In our world, at this moment, dialogue is dying, and righteous indignation abounds. People shout over each other, screaming louder and louder, but it isn’t clear that anybody is listening.
That’s from the new book Minds Wide Shut: How the New Fundamentalisms Divide Us (Princeton University Press). In this episode of Gospelbound, I was joined by the authors, Morton Schapiro and Gary Saul Morson. Schapiro has been president of Northwestern University in Chicago since 2009. Morson teaches Slavic languages and literature at Northwestern and is currently at work on a study of The Brothers Karamazov, which I can’t wait to see.
Schapiro and Morson describe fundamentalism as “radical simplification of complex questions and the inability to learn either from experience or from opposing views.” They warn, “We are entering an era when politics seems to be conducted as war by other means.” And a little later: “Fundamentalist thinking is utopian, if not apocalyptic. One knows the truth, and those who disagree are ignorant, evil, or insane. All goodness belongs to one’s own camp.”
Among their proposed solutions is a recovery of casuistry, or employing case studies especially from great literature for experience-based learning. I asked them about grand theories and alternative facts and economics, and I’m grateful they agreed to join me on Gospelbound in the spirit of further learning and dialogue.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Collin Hansen: Tell me if this sounds familiar. Here’s the quote: “In our world at this moment, dialogue is dying and righteous indignation abounds. People shout over each other, screaming louder and louder but it isn’t clear that anybody is listening. Well, some say that crises bring out the best in people. They also bring out the worst. Wherever we turn, we face a barrage of accusations of fake news, fake science and fake concern for others. The volume may be turned up but our dueling monologues speak only to ourselves and to our allies. What we need most is to understand and revitalize the dialogic spirit.”
As from the new book, Minds Wide Shut: How the New Fundamentalisms Divide Us, published by Princeton University Press. And I’m joined on Gospelbound by the authors, Morton Schapiro and Gary Saul Morson. Schapiro has been president of Northwestern University in Chicago since 2009. Morson teaches Slavic languages and literature at Northwestern and is currently at work on a study of The Brothers Karamazov, which I can’t wait to see. Schapiro and Morson described fundamentalism as “radical simplification of complex questions and the inability to learn either from experience or from opposing views.”
And they warn this: “We are entering an era when politics seems to be conducted as war by other means,” and a little later this: “Fundamentalist thinking is utopian, if not apocalyptic; one knows the truth and those who disagree are ignorant, evil or insane. All goodness belongs to one’s own camp.” Among their proposed solutions is employing case studies, especially from great literature for experience-based learning. And I’m eager to ask them about grand theories and alternative facts and economics. And I’m grateful they’ve agreed to join me on Gospelbound in the spirit of further learning and dialogue. Morty and Saul, thanks for joining me.
Saul Morson: We’re delighted to be here.
Morty Schapiro: It’s an honor to be here Collin. It’s good to see you.
Collin Hansen: Thank you. Saul, let’s start for you. For years, we heard from the likes of the late Christopher Hitchens that religion poisons everything. So, as religion declines in the West, why does ideological intensity keep rising?
Saul Morson: Well, ideological intensity has nothing to do with religion. You can have ideologically intense people who are religious or not religious. If you just think of the Soviet Union, whether they’re officially atheistic, I don’t know anybody more ideologically intense than them. So, the two are completely separate categories. There’s no relation between the two.
Collin Hansen: And it would be interesting if people actually were able to draw those connections from history. And yet it doesn’t seem to sell the books so much. Morty, I want to jump in here with you. And I’m sorry for what you and your family had endured last year from protestors in Evanston. I’ve followed the situation closely. And I admire that you stood up to them for crossing several lines. Around the same time, Saul, I saw you wrote on the “Suicide of the Liberals” for First Things, an article that I had picked up and spread around others. But Morty, I was actually a little surprised by your response based on what I’ve seen from other universities. How does that experience from asphalt relate to the message in Minds Wide Shut?
