Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Purple State of John
Thoughts of a wordslinger…
When it comes to the mix of faith and pop in popular culture, we tend to ignore the faith and embrace the pop. Anyone who loved the music of Johnny Cash and saw the generally decent biopic Walk The Line had to be painfully aware of the airbrushing of the Man In Black’s emphasis on Jesus. Johnny Cash talked and sang about Christian redemption all his life, like it or not,but you’d never know it from the movie.
Same goes for The Lord Of The Rings, steeped in the Catholicism of J.R.R. Tolkien. The movies work beautifully without even a hint of dogma on the surface, but the spirit of the original novels is steeped in a vision of the soul on its journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The splinter of sorrow in the heart of Frodo Baggins is unmistakably Christian.
Should any of this be a problem for believers or non-believers? Music and movie producer Mark Joseph says no. Few people are likely to have more at stake in the question than Joseph, who has worked with the mix of faith and pop up close and personal for the last decade. He produced one of the rock soundtracks for The Passion Of The Christ and developed The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe before bringing it to Walt Disney. He’s written extensively on the subject of rock and faith, and currently heads the Bully! Pulpit Records label and blogs and interviews at his website The Bully!Pulpit.
(Full disclosure: Joseph interviewed me last year about my book Reasons To Believe)
In this extremely candid interview, Joseph walks us through the ups and down of creating the rock soundtrack inspired by The Passion and gives us his take on the movie’s legacy, on Mel Gibson the man, on C.S. Lewis and the creative failure of the Narnia movies and by the way, tells us what’s wrong with American movies today.
The music industry is in rough shape. You’re a veteran. Any silver bullets for turning around the business and making it work better for artists?
Yes. You do what FDR did during the New Deal: you try all kinds of things and see what works and what doesn’t. In the case of Molly Jenson, our first artist, we’re trying lots of new things: she does video updates, tweets, blogs, writes a book, plays for fans in their homes around the country etc.. We want to create a relationship between her and her fans that will continue for years to come. I don’t think there’s one, single, silver bullet, just lots of little ones.
It seems like a challenging time to start up a label, but you’ve launched Bully! Pulpit Records fairly recently. How did that come about? And why, given the market turbulence? Are you just a natural-born masochist or do you know something the rest of us don’t?
I wanted to start the label years ago and had meeting after meeting with executives from Atlantic, Warner Bros, Virgin and other places, but in hindsight I’m glad nothing came of them, because they were a part of the old paradigm that died off and I had some books to write and some life experiences to have first.
Instead, years later, I found a great partner with Terry McBride, the founder of Nettwerk, who is the leader of what’s coming next in music. When we began talking about this, I realized that he is an unusual music executive because he actually loves music and when we were discussing which artists I should sign first, I was taking into account all sorts of things and Terry just stopped me and said “which artist’s music do you love the most?” and it was such an obvious question, but still I was taken aback by it. We concluded our basic agreement in about seven minutes and I said “shouldn’t we have lawyers fight and argue for awhile,” and he said “well, we could, but that would just cost us both money.” My focus right now is on building the Bully! Pulpit brand across platforms-music, films, books, online so that people will come to see it as a trusted and quality brand full of artists and creative-types who explore the big questions of life.
You’ve been making the case for awhile, in books and through your producing work, that Christian music shouldn’t have to be ghettoized or somehow relegated to a niche. Your work on the rock soundtrack for Passion of the Christ is a great example of that, with cuts by people like Lauryn Hill and Blink 182, not usually associated with faith-based music. Did you always have this conviction about faith and pop? Or was there a revelatory moment when you saw or heard something that made you see things differently?
When it comes to pop culture, I’ve always felt that nobody benefits from segregation, but there wasn’t one moment when I had that insight. Maybe its because I grew up as an ethnic and religious minority in Japan and I understand what it is like to walk in those shoes. Many mornings I awoke to our Buddhist neighbor chanting and I understand and appreciate pluralism maybe more than the average person. When the religious huddle together and sing for one another, the music can become stale, repetitive, boring, unimaginitive and sort of trance-like. On the other hand when the more secular types sing only for each other, the music can become boring drivel about one-night-stands and drug trips. The Secular and the Sacred need each other to trim one another’s excesses.
