Tim and Rick continue going back through the archive of episodes on the podcast and highlight ideas, practices and moments with guests that stand out. In this episode, they discuss Shane Hurley’s grassroots approach to helping people talk about race (Episode 13, Mar 1, 2021); Russell Moore on issues polarizing the generations in the Church (Episode 38, Feb 14, 2022); Theon Hill on what to do when people don’t want to listen to what you have to say (Episodes 34-35, beginning on Dec 20, 2021); and variations of upbringings with the Reverend James White (Episodes 7-8, beginning Dec 14, 2020). This is part 2 of a 2-part conversation.
Rick Langer: Welcome to the Winsome Conviction podcast. My name's Rick Langer, and I'm a professor here at Biola University in the Biblical Studies and Theology department. I'm director of the Office of Faith and Learning, but I'm also the co-director of the Winsome Conviction Project, which is where we engage key issues and help us to talk about those things. And part of what we do is we do that right here on our podcast, along with my co-host.
Tim Muehlhoff: I'm Tim Muehlhoff. I'm a professor of communication at Biola University. I'm also the co-director of the Winsome Conviction Project. I'm also Rick Langer's spiritual mentor. He doesn't mention that often, but it's possibly true.
Rick Langer: But you bring it up enough to make it not necessary. Yeah, that's good. Go ahead.
Tim Muehlhoff: Hey, we're doing a fun thing. We just got to our 50th episode, so we thought it'd be really fun to go back through the archives and just identify ones that stood out to us. Not necessarily saying they're the best interview, but just saying there was something that happened that really caught our attention, has really stayed with us. So please listen to episode 50 to get the first couple, but we're having such fun, we thought, "Let's just continue this." So I'm going to go with episode 13. It was called People Doing It Right. We have our recurring segment on this podcast where we just want to identify people that are doing it well, like remember Simon Greer, Rick?
Rick Langer: Yep.
Tim Muehlhoff: Right? But he's a national figure. He started something called Bridging the Gap. He's awesome. He's all over YouTube, if you look him up. So we wanted to go a different direction with a gentleman named Shane Hurley. Now, the way we became aware of Shane is I was speaking at a church and I happened to have dinner with him. And he's sitting with his wife. And they start to tell this story, Rick. And I'm like, "Wait, what?" And I finally said to him, "Please tell me you'll come on our podcast." And he graciously did. So here's what happened.
In the midst of all the racial unrest that we have had, Shane has a daughter, and Shane's African American, has a daughter on a predominantly white volleyball team. And after one shooting that was particularly heart-wrenching, a couple of the parents came up to him. A couple of the white parents came up to him and said, "Listen, I don't think I'm a racist, but I don't know if I'm the best to judge. Could we get together and have a conversation?"
And he said, "Sure." Now, this was during COVID. So they do it at a park, outside on a park bench, to keep social distance. I think there was originally like three or four of them. It went so well that everybody said, "Hey, look, can we please do this again? Can I invite some friends?" And Shane was like, "Yeah, of course." So then it got up to like 40 people and meeting every week, he said. And the cool thing was, Rick, they'd be having this conversation, racially mixed, and joggers would stop and say, "Hey, what is going on?"
And Shane said, "Hey, we're having a great conversation about race. Feel free to join us." To me, Rick, I love the grassroots organic nature. They didn't put on an event. They had a conversation at a picnic table, and now it has gained momentum.
Rick Langer: Yeah. In that sense, I think Shane could become the poster child for what we hope the Winsome Conviction Project helps people do, because we talk to each other, we talk to people who are nationally known figure ... Simon Greer, like you mentioned. We'll talk about people like Russell Moore and others. And we've already addressed some of those folks. But most of the people who are listening, we're assuming aren't going to become people who are national celebrities. But I'd never want a person to think, therefore, you really don't have anything to do, you have nothing to offer. And I think the things like what Shane did are some of the most important things we actually do to move the needle, to really make people different. Listening to people talk is great, but actually talking yourself, gathering people together in community, meeting in a park like that ... I love the whole image that created. So yeah, kudos to Shane. And I think that was just an absolutely fantastic model that was easy enough that I think many of our listeners could imitate it.
Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. There's a great group called Living Room Conversations. Remember that group, Rick? We took part in something they put on nationally called Talk to Your Political Opposite. And you and I both signed up for a slot. And I was introduced to a gay woman, and we had the most delightful hour conversation. I was shocked, Rick, how well it went. It was really fun. And so, I loved the fact that Winsome Conviction's not the only kid in the block. There are so many organizations, Christian and non-Christian, that feel the same way we do and they're doing stuff about it. But Shane's a great example of a guy who doesn't have an organization. He has a picnic bench in a park.
Rick Langer: You got it.
Tim Muehlhoff: And that was enough. I think that's beautiful.
Rick Langer: Yep, that's wonderful. All right. Let me pick up. We were just talking about the fact that we have talked to some people who are more influential at a national level. So we had the privilege of talking to Dr. Russell Moore on episode 38. And this is actually right before he resigned from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and then ultimately from the Southern Baptist Church. So we were like two weeks before that when we interviewed him. The episode actually came out significantly later, because the interview was part of a journal issue that we were editing. So if you want to listen to that, it would actually be on episode 38. But when we interviewed him, the first question I asked was about political polarization and left and right. And I said, "We have political polarization within the church, too. Do you think it's really the same? Are we polarizing on the same issues as culture, or is there something different going on in the church?"
And Russell Moore said, "I think there's actually something that's significantly different in the church." And he talked about a couple things, but one of them was the polarization between generations. And he said, "We have generations, children and parents, who are just polarized between each other in terms of understanding what the gospel means, and have really created that kind of a separation. So when he said that, what came to my mind is, "Oh yeah, it's probably like the younger generation are the people who are the more social justice advocates or LGBTQ issues or whatever it is. And the older generation's looking at them saying, 'Man, you guys are giving away the gospel and abandoning Christian morality.'"
And he said, "Oh, no." He said, "It's the opposite." He said, "The people who are looking at the other side and saying, 'You're abandoning Christian morality' are the younger evangelicals, who are looking at their older parents and saying things like, 'You don't seem to care at all about sexual molestation. You don't care about sexual abuse. You don't care about racism," not in some weird fancy definition of racism that makes everybody a racist and all white people racist, just in the ordinary sense of people ... "The wrong side of the Civil War won" kind of people. "You have these people in your leadership and you think that's all great. You don't care about that. I'm concerned that you don't actually care about the teachings of the gospel."
And I was stunned. I was surprised when he said that. And then just a few weeks ago, we were in Nashville, actually, for another meeting we were at, that on the day that this almost 300-page report on sexual abuse issues within the Southern Baptist denomination. And these were a lot of things that were probably in the back of Russell Moore's mind when he was talking about that. But I was like, "Wow." That was an insightful moment for me, and a very powerful one. And it was also one of those moments where I felt like I was really glad I asked the question rather than assume that I knew the answer, because I got the opposite answer of what I expected.
Tim Muehlhoff: And he's at the forefront of what's happening today, and doing a great job. He's now with Christianity Today. And love the different dialogues that he's putting together where he serves as the moderator, tackling a bunch of different issues. I think that speaks well of him. Yeah, what blew me away about that interview was literally the date of it, because it is pre-Southern Baptist coming out with that devastating document. And we need to look at our own house, Rick, and say not only, "How do non-Christians view all this" ... which I just shudder to think, in the shadow of Ravi Zacharias, who you and I have immense respect for, and actually dreamed that episode one would be Ravi Zacharias, because of how he spoke to non-Christians.
I mean, I was so devastated by Ravi Zacharias, I had to call a good friend of ours, J.P. Moreland, to process with him. And so, we have to take a hard look at our own house, of not only how non-Christians view us, but what Russell reminded us of, is how the younger generation views us. And if you wanted to get just a little glimpse of that, just go ahead and look at episodes 27 and 29. We have a friend of ours, a colleague, John Marriott. And the episodes were called Losing My Christian Convictions. So just go ahead and listen to 27 29, and he's going to give you some research that you might have a sleepless night if you're a Christian who cares about our ethos, our credibility, because people are leaving the faith in record numbers because they're just sick of our reputation.
Rick Langer: Yeah. And Tim and I have had discussions recently with people who are feeling that way, had that experience. And I think Russell Moore's point about this issue of a weird blindness to just ordinary moral mandates of the gospel ... we're taking them lightly or viewing them as optional. And I think you're right, Tim, to exactly say, "This isn't a Southern Baptist problem uniquely." They have the biggest profile, partly because they're such a big denomination. But I think for all of us to take stock of this and say, "Yeah, in my area of influence for my denomination," which is much smaller than the Southern Baptist, to say, "Hey, we need to take these kinds of things seriously."