Morty Schapiro: Well, Collin, that’s kind of a loaded question for the… I think you were going to give me a softball like-
Collin Hansen: No. It’s a good one. I just-
Morty Schapiro: Religion and ideology in dialogue or something as a person of faith. I would just say that I always remind people if freedom of speech isn’t respected on your alma mater—you didn’t let on that, of course, you took a course in Russian literature with Saul before I got here. And not that you’re old but I was still teaching at Williams at the time. But I mean, you got to respect free speech and you also have to respect different generations who really care. And there’s a lot to care on about, Collin. But for me, I draw the line. I draw the line on violence.
And I think history suggests, and we talk about that at some length in Minds Wide Shut, that if the intelligentsia starts saying, “Okay. That’s okay, you’re really upset. This is bad. There’s a lot of things that are bad in the world, the systemic racism for the anti-blackness and the like. But if you start turning your head and saying, “Violence is okay,” we call that Saul the slide, right? That what happens with people said, “Well, this was unacceptable,” and then a year later it’s acceptable, and then they go onto the next thing. So, I just think you’d need to draw the line at intimidation and violence.
And so, I tried to draw it, but it’s not to say that some of the people who are the loudest are insincere or that there is no reason for them to be upset. There’s a lot of reasons to be upset. It’s just how you articulate that and how you manifest it. Again, once the leaders start saying, “Oh, I understand. You were sincere.” And then certain behavior is condoned. And I think history suggests it’s a real problem, Collin.
Collin Hansen: Well, that’s exactly why I paired those observations together because that’s the thesis of what Saul writes in the “Suicide of the Liberals,” where he narrates Russian history of exactly that trend. And Saul, I thought postmodernism was supposed to be the end of grand theories. I’m amazed that you had to write this: “It isn’t true that anything short of a totalizing theory is somehow flawed at best a stop gap until such a theory is found.” So, what happened to this postmodern critique of grand theories?
Morty Schapiro: Well, the short answer… It’s complicated but the short answer would be that the critique of theories was always the critique of somebody else’s theories. It wasn’t the critique of theory per se, just the way when people do a discipline called the sociology of knowledge, well, you only believe this because of your social condition. It’s always the sociology of somebody else’s knowledge, never the professors doing the analysis. The postmodernist have a kind of what we call a negative fundamentalism. It’s justice categorical.
It assumes that either there’s an iron clad way of knowing the truth or there’s nothing. They just take the nothing. But they only take it when it’s convenient, when there’s something to oppose, otherwise they know the truth. And I’m talking about the extremes here, not everybody who is influenced by any of these theories just at the limits. By the way, my article was really called the “Suicide of the Russian Liberals” that they dropped.
Collin Hansen: Well, I mean, that’s truth in advertising. It is specifically you’re… I think what I loved about your classes, what I loved about your writing is you let the history and you let the literature sit with us. You’re not just trying to mine it for polemics. And that’s why I commend that article because it’s not just mining for like, “Oh, see, now we can identify the liberals with today.” No. It’s you sitting there what Marty was talking about there. If we do need to learn from history but that doesn’t mean we’re bound to repeat it in the same ways.
Saul Morson: I wasn’t commenting on American liberals. I was commenting on Russian liberals. And I leave it to the readers to decide what parallels, whether among liberals or anybody else there might be today. I don’t address that. I pose questions based on the Russian example and then leave it to the reader to answer them. I don’t want to answer them for them. It’s too complicated for that.
Collin Hansen: It is. I said to some friends the other day that after a long day on the internet, I love to relax by reading Russian history, just a foolish thing, but it helps to illustrate how crazy the online experience can be now if curling up with a little Vassily Grossman in the end, it is how you relax. So, I have to say, is the case with me. Morty, what does it mean to… Hopefully it will be more of a softball. Okay. The softball team looks good this year also.
Morty Schapiro: 11-1. Thank you for noticing.