But the segregation of artists into Christian music was essentially a collusion between devout secularists and devout religious types who wanted it to happen for different reasons and when I wrote my two books, my aim was to break down that wall of separation. When I see bands like P.O.D., The Fray, Flyleaf, Lifehouse and others functioning in the culture like “normal” bands, faith-filled to be sure, but still operating in the mainstream-I’m deeply gratified to have played a small part along with others like John Fischer, Charlie Peacock and Steve Turner, to have helped lay the groundwork for this new paradigm. Kerry Livgren of the band Kansas, myself and the classical music scholar Pat Kavanaugh wrote a piece in ‘94 calling for a change and I later wrote a piece for Billboard saying that the genre of Christian Music was akin to the Negro baseball leagues in that it kept talented artists locked out of the “big leagues” and that led to The Rock & Roll Rebellion and Faith, God & Rock ‘n’ Roll and the final one in the series next year, Rock Gets Religion. I sometimes wondered if the ideas were really getting through but every once in awhile I’d hear a story-like Mike of the punk rock band MxPx who told me that his mother had cut out that first article and given it to him and it had helped him chart the band’s course-and those kinds of stories made it feel worthwhile.
And then when The Passion soundtrack came along, it was an opportunity for me to put those ideas into practice-to try to create a balanced soundtrack full of people who respected Christ, whatever their personal convictions, and yet one that both Christian and mainstream fans could enjoy.
What can you tell us about the work on the Passion soundtrack? How did the idea of a rock soundtrack come about and what was the guiding principle as you picked out and produced songs?
I was invited into Mel’s office to discuss the Inspired By soundtrack with another producer and we had very different ideas of what the soundtrack should be-she wanted Leonard Cohen and Elvis and others and I had a totally different vision for it. As we were discussing it, Mel walked into the boardroom and sat down next to us and wanted to know what we were talking about. So we each explained our vision and he seemed to like them both so we were eventually allowed to do one each and she released hers in April and I released mine later. My vision was simple: I wanted each artist to watch the film and create their own work of art upon watching it and I wanted a large presence of African-American artists, because I’ve always felt like they understand the sufferings of Christ as no other race does, because of what they have endured. Mel really resonated with that. And that’s what I got. But producing a CD like this is a lot like making sausage, ugly to watch and there were elements of the process that were ugly. Artists got on the CD that should have never been there for political reasons and others that I desperately wanted on were kept off for God knows why, and still others just got cold feet.
We brought in a huge variety of artists from Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails to Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and I wanted a broad variety of musicians to show that Christ had fans in every genre. But there were people in Mel’s office who obviously didn’t want our CD to happen because it just created more work for them and they were slowly killing it in a kind of passive-aggressive bureaucratic way. One day I was in his office for what I thought was the last time because we were told it wasn’t going to happen and Mel happened to walk in and my co-producer Tim Cook and I were sitting there lamenting the fact that the CD wasn’t going to happen and he looked at us and asked “what’s up boys?” and so I told him that the CD was being killed in favor of the other one and he got angry and pounded his fist on the table and promised us that it would happen and the next day we were back on again.
I reached out to Dan Lanois who turned in an amazing duet with Emmylou Harris called “Steel Blue Eyes,” Gary Cherone recorded a song called “Suffering Servant,” Adrian Belew recorded a cool song and on it went…but I had to say no to all of them because the label told me no. But the biggest disappointment for me was Bob Dylan who I really wanted. I had set up a private screening for him at 6pm one day and at 3pm I got a call from his rep asking who else would be at the screening, so I told him it would be Mel, the producer Steve, my wife and I and Bob. Then at 4pm he called back asking if it was OK if Bob didn’t speak to us. Fine I said. Then at 5:30 as my wife and I were on the freeway driving to Santa Monica, I got the last call saying Bob wouldn’t be coming. In spite of that he remained interested, so I asked his rep about contributing either a song called Rise Again that he had already recorded in 1990 or Rock of Ages, which Dylan had said was the last song he wanted to hear on this earth before he died. I got a no back on Rise Again and a yes to Rock of Ages, so I brought this amazing news to the label and to my horror they said no, they wanted more youth-oriented artists so I had to tell Dylan’s rep no. It was a horrible experience. Rob Thomas of Matchbox and his wife came in and loved the movie and wrote a song, “All That I Am,” and then inexplicably pulled out. The same thing happened with Switchfoot-and a great song called “Revenge”
And then to end up with songs from artists just because they were on the same label, or were related to film executives associated with the film, it was just awful. But other songs made up for it. I really wanted Lauryn Hill and reached out to her and we brought the film to her in Florida and she loved it and began working on her song right away. But she turned in a ten-minute song and the label said it couldn’t be much more than five. So we went back and forth with “you tell her, no you tell her,” like that Raquel Welch episode of Seinfeld, but finally they said you’re the producer so you tell her. So with great trepidation I called her and explained the problem and she said it was no problem and I could make the edit. Lauryn’s spirituality is raw and I’ve always loved that about her. She would ask me to pass on messages to Mel for her and once gave me a 40-minute sermon that I’ve never forgotten: she said “you know what our problem is? We’re more interested in the praises of men than the praises of God.”
