favorite blog posts:

    I refer to this often.

    Thanks – now I am going to have my tea. (Then my coffee.)


  7. I wouldn’t worry too much that you’re pandering. With the right argument you could convince someone of anything and all opinions are the truth to someone. My opinion is that you have learned the art of self-editing which is something many people struggle with. Sure you may not post every little topic you write about, but in this over-saturated blogisphere I’ll take quality over ranting quantity anytime.

    • dobetteralways,

      thanks for the kind comments. I wish I had more time to comment; I was looking at all your photos over the past weekend and they are so beautiful. I didn’t know you did wedding photography also, but I saw the one with the bride and the lights in the background; it was so beautiful 🙂

    • Thank you! I actually don’t do weddings often, always as favors to people, but I was really happy with the shots from that one. I wish the market wasn’t so full of “professionals” or I’d try my hand at earning a full income doing it, but I simply don’t have the inner drive for constant self-promotion needed to really get a business off the ground.

  8. It’s such a tough thing to know your audience and write so as to keep them around but without pandering as you put it. I think you do a great job of doing just that! In regards to blogs, I think it depends on what your goal is and given what you’re trying to do here, you’re not pandering at all. There does come a time when you need to self-edit. I do believe that sometimes it’s worth taking a stronger stance on some topics that you truly believe in, but that doesn’t mean that that stance is or should be in any way disrespectful to others. It is about finding that harmony between taking a stance but recognizing that other opinions exist and that the actual truth could lie somewhere between the two or isn’t what you believe. Great post!

  9. I for one am so wrong about everything, so that oftentimes, I am so incredibly right…

  10. Opinions are fine, but sometimes we are wrong . . .I will pander if I think that what I really want to say will hurt the person more than heal them . . .

    Preachers and politicians and people in control get NO slack though . . . none.

    • jjwalters,

      “I will pander if I think that what I really want to say will hurt the person more than heal them ”

      right, I think that is the key; trying to figure out where the other person is coming from

  11. These are good words. I struggle between frankness and kindness, but find that I am always self-interested, choosing my words to protect myself in whatever situation I am in. Thanks for speaking this out loud.

  12. I hold out the possibility that I could be wrong about things. If I’m not willing to admit that there are some ‘truths’ which I hold dear….that may actually not be true…..than how can I honestly say I am a truth seeker?

    For most people, their truth is their resolve. They are not prepared mentally for such a challenge. I question a lot of things because its only by asking questions that you’re able to get a better understanding of things. Some people just accept any and everything that’s fed to them. They are like mindless sheep.

    Nice post.

    • RC,

      “Some people just accept any and everything that’s fed to them”

      I suspect most of us started out that way when we were younger; some of us keep accepting whatever is fed to us and others of us begin to question things

  13. Young Kenneth the Idealist had it right. Your pastor should have spoken out against
    racism and had faith that any loss of revenue would have been made up by kinder
    more loving new congregants drawn to a place of peace.

  14. Here’s a quote I find really useful: “The secret of life is three things: (1) show up, (2) be gentle, and (3) tell the truth.”

  15. I can speak for others or even for all cases I am involved. But I know that you have to be true at least with myself. I may stand attitudes from others but won’t be able to live with myself If I do the same things. One of the things is actually not talking up or taking a clear side on the matter. That has cost me my job, friends and sometimes my sanity because yes, you can never be sure if you are correct. I guess it is the game of life. On the other hand, admitting I was mistaken is not as hard as seeing I was right but didn’t speak up and possibly prevent something bad from happening.

  16. You’re correct – it’s a tough line to follow. (I just wrote about something similar, stating that morals can be a luxury at times.) It happens in writing, too. How long did Sylvia Plath’s family wait to publish The Bell Jar after she died because it was too personal and told too much? I’m a people pleaser, but rather than simply lie or cater to other folks, I keep a polite silence. It isn’t pretty, and it probably isn’t healthy. I’m working on it.

    • Dewey,

      “because it was too personal and told too much”

      I can relate a bit to that because even with my own memoir that I finished and haven’t published yet. Ive been trying to decide if I should edit it and tone down things I’ve written about people who are related to my life, or whether I should just hold onto it till I die and let others publish it.

    • Good luck with that one. Stuff like this is what got me in hot water with my mom in the first place. I wrote a satire on the mommy wars, and she took it personally. Totally wasn’t meant to be.

    • Come to think of it, I’d love for you to take a look. I put a password on it to keep folks from taking and twisting it. The password is “Xxxxxx” for both the original post and the follow up. I admire how even-handled you are, and I respect you for it a lot.

  17. Love it! And you’re very right. We have to balance saying what is right, and not saying what seems “right” in order not to offend. We must also balance saying what we believe is right versus simply being inconsiderate: offending others without hesitation just because “I wanna say it”.

    Great post!

  18. Well, I’m thinking of a few things: a Ted Ed talk on lying, and Verbal Judo, which I mentioned before. Also for now, on the Internet, we miss so much non-verbal communication with body language and tone of voice. They all have to do with social interaction, of course. The “lying” the Ted Ed presenter talked about was mostly where humans are concerned with saving face, respect, and so on, and she said so.

    It’s hard enough to do this in person, and harder to do on the Internet, for the aforementioned reasons. So I think self-editing is good, as those other social cues are often gone here. Overall, I think the arts of gentle persuasion is finding that balance. I think many lasting changes in life, for better or worse, come about in small and simple ways. I don’t think the idealism of youth is wrong; I remember being like that. But as I got older, and recalled various experiences, I figured I would pick my battles, so to speak. It wasn’t easy– a lot of traumatic issues made it hard for me to trust by degrees (I’d overshare or violently withdraw). But I am learning.

    • jaklumen,

      “Also for now, on the Internet, we miss so much non-verbal communication with body language and tone of voice”

      you totally nailed something I think about all the time when writing articles. Because people can’t see my body language or tone of voice, there is a lot more I could write about if they could. But because everything is entirely limited to the written word; I have to be conscious of how much that limits me in expressing myself. There is so much more we can communicate in person simply due to tone of voice.

  19. I really like your article but I would like you to elaborate on one point. You wrote, “just as I the Christian should admit that I could be wrong about god existing….” That one is hard for me to take in. If I have experienced Him, God, and say, “I could be wrong” is like me saying, “my wife might not exist!” When in reality I know she does.

    Thanks for the thought provoking article. I will be following your work.

    Mike B

    • Mike,

      If you are certain in your beliefs than it shouldn’t ‘scare’ or ‘concern’ you to dialogue with someone and being ‘open’ to being wrong. If you are certain in your belief that ‘god exists’ just as much as your ‘wife existing’ than you don’t have to fear walking down the corridor of that conversation and opening the door to no god….right?

      If I were an atheist I wouldn’t respect a god fearer who demands that “I” question my beliefs but they won’t… you see the inauthenticity of Christians (or any particular religious person) who do that?

      Besides, no matter what particular denomination or doctrinal beliefs you hold to; there are many other Christian denominations who see things differently than you. So even in the context of having conversations with other Christians; if you begin the dialogue that you are 100% right about all your doctrinal positions; than you have effectively shut the door in talking with other Christians.

    • Mr Culture Man, you stopped by. Thank you. I came and stopped by here. This post interests me – the comments as much as your words. Beginning to ask why a question always needs a right or wrong. Wondering why there is such discomfort without one. Where did that come from? Keep writing 🙂

  20. The question is, if you are a pastor, are you serving God or your congregation? Do you believe God has more power to provide for you than your congregation? It sounds harsh, but I sincerely think that if you don’t put God first, you shouldn’t be a pastor.

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