Collin Hansen: I’m always noticing Morty. You can always count on me for that. What does it mean to lead a university whose motto is whatsoever is true from Philippians 4:8 when my truth and alternative facts are wielded as an impenetrable defense against dialogue and disagreement?
Morty Schapiro: I’ve been a president for more than two decades. It’s never been more difficult than it is now, which is why I think the average completed presidential term last I saw was down to six and a half years. We’ll do a total, God-willing, of 22 years at two different places. So, not easy. We were just talking about my role with Veritas [Forum] and things that are very important to you and to many of your listeners. I am an observant Jew. So, a person of faith. And so, I take the motto very seriously. I really do think that you have challenges in a secular college or university.
And a lot of my friends always thought it would be an easier fit for me. And I have friends like Father John Jenkins, for example at Notre Dame, or Jack DeGioia, a great old buddy of mine at Georgetown. And whenever I talk to them, I say, “Gosh, it must be so easy for you.” Not that is, but compared to me, given the nature of secular higher education, but that they’re not just words for me. And sometimes faculty and staff and students roll their eyes when I don’t take anything for granted. And I always say, “God willing.”
When I say, “God bless you,” it’s not a throwaway line as Saul knows. I’m a person of faith, and I’m proudly a person of faith, and it enters into everything I do. The topics I work on as an applied econometrician and economics and labor economics to the speeches I give to how I run baccalaureate service, my favorite service of the entire year. And everything I say and everything I do, you know that Collin, if you’re a person of faith, you don’t draw the line. You don’t leave it. When you get to the office, it’s who you are.
Collin Hansen: Yeah. So, one thing you write in here and you take up a lot of the chapters in this book, of course, looking at literature and criticism. And I was a history major in addition to journalism and saw some of this develop within history. I think it’s endemic to a good bit of the liberal arts these days. But you write this: “what good criticism does not do and must not do is to enclose the author in our epoch.” Explain how the new fundamentalisms have divided the study of literature, your expertise.
Saul Morson: Well, the way you need to learn from literature is you must begin by assuming it has something to teach you. If you take the stance that we are here to judge it, how does it measure up to our standards and they were assumed to be true, then you obviously can’t learn anything from it, and why bother to read it? Which is why in fact, if you look, people do read it, and it’s often not taught. You want to presume that not just you look at the other period or epoch or author, but what would it say if it looked at you. See yourself through other eyes and great literature can help you do that.
But to do that, you have to acknowledge the difference. You have to acknowledge that the author is probably a lot smarter than you are as a reader, and let yourself, first of all, identify with that point of view, suspend yours for a while and then see yourself through that point of view. And that’s how you actually can learn from it. And that’s the point of reading great literature, just in the same way. It’s the point of studying other cultures.
You’re not going to learn a lot if you study medieval Europe or China or any other culture in the world, simply by judging that you do this wrong and you do that right based on the prejudices of Americans today. You have to see the world from their point of view and therefore enlarge your possibility, your sense of what possibilities humanity has.
Collin Hansen: And one of the… I teach a lot of civil rights history here in Birmingham, Alabama. We’ve got a robust Northwestern alumni network, not a chapter yet but we’ve got some folks down here. And one of the ways I describe our history is to say that it’s like your grandmother thinking that she can do no wrong is naivete, thinking that she can do no right, is arrogance, thinking that you’re a lot like her, is wisdom, at least that’s what I’ve picked up Saul in some of how you help me to understand literature and how it reads us as we read it.
Saul Morson: Yeah. It’s dialogue, which is the supreme value of our book. It depends on respecting the point of view of others, which means you first have to recognize that they are others and that reasonable, intelligent well-intentioned people as well-intentioned and intelligent, as you are, can see things differently. I sometimes don’t understand the postmodern view, which suggests that we have to acknowledge cultural difference and then we have to see other cultures as fitting into our paradigm.
The two seem to be contradictory because they’re asked to have a conversation with somebody who’s not like you, so. And that’s true in our own culture too. Not everybody is the same. And I used to have a Russian history teacher who was a Persian and a Baha’i who used to say, “Always remember,” he would say, “there are always as many swine on your side of the issue as on the other.” It’s not always completely true, but it’s worth assuming.