The Passion Of The Christ was a huge event in its day. Looking back at it, how do you assess its power as a film now? Its legacy for other filmmakers trying to make movies with religious or even specifically Christian subject matter? And its cultural influence in general? At the time, it seemed like a real coming-out party for Christian culture in America, but subsequent years haven’t given us anything else quite like it.
Someone once said of it, that it was a “Moving Caravaggio,” I mean as a piece of work it was stunning but it was like a Rorschach test where people read into it things that weren’t there. I don’t think any Christian moviegoer left that film with hatred in their heart for Jews, but rather with a deep appreciation for Christ. But at the same time I understand the deep-seated fear that Jewish-Americans had about it because history is what it is-it’s full of ugly hatred of Jews and they are rightfully sensitive to anything that remotely smells of anti-Semitism. But it’s also a painful film to watch. I’m not into violence on screen and Mel is big time and I remember the first time I watched it with him in his boardroom and I thought to myself “what if it gets too violent and I have to leave the room and Mel is sitting right next to me?” I did look away a few times but I stayed. It was also a quintessentially Mel Gibson film. He brought Jesus to life and made him human, maybe for the first time ever on screen. There is one scene when Caviezel’s character splashes water on his mother Mary as he’s setting the table for her, in a kind of impish, but very human way. One day it dawned on me and I told Mel “that’s you isn’t it?” and he looked at me like I was the dumbest rock on the planet and said “who do you think wrote it?” So he humanized Jesus and took him out of a Precious Moments figurine or a Renaissance painting and made him flesh and blood, the son of a woman.
It’s cultural legacy remains that it gave the whole country a glimpse of what could happen on a regular basis if films were allowed to come to market that resonated deeply with the American heartland. Once Mel screened the film for some Hollywood executives and the head of one company saw it and told Mel that he should put it in theaters for free since nobody would pay to watch it but he might make some DVD sales. I spoke up and told them that was crazy, that millions of Americans were dying to “vote” at their Cineplex by putting ten bucks on the table and saying to Hollywood “screw you for the last fifty years of crap you’ve thrown at us. Here’s my ten bucks for a movie I can finally believe in.” Hollywood is a billion dollar business that could do ten times the business if it ever learned the lessons of The Passion both in terms of creating and marketing movies. When The Passion first happened there was a hush that spread all over this town, like what would happen if a baseball player came from South America and suddenly hit 300 homeruns in a season. There are only two choices in such a scenario: either the kid is a weird anomaly, a once-in-a lifetime player or we’ve been doing everything wrong in America-feeding our children the wrong food, giving them the wrong shoes, bats, balls etc. Hollywood has decided that The Passion was a fluke, but I totally disagree. It’s completely repeatable business if the formula is followed correctly.
What’s your take on Mel Gibson himself?
Between the arrest and the divorce, it’s just a very sad thing and I haven’t seen him since a few days after the film came out. During the run up to the film’s release when the controversy over the film was raging, there were things that were said around his office that I didn’t agree with and I spoke up when I had the chance. Once I was alone with Mel in the edit bay down the hall from his office and I noticed a huge white Bible there and I told him there was a verse I wanted to show him and I flipped these massive pages to Acts 4:27-28 and showed it to him. It said: “Against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together. For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” That verse told me two things that I thought Mel needed to understand: it wasn’t just “the Jews” who killed Jesus and that it was God’s divine plan that he be killed, and ultimately, not something any man cooked up anyway. He nodded and seemed to agree.
