Why you should care about the Chapel Hill shooting….

getting your attention

by Kenneth Justice

~ I have a longstanding tradition here on The Culture Monk of criticizing the NEWS media for the out-of-kilter focus on gun shootings and murder. Too often the NEWS focuses on death that has nothing to do with our lives.

However, the shooting at the University of North Carolina yesterday is worthy of our attention. Ultimately, nobody can truly “know” the heart of the man who shot the three Muslims; was he simply and atheist filled with hatred against Islam, or did he really shoot these three people over an argument related to a parking spot, or did he have mental problems?

Only God knows the true inner workings of our heart (if you believe in God that is) but I believe this Chapel Hill story is important for each of us to take notice. You see, I have been in parking lots and witnessed firsthand the rise of emotions between people who argue over parking spots; a few times I couldn’t believe how angry people were getting and I remember thinking to myself, “Gosh, if these people were packing guns, there might be a Wild West gun shoot out”

I’ve also seen the hostility and vitriol that people demonstrate over religions they don’t agree with; I’ve been apart of discussions with Christians who hate Islam and Atheists who hate Islam (and all religions), and I’ve been frightened at how upset and raging mad that people become in the midst of their anti-religious sentiments.

I’ve never understood why Christians and Atheists who disagree with me on various articles I write, end up sending me nasty emails with “FUCK YOU” spewed throughout them. I’ve never understood why we can’t have intelligent conversations and honest dialogue regarding the things we disagree. Why do people have to get so riled up and take everything so personal?

The University of North Carolina is my alma mater, while that doesn’t give me any special insight into the situation; it does give me a personal connection to the school and my heart goes out to the people of the community, many of whom woke up to the shock and horror of what took place yesterday.

Every day since I was fifteen, I hang out at coffee shops and talk with people. From philosophy, to religion, to science, to whatever is on peoples minds. We chat, we disagree, we have great discussions, and many of the discussions we have had, ended up leading people to positive social action; some of the people who have sat in the coffee shop ended up becoming politicians, others changed their job to better their lives, still others left the conversations to go work with the homeless.

The heart of our conversations is centered around the dignity of humanity; as a Christian, I am prompted to love EVERYONE, and to give everyone an opportunity to share what is on their mind. I do NOT believe it’s my job to convert the world to Christianity; as the bible says,

“Pure and undefiled religion is to help the orphans and widows” and,

“The Lord has anointed me

    to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

    to proclaim freedom for the captives

    and release from darkness for the prisoners”

As a Christian I care about the downtrodden, the prisoners, the brokenhearted, the people who society has flung to the side. As I sit here typing this morning, I wonder if this man who shot those Muslims could have been helped if the community around him had reached out and engaged him positive dialogue.

Am I being too idealistic? Is it too much for me to think that perhaps if we could teach people how to have constructive conversation that it would lessen their vitriol? Perhaps if we could demonstrate to people that positive dialogue can occur between people of differing ideological viewpoints.

Unfortunately, our society tends to divide people; we teach people to never talk about politics or religion. We teach people to mind their own business and not to stir up a hornets nest. Yet, I believe the way to change our culture for the better is to build bridges through positive dialogue; to relearn how to have stimulating conversations that go beyond the subject of popular music and video games.

Culture Monk TV is still in it’s infancy. The last two weeks has been a test run to work the kinks out of doing a live streaming show; but the heart of our intent is to demonstrate to people that we can have positive dialogue even when we disagree. To demonstrate that conversation, not war and vitriol, is the way to build bridges.

Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee,


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Categories: Culture & Society

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13 replies

  1. Kenneth, I am a simple 80 years old man. You said in this post: “our society tends to divide people; we teach people to never talk about politics or religion. We teach people to mind their own business and not to stir up a hornets nest.” Who are “we”? Please clarify.