Collin Hansen: And again, we have history to thank us for that in many, many, many examples, thinking of the French and Russian Revolutions in particular as if it was just a couple examples. Morty, we’ve talked here before about how you teach economics in a university that produces a few econ majors. Why do you think it’s so appealing for students to adopt certain economic ideologies that public policy and history, this is pulling out of your book, plainly show cannot work for the common good. I guess no other way to put it would be it strikes me as a little odd to graduate students who enter the world of finance as committed socialists.
Morty Schapiro: A little odd, is that it, Collin?
Collin Hansen: I’m just trying to undersell it here Morty.
Morty Schapiro: But as I learned from you from being a fan of your podcast, that one of the recent ones you said… And I just shared this with Saul. So, I don’t remember if it was Joe Henrich. I think it was Thaddeus Williams. When you said people, I think your quote, Collin, first of all, you’re like, “Oh, he actually listens to me.” Well, I do. I don’t listen to every Northwestern alum. We have 250,000. But if they’re as smart as you, I do. You said, “Look, there were socialist party members,” I think you said in Scandinavia, “who used markets more than we do in the U.S.”
So, you got to be careful about that label a little. But there is that chapter in the book on the economy. And I think that the broader question Collin you might be asking is why don’t people rely on data more? I mean, it’s all just our definition of a fundamentalist going back to Karl Popper, the great philosopher of science is that you can’t falsify your view. And if you can’t falsify your view, then there’s no hope for dialogue as Saul just said. I mean, the market fundamentalists believe in their core that markets always should reign supreme. It’s a misreading as we argue in this book and our previous book of wealth and nations ignoring theory of moral sentiments, the earlier book by Adam Smith.
And people like things simple. And the simple view is laissez faire government always messes things up, let markets reign supreme, Adam Smith didn’t believe it. Anybody who believes this doesn’t know or understand anything about history. But the more worrying side, and I think this is what you’re, you were going, the anti-market fundamentalists that somehow, you know, capitalism is the problem. I hear that all the time Collin. It’s always the problem under capitalism. Will you show me a better system?
Now I’m a mainstream economist. And mainstream economists are not neutral between on one side market fundamentalism and the other one anti-market. We’re much closer to the former than the latter by definition. I believe in markets. I don’t… But I believe sometimes they fail and not just because of negative externalities in public goods, the traditional things, I think quite often markets end up with inefficiencies and injustices. That said, I’m much closer as a mainstream economist to believing that the market should work this whenever there are instances and Collin you said look at history, look at the Soviet Union, for example. Is that…
When the government comes in there with their self-interest and their inefficiencies, it’s so much worse than the market solution. So, my view as a mainstream economists, generally led markets reign supreme and then when there are injustices and things you can live with with the distribution of wealth and income, et cetera, try to mediate that. But if you start from the government making these decisions, you’re not going to have economic output to use to redistribute.
Because it’s all going to go away. And that’s the lesson of history. So, again, that’s the chapter. And then finally, there’s so much evidence that economists agree on minimum wage, on rent control, on carbon offsets, on trading pollution permits, on health care. Not on everything, wealth tax, we’re a little bit over but marginal tax rates. And we agree but then people use it either from the right or the left and they mistake, they always say, “On one hand, on the other hand,” well, there’s not two hands there. Most economists as we try to argue in some detail in that chapter agree on almost everything that’s important about economic policy.
Collin Hansen: Again, this is why the book was so refreshing to me because I felt like you guys tackle many of the real challenges and you don’t talk around them. That’s why I was eager to have this conversation with both of you. And so, lately, I’ve just been wondering what I’ve missed. I mean, this gives us a typical alumni thing, right? Like, “Wow, I have things changed in this way.”