I’ve been around a lot of Christians in my life and I was never ever taught that the Jews killed Jesus, but that all of our sins did. But I also learned a lot from him about Catholicism and I’d come in with questions for him about Vatican II and the Latin Mass and anything I didn’t understand. He knows Catholic theology. We even argued about the role of Mary once: he said “I don’t know what you guys’ problem is: she’s gotten me out of some scrapes.” Mel has a Clintonian ability to make you feel like you’re his best friend even if you’re not. And after awhile I lost all inhibitions and would just talk to him plainly. One day I came in to the office put my feet up and said “I don’t even know why you’re Catholic since you don’t believe in the Pope, you should just come over to our team,” meaning sort of Mere Christians. He laughed and said he couldn’t because he believed in the Eucharist and it had to be the real blood and body of Christ. We had a good laugh about that one.
You worked with Walden developing the first Narnia movie. It surprised me when that series essentially folded. For a moment there, it was going to be a tentpole every bit as big and lucrative as Harry Potter, and the first one in the series was pretty good. I remember reading that the second film did pretty well but that the cost of making the movies became prohibitively expensive. Are there other reasons why the Narnia series fizzled? It still doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
I had a dream job for awhile-I was offered a title at one point, VP of something or other, but I didn’t want to be hemmed into one division since I like to identify, develop and market, so I was able to roam freely and work in helping to find potential projects like Screwtape Letters which I found some kid in Orange County owned the rights to, as well as to help develop and market others. But the troubles with Narnia started very early-the first draft of the script had the children swearing at each other. I wrote an 8-page memo going through the script line-by-line pointing out the problems. The kids were also super cynical toward one another and the screenwriter invented pages of dialogue. It was embarrassing, but not surprising-it’s what Hollywood does to traditionalist stories if nobody is there to stop it. I remember writing in the margins of the screenplay: “have we lost our minds? We will have picketers outside of theaters if we release this.” I had a strong vision for doing the movie with Disney and reached out to my friend Rick Dempsey who was a VP there to see if we could collaborate with them. He talked to Dick Cook and Dick said they had considered it before but didn’t think it likely but gave permission for Rick to noodle around. Rick played a key role in getting Lewis’ stepson Doug Gresham to be comfortable with Disney as a partner. But almost immediately Rick and I lost the ability to influence the direction of it and it went in a direction that was deeply disappointing to me. If I had to pinpoint the problems I’d say they started the moment that people who didn’t care much about Narnia or in their heart of hearts hated everything C.S. Lewis stood for, took over the project.
Milk probably wouldn’t have been a good movie if it had been brought to the big screen by Clint Eastwood or Mel Gibson. Same here. The first Narnia had no heart. You could tell it was produced by a committee, trying not to offend one group or another instead of faithfully telling the story. The best example I can give is that scene where the night before his death, Aslan is approached by one of the girls and asked if they can have one last walk together. In the book it’s this magnificent scene of caring and compassion and love. In the movie, after a few steps, he essentially says ‘now get out of here,’ or that’s how it feels. Christians have a huge, all-encompassing love for Christ that makes them do insane things, like give away a ten percent of their income, give their lives for missionary service, save themselves for marriage, be burned at the stake, or be hung upside down on a cross. And that devotion is mutual. That’s what Lewis painted in the books. The movies have none of that. It’s very perfunctory and cold. And I’m not sure if that’s because the creators didn’t get the religious subtext or because they just lacked the ability to write the words and direct the performances that would have shown that.
I was only marginally involved in Caspian doing some group screenings at the very end for a very short period of time, but it was way too violent for children and too dark and once again wasn’t faithful to the script. The lessons of The Passion were lost on the first Narnia. Dec. 9th was a terrible release date, one of the busiest times of the year for traditionalists. They refused to show the film months ahead to faith leaders and the creators gave inteviews that were condescending and downright rude toward the values of traditionalist moviegoers. Handled correctly, Narnia could have been a five billion dollar franchise. It’s just very sad.
There are many villains in the saga but also a few heroes. We all owe Phil Anschutz a great debt of gratitude for stepping up to the plate with his money as he did. And C.S. Lewis couldn’t have asked for a more faithful son than Doug Gresham. And there have been some good things too. During the run-up to the first one, I got a call from a psychiatrist friend whose client was suicidal and had tried three times to kill herself but had promised not to try again until her favorite book, Narnia, came to the screen. I told Doug the story since he’s a counselor and connected the two and they talked and emailed and he was a big help to her. On opening night, there she was in the theater and every once in awhile I check up on her and she’s still alive four years later.