    • I have heard this statement so any times. “Wanna have friends? Don’t talk about politics or religion…” “Let’s keep it civil at the Thanksgiving dinner this year. Leave politics and religion alone this year.” Not that some people don’t know how to have a nice talk regardless of opinion but there are that loud 10 percent or so that don’t consider a conversation worth having unless they can convert you. They don’t want to hear arguments. They don’t want to listen to others. They believe they are put on the earth to teach us all something and if we don’t agree then we aren’t worth their time. But we have to realize that many of these people can’t function without very strict boundaries and without everything being very black and white. They flounder if there isn’t and answer to every question.

    • Right Callie,

      i’ve heard it said dozens and dozens, if not hundreds of times, not always said directly to me, but i’ve overheard it in many different circumstances.

  2. Speaking about the media and politics, something that worries me is how those biological triggers are always being pushed. People are pretty tribal and territorial and the media has engaged in this relentless campaign of convincing people that our rights are being violated. So everybody is coming to invade our space, to get special treatment, illegal aliens, Muslims, the government. We are allegedly awful people oppressing the entire world too, women, blacks, the poor. That becomes a relentless assault on your psyche and pretty much creates this powder keg situation, where you never know when violence is going to break out. Combine that with our political leadership telling us everything is wonderful, the economy is booming, the middle class is thriving, and it’s very crazy making. I actually find it really remarkable that people have kept a cool head and managed to turn those constant messages off.

    • “So everybody is coming to invade our space, to get special treatment, illegal aliens, Muslims, the government..”

      so true and well said; there is this prevailing attitude that we are under attack personally….it often seems to me that this idea is being proselytized by everyone; the left, the right, the radio, the tv, the internet….everywhere.

  3. I would be interested in the age range of those you meet and converse with, e.g. who fall in the positive vs. negative discourse range of: 20-30, 31-40, etc. You might want a bucket of ‘those who can’t discuss much of anything’. I’ve been reading a lot lately about positive psychology, so I’m curious 😀

    • hmmm, it’s such a diverse crowd; sometimes I might have a table of teenagers or twenty somethings, and the next I might have middle age suburbanites, or 80 year old retirees, there often isn’t any ‘typical’ age 🙂

  4. Good thoughts, Kenneth. I don’t think you are being too idealistic in your desire to teach people to have constructive conversations, thus lessening the vitriol. Unfortunately, the human heart is about “winning” and self-preservation, so when one’s core beliefs (which are often adopted without much thought) are challenged with cogent arguments for which they have no answer, the “fight or flight” instinct kicks in.

    I think that education has to include at minimum two key elements. First, one must embrace a worldview that is loving and respectful of all fellow humans (as you say, the belief in the dignity of humanity). This means we can listen and disagree without demeaning the individual. That respect, however, is not true of all worldviews and is waning in our own secular culture. Secondly, people must be taught how to come to their own convictions based upon thoughtful and thorough research, enabling them to intelligently and confidently defend their positions. I feel this gives me a greater freedom to allow others to differ in their opinions without having my own convictions threatened by their opposition. Thus, there is not a tendency to respond with agitation.

    Unfortunately, there are some who just love a “good fight.” There is no reasoning with this type of person.

  5. The veil of respectability we wear is a fine one indeed and easily rent. . . once torn the monster comes out to play. . . . with such a total lack of awareness in our society it is no wonder these travesties happen so often.

    Nothing surprises me even when it comes from me . . .

  6. I also look forward to having my cup of coffee each morning and reading your columns thanx

  7. It’s true, there are indeed a lot of forces in our society that encourage division. But there is an increase in the number of voices clamoring for unity, and a concomitant number of people working on figuring out what unity looks like in real life. There is hope; it’s still at its nascent phases, but a revolution is brewing and new ways of doing things are emerging, slowly but steadily. I look forward to a work without incidents like this one!!!

  8. I’m going back to school to change my profession, and there’s another gentleman my age in one of the same classes. I’m still in my late 20s if anyone is wondering… He’s a marxist, admittedly, and I am not. He’s very focused on the idea of the class struggle, whereas I champion the entrepreneur class. However, we both stay after class at times conversing and debating our ideas. We most of the time do not agree, and we both realize that but we use our friendly debate to sharpen our skills and to learn from each other. There’s a safe zone between us that we’ve automatically realized, and that personally we’re not competing against each other, we’re learning from one another.

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