Because what I loved about Northwestern is how I was challenged by professors even when we disagreed important things, really important things like religion, including. I mean, I think I was just sitting down thinking about this list of people. I’m sure you guys, you know these people, Peter Hayes, Charlie Moskos, Irwin Weil, Dick Schwartzlose, Bob McClory, Bob Gundlach, Mark Witte. Just some of the professors I got to study with across a remarkable set of disciplines and changed my life precisely because we disagreed on things.
The late Bob McClory and I had just long conversations about Christianity, about religion and we disagreed strongly with each other but really respected each other in that process. It does seem from higher education to politics, to journalism, to religion, those saw a lot of the mood has shifted and I just don’t see as many attempts any longer to persuade. It seems that many today are looking simply for confirmation to what they already believe, including an education. What did I miss? I mean, what do you see as having changed or maybe I just wasn’t picking up on what was already there?
Saul Morson: Do you see this among the faculty or the students?
Collin Hansen: Oh, students, I’m thinking about in particular, students.
Saul Morson: Ah, well, my experience of students of course may be biased by the ones who are willing to take my class, which may not be what the mainstream is but a fair number, take my classes. And I find that almost all of them are open to different points of view as long as they’re presented in a convincing way, the way Doestoevsky does. That’s why I let the authors do the speaking. I don’t… If students are not supposed to know what I think about-
Collin Hansen: And we don’t.
Saul Morson: Politics and religion or anything. And I won’t tell them if they ask because I’m not important. It’s the writer who’s important. And so, I teach through them and I find that again, it may not be representative, but the students who I counter are almost all willing to open their minds a bit and see the world from a different point of view. Maybe if these writers directly challenged more of what they have their core beliefs, but they do challenge a few of their core beliefs and they still see them open to me. I suspect that there’s a lot more uniformity among the faculty than among the students.
Collin Hansen: Morty, what do you think?
Morty Schapiro: Well, it’s hard to tell Collin what has gone. I’m not a sociologist, so I’m not trained for that or anthropologists or psychologists. But as an economist, you always look for what’s the sea change, what’s the catalyst. And certainly it’s social media. I mean, back when you were there, you could disagree and be a proud person of faith. And you’re not going to I think get into arguments through social media and people aren’t going to signal you out for this or that because she would have one belief or another. And with the world of social media, you really need to be careful, right? I mean, it’s just everywhere out there and it makes it very difficult to have productive dialogue but not impossible.
And I meet with a lot of students and most of them really I don’t buy that we’re indoctrination mills or anything. I don’t buy it. And I know many of those faculty you listed and many of them are still here each teaching great work, great things and teaching people how to think. And it’s so easy from fertility, from the conservative side to say that because the vast majority of faculty are Democrats registered as Democrat. And we have a footnote in that.
I don’t know if you noticed in one of the chapters and we pointed out that the numbers are a little scary, but I think it underestimates the confidence and the individuality of our undergrads in particular, who even if you have a polemicist as a teacher saying, “This is what I want you to repeat.” You think our students, Gen Z, they’re going to sit there and go, “Yeah. Yeah. Right professor”? No. They rebel against that. And again, I’ve been teaching 43 years. So, all along, we’ve been doing this a long time with a lot of different generations. I have a lot of respect for this generation. And even though with the world of social media, it makes it more difficult for them to navigate friendships and the like but they’re really trying. God bless them.
Collin Hansen: It’s a very big change. I was thinking of some of those changes, Morty. I wondered during your years, 43 years as a professor and university president, how would you describe the changes in students mental health anxiety and how does it relate to some of what you were approaching here in Minds Wide Shut?
Morty Schapiro: Well, it’s certainly, I know from my own three kids as well on that and Saul knows from his, I mean, a lot of issues that the good news, that some things were pushed under the rug, so to speak. And now they’re clear they don’t have the same stigma, but I remember when we build a new psychological counseling center when I was president of Williams and we needed to have a door in the back so people can… I don’t think this generation is afraid to admit that they need help. And that’s the good news. Bad news is they need help probably more than ever because of the pressures of social media and the like and the increased divisiveness in society.