In general, do you see the lines blurring between mainstream and Christian pop culture? When I go to Christian college campuses, I see and hear just as much of the usual mainstream fare–music, movie posters, you name it—as I do anywhere else. It doesn’t feel like those kids are especially cut off from everyone or everything else.
Yes. But what you’re missing is that what you consider “mainstream” fare is actually now often faith-infused as people of faith enter mainstream venues, so you may be consuming faith-based media without being aware of it. Half of the Narnia audience thought Aslan was Jesus and the other half thought he was a cute lion. And both enjoyed a good movie. And that’s OK. There are deeper themes for those who have ears to ear. For the rest it’s just good entertainment. The American Idol winners, many of them, would have been lost in Christian music in years past. They’re not-they’re now in the center of pop culture. I’ve argued for many years for integration and now that that’s been achieved, I’d now argue, to Christian kids anyway, for discernment. If Nazi rock was a thriving genre of music, I would strongly advise all Jewish kids to avoid it like the plague-to not fill their minds with the ideas of people who want to put them in ovens and drive them into the sea. In the same way, Christian kids should be smart about what they put into their brains and the media they consume.
If you had to define a “Christian” popular culture, what would that look like?
I only use Christian as a noun to describe a person. I don’t believe in Christian politicians, Christian music, Christian movies or Christian books or Christian whatever, so I wouldn’t want to see a Christian pop culture, especially one cut off from the real one. My goal is merely to recreate what was in the ancient Athenian town of Mars Hill: an open space where all of us have the chance to tell our stories and give our spiritual (or secular for that matter) insights into life and people can pick and choose the best ideas, without a climate of defensiveness, anger and hatred. Paul the Apostle was asked to come to Mars Hill and talk about his crazy religion-the one with a guy who dies on a cross and is resurrected. Nobody tried to silence him or use ACLU type arguments that people might be offended if he were to use the public square to push his religion.
One assumes that artists in the Christian music category are being hurt by the downturn in the business just like everyone else, but there have been periods when it was the most vital branch of the industry. Is that true now? Or is the general crisis in sales and distribution affecting the Christian market, too?
I’ve written about this before, but bottom line: Christian music as a genre is largely over because artists wanted to be heard by everybody and voted with their feet by leaving and signing to mainstream labels. Others remained and created a subgenre of what is called Worship Music, in essence music that is for church services. I argued in the first book that 80% of the artists should leave and rejoin mainstream music and 20% should stay behind and sing church-oriented music and I think that’s what we’re headed toward.
A lot of work has been done by people like you, Craig Detweiler and Barbara Nicolosi to build bridges to a movie business that has seemed at times at odds with Christians and Christianity. One thinks of the various boycotts of movies and the general attitude of mistrust toward the pop culture evinced by pastors around the country on Sunday mornings. You’ve been in Hollywood a while. Is it a more hospitable place now for Christians than it might have been a decade ago? Are Christians beginning to see more entertainment that feels appropriate to their sensibility?
No, Christians in Hollywood are still the one-eyed gorillas at the freak show, but I don’t consider myself a Christian in Hollywood as much as an average American in Hollywood, trying to help Hollywood understand what Americans who don’t live in New York or L.A. are really like and want to see. I have a slate of films I’m developing and when I’m in meetings making my case, I don’t play the Christian card, I play the American card because I think I’m far more in touch with the average American than my friends in Hollywood who have lived too long in Malibu and summered in the Hamptons to remember what the average American wants to see at the movies. I wrote an article with Ralph Winter, producer of X-Men, before The Passion came out, predicting that we were in for a tsunami of first-time moviegoers and that’s what happened. The LA Times predicted a $25 million opening and it made $115 total and they know how to predict box office. That means that something like $9 million unaccounted for people showed up. I know who those people are, how to communicate to them and what they want to watch and its radically different from Hollywood has traditionally operated.