And it’s… I mean, again, I’m not a sociologist but I read things like you read Collin. I mean, I think faith is a good answer to diffusion and a lack of confidence. I believe that. And I also believe that to some people will say, of course, it’s the trophy generation that when I played a Little League when you got a trophy, if you won, now you get a participation and there’s a lot of that. And some of that is really overblown, I think. But the reality is that, especially to get into a school like a Northwestern or a Yale or a Princeton or a Dartmouth or an Amherst, you don’t have a lot of failure anymore. I mean, even the admit rate at your Alma Mater, we were mid 30 percent –
Morty Schapiro: Down to 6 percent now. So, the value of your degree has gone up. You were getting in anyway, but a lot of your peers might have a trouble because there’s just not that much room. And the admit rate that we’re in right now and we’re going to be notifying in two weeks is going to be 4 percent. So, people say, “Why are they not more resilient?” Well, they never had experience with failure and that’s not their fault. That’s the fault of their parents and of society and of the educational system, K-12.
So, when all of a sudden you face failure because you’re taking, you’re pre-med and you have a course like chem or bio or you want to be an econ major until you take econometrics. And they were like, “Oh my God, I’ve always succeeded. I’ve always won. Here are my trophies.” And then we lament that they’re not tougher and more resilient. Well, we created that generation. So, as much as I love that generation, I wish they had more experience with failure. But frankly, if they did, we probably wouldn’t see them at Northwestern.
Collin Hansen: Yeah. I appreciate that you don’t try to offer a simple answer here. One of my favorite repeat guests on this show has been Jonathan Haidtt. And I think there’s a lot of truth to what he and Greg Lukinaoff and others have been talking about and some of the transformations. David Brooks, of course, has been writing about this for a long period of time. And I think the only way to you can’t just bemoan other generation, you have to have a position of sympathy and understanding for them. And also a recognition that whatever traits you see in them are reflective of how they were raised and how they were encouraged, how they were incentivized.
So, if you’re criticizing them in many ways, you’re really criticizing yourself. And I just simply also agree that there’s no way to look back. I mean, my time at Northwestern was when people got cell phones for the first time. And of course that changes the parent dynamic when all of a sudden you’re accessible all the time. And that was before smartphones but we still had the cell phones. And then the year after I graduated was Facebook. And that I think is the major generational divide. It ushers in all of that social media.
And it creates new opportunities in many ways but new challenges. Morty, I want to stick with you on this next question. It’s got a minute or so or a couple of minutes here left. Yuval Levin, another guest I’ve had here, has written on the shift of institutions away from forming us to becoming platforms for individual performance. And how do you see university education as formative and preventing the rush toward fundamentalist ideologies on the right and left?
Morty Schapiro: Well, I think Collin it comes to being humble. One of the great things from faith, I think you get is humility. And part of that humility is realizing you don’t know everything even if you’re really smart and you’re 20 years old, you can learn from others. And again, we go to great length in the book to define fundamentalism, very far removed from a century ago when the fundamentalists were interpreting Christian texts, as we talk about, Saul wrote that chapter. So, it’s gone to something else. People would ask me all the time, “Collin, what are the attributes of a successful undergraduate education when you send your 2000 seniors out into the world, what do you have hope?”
And I said, “I hope they’re quantitatively adept and no surprise as somebody who does econometrics. And I hope they have an aesthetic appreciation too because life is more than just numbers that you really want to have a respect for art and music and all the things that make life worth living. You want to have obviously an honest respect and appreciation for diversity and inclusion.” In some cases you want to strengthen religious faith, which is surprising for a president of a secular university.
But when that happens too, it makes me really happy. But the most important thing is to graduate with humility. And that’s hard for a generation where they’re all valedictorians and they’re all going on to great success like you did Collin. And being humble. And I always remind them at graduation that your education is beginning. It’s not ending. Now, I’m not talking about the two-thirds of Northwestern and similar alums who go on to get master’s, PhDs, professionals, degrees, et cetera, I’m talking about educating yourself over lifetime.