First, you have to find the right story that they are already aware of, make it faithfully, have some actors who they can identify with culturally and then spend a year or more telling them about it and showing it to leaders they admire who will then create a comfort level with it. None of this is currently done in Hollywood. And if this is done right, the audience will come back for the right stories, on an appointment basis. But it’s easier for Hollywood to chalk up The Passion audience as being a fluke rather than to deal with the reality that they are missing billions of dollars in revenue because they keep making movies for their friends in Bel Air and Manhattan instead of people in Wichita, Grand Forks and Boise. What Hollywood thinks is the niche is really a massive majority. This is very oversimplified, but America basically consists of three groups of people: It’s 45% Ned Flanders types, 45% Tim Allen/Ray Romano character types, and then there’s a small sliver of very secular Americans. In other words, the very devout, the marginally culturally religious and the non-religious. Hollywood essentially makes movies for the ten percenters and it bleeds through a bit and attracts some of the Allen/Romano types and a smaller number of the Ned Flanders types who want a fun night out but have to hold their nose at a lot of stuff they see. But Hollywood leaves a lot of money on the table by not making movies that can be enjoyed by all three-for different reasons.
On to the culture wars, such as they are. Looking back at last year’s presidential race, do you see the race itself and the outcome as sort of a watershed for the cause of conservative Christians in politics? Or was it just one more cycle in the up and down of the process of engagement?
It’s just another blip. Every time I think America is moving left, in ‘92 and â€˜08 I am surprised at the enduring, rebellious conservative streak in this nation. There’s a movement on the part of some to call for Christians to fast from politics, but that was tried for many years by Christians for most of the 20th century by people like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and others until they changed their minds about it in the late ’70’s and decided that they weren’t too dainty for politics after all. C.S. Lewis once said that we humans are like a dumb horse rider who falls off one side of the horse, gets back on and promptly falls off the other side. But those who think that religious people controlling the government solves all problems are equally wrong. What we want is freedom of conscience and religion for all and maximum participatory democracy. Telling a Christian not to vote is just as offensive as putting a poll tax on a black person. It’s outrageous. The country is a center-right country so Democrats do best when they project a center-right image and the stars are aligned when you have a guy like Barack Obama who can name the date when he accepted Christ against John McCain who when asked about his faith tells a story about the faith of a Viet Namese prison guard instead of his own. The wild card is what will happen to the children of the 47% of Americans who call themselves born again Christians and the overall 84% who call themselves Christians. Having said all that, the dirty secret of Presidential politics is that elections are always about who is the more normal of the two candidates. It’s just that simple. Obama was less weird than McCain, Bush less weird than Kerry and Gore, Clinton less weird than Bush 41 and Bush 41 less weird than Dukakis etc. etc. If the GOP wants to win, they will need to find a candidate who is more normal than President Obama.
I’ve just made the argument in a recent post that our culture wars have ceased to be monolithic and have instead become sort of asymmetrical and unpredictable, with strange bedfellows and newly hatched conflicts occurring under the stress of the economic downturn and in the face of the social, racial and cultural shift that comes with the departure of the Bush administration and the arrival of Obama. How do you see the landscape of division now?
I agree. This has shown itself most profoundly on race. In spite of Chris Matthews nightly babbling about the birthers and the tea-parties being about race, it’s actually not. Race wars are yesterday’s news. It is now all about ideology. The birthers and tea-party goers would vote for Alan Keyes in a New York minute. They adore Clarence Thomas. Ask a white evangelical father whether he’d prefer his daughter marry a devout Black Christian or a white, secular, liberal and he’ll choose the Black guy, and a generation of black grandchildren and great-grandchildren by the way, in a heartbeat. And of course the weirdest thing of all in politics is how the Republicans manage to bungle the black and Hispanic communities, which are, as a whole, the most conservative of all when it comes to social issues, and yet for historical reasons, vote as if they’re liberal on them. If the Republicans ever figure out how to speak to them, it will shake the political world upside down and create majorities that will be very difficult to overcome. So what could happen in the future is that Republicans win Blacks and Hispanics over, and Democrats win some Christians who are the offspring of William Jennings Bryan, back and we have two redefined parties. But in general, I don’t like to see the world as a battle of two sides hating each other. I like the Reagan-Tip O’Neil model where O’Neil said they’d fight like crazy till 5pm and then go out for a beer. I love the battle of ideas but I don’t know why it has to be personal or descend to hatred and vitriol. I have tons of friends whom I disagree with on all kinds of issues, but we get along great and I learn from them and sometimes am forced by the power of their ideas to modify my own. And sometimes I convince them that they need to change their ideas too. To me, that’s what being human and living in community is all about.
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