So, I want them to have the tools to educate themselves for a lifetime. And I think they do. They know how to read. They know how to write but the important thing is the humility to know that education isn’t over. And that’s one thing that saw you as the most popular teacher at Northwestern teaching Russian literature, Collin. And people asked him, “Why isn’t the most popular course coding? Why isn’t it F10 like at Harvard?” And I said, “No. It’s Russian literature.” Russian literature that prepares them for the world? And I said, “What could better prepare them for the world?” So, maybe Saul wants to say what he hopes for the next generation.
Collin Hansen: Yeah. Let’s hear it. Let’s hear it.
Morty Schapiro: All those thousands of students he sends out into the world.
Saul Morson: Well, I want them to be humble in the sense that they know that they can learn from others who are unlike themselves and the great writers who they can go to for wisdom. And the wisdom is endless. And the more you get, the more there is to get. The more you’ll see, the more you appreciate great books, the more you can get out of them and read others. And that will then carry over. Because in reading, let’s say great novels, one of the key things you do is identify with a person, unlike yourself, gender, culture, period, psychology, most important. And you learn not just to be told to empathize your others, you do it for hundreds and hundreds of pages and therefore get practice in it.
And my hope is that doing that with fictional characters, you can get inside their head as you can’t with real people, right? But you will develop the inclination and the habits of empathizing with others. You’ll make that effort to project yourself and instead of saying, “How can you think that way?” Because he’s thinking the same thing about me, what does it look like from the other point of view? What do I look like? And if you do that, that’s a kind of humility but it also gets you a wisdom because it gives you… It’s a difference between monocular and binocular vision, you can get perspective.
Collin Hansen: Saul, just one last question here for you. You both conclude the book by writing this with rising fundamentalism all around us. “Hate thine enemy seems to be the catch phrase of the day.” And Saul, my question for you is how we can distinguish between the conviction and the content of fundamentalism. So, for example, you may regard that following the Bible’s teaching on sexuality to be a form of a dangerous fundamentalism as you allude to in the book.
But what if the same Bible, seriously obeyed, demands that believers love their enemies and consider other more important than themselves—of course, talking about the New Testament here. What if the fundamentalism follows a Savior who died for his enemies and prayed for their forgiveness? So, again, just going back and distinguish between the attitude and the content, because what if the serious pursuit of the text is precisely what imbues you with that drive for humility?
Saul Morson: Yeah. So, that’s I think precisely it regardless of what your position is on marriage or any number of other issues. If you have the idea that your enemies, your… And you don’t have to regard every opponent as an enemy. To degrees, they shouldn’t be enemies, right? But you can see the world from their point of view even if you don’t go to the extreme of loving your literal enemies, going in that direction so that you at least understand sympathetically.
You don’t have to conclude you agree with the person to make the effort to recognize that that person is sincere in their points of view. You are may have as good reasons as you do and looks at you the way you look at them and then develop a humble wisdom about the multiple possibilities of belief. You can do that while maintaining your belief but there’s a difference between believing in something and believing it as something which is absolutely certain and that everybody has to agree or else. Those are completely different.
Collin Hansen: Yeah. Well, and that’s the challenge for a missionary religion like Christianity is to be simultaneously seeking to persuade others while at the same time to be loving them no matter what they decide, no matter what decision they pursue and where Christians do not do that. Where they cannot respect others is where Christianity ceases to be following its own beliefs. And unfortunately, we do see a lot of that, which is in part why this book has been written. And I really appreciate you guys for taking the time to talk with me about it, Minds Wide Shut: How the New Fundamentalisms Divide Us published by Princeton University Press. The author is Morty Shchapiro, Gary Saul Morson from Northwestern University. Thank you for joining me.
Saul Morson: Thanks for having us.
Morty Schapiro: Thank you Collin. It was an honor.
Saul Morson: Yes, it was.