Tim Muehlhoff: And this is getting off topic just a tinge, but I want to do a future episode, Rick, on revival, because the more you and I do the Winsome Conviction Project, I honestly believe this, we need to see a revival. We need to see the spirit moving. And I'd like to take that podcast and share with you the story of when revival hit Campus Crusade for Christ in Fort Collins, Colorado. This was probably, my goodness, 15 years ago. And I'd never seen it before. I mean, we're talking the public confession of sins, repentance, weeping. Steve Douglass called [inaudible 00:11:14] to the entire national conference, 5,000 people, and said, "Okay, we need to get right with God. And we're doing it, as long as it takes." I'd never experienced anything like that before. I think we need to see a movement of God like that, because things are so entrenched, so bitter, so angry. And we are blowing it in ways that are setting back the evangelical reputation a long time. We're going to have to see a moving of the spirit. So we'll do that. I think they'd be interesting.
Rick Langer: Great. Sounds good. All right.
Tim Muehlhoff: Talk about the history of revivals and stuff like that. So let's talk about an episode that really disturbed me. And I wanted to push back, because it reminded me of grad school, where we learned about something called radical rhetoric. What do you do when no one wants to hear your message, you feel like, "My community is at risk. My community's being decimated, but I use traditional modes of communication. No one wants"-
Rick Langer: Nothing happens, yeah.
Tim Muehlhoff: ... "nothing happens. I don't move the needle at all." So we brought in Dr. Theon Hill, from Wheaton, and he has studied this topic of radical rhetoric. Now, Rick just mentioned something I want to alert you all to. By the time you listen to this, it's going to be out. It's called the Christian Scholars Review. It's a journal. And they asked us if we'd be editors of a special theme issue on civility. So we jumped at it. We said, "Yes." Russell Moore was one interview. Theon Hill was one. But we also had phenomenal articles from Christian scholars, from psychology rhetoric; also included artwork that was deeply disturbing and provocative. So they can get it, right? Can't they purchase-
Rick Langer: Yeah. Let me say, I think that it may even be out already digitally. There's a paper shortage because of-
Tim Muehlhoff: Yes. We didn't know this.
Rick Langer: We didn't know this. So the hard copy of it has been slow in coming out. But I think the digital version may already be ready. But we'll make sure we have a link on this podcast that would take you to that digital version, because you can see it there. In some ways it's better, because the artwork can be in color. It's just black and white in the written version, so yeah.
Tim Muehlhoff: So go to winsomeconviction.com. We will make sure we have a link to the digital, because I'm just going to ... I mean, you just skimmed on Russell Moore.
Rick Langer: Yes, absolutely.
Tim Muehlhoff: I mean, he was an amazing interview. And Theon was amazing, too. So I said this, "How do you know you've reached the time when it's now for me to take this turn towards radical rhetoric?" So Theon would say radical rhetoric is what gets the attention of dominant culture, that those that have the power, why would they ever listen to your concerns? And this is what he said. He goes, "Let's just say you and I have a conflict and there's an issue I feel I need to raise. I ask you to hear me out, but you blow me off. I'm going to try again. I'll ask you to keep pressing towards the conversation, but what if you just flat out don't want to have it? Then, it's time for me to set aside conventional communication. And at some point, I'm going to communicate in such a way that you cannot blow me off."
And I said, "Can you give me an example?"
And here was his example that I thought was so good, I've shared it in a bunch of my rhetoric classes. He goes, "I think that's what Colin Kaepernick is doing. When he takes a knee for the national anthem, his protest is telling, isn't it? For years, people have said, 'We don't want violence. We want you to protest peace peacefully like Martin Luther King, Jr.' Well, with Kaep" ... He calls him Kaep. I love that he calls him Kaep.
Rick Langer: Our good buddy, Kaep.
Tim Muehlhoff: My good buddy, Kaep. "You have an individual engaging in peaceful forms of protest and still gets crucified in mainstream media." Theon's interpretation? They don't want it. You said, "Not be violent. Okay, so I get that critique of sometimes the expression of Black Lives Matter, right, with shops and stuff like that during the protests. But here's Colin" ... I call him Colin. He calls him Kaep.
Rick Langer: Yeah. Oh, that's good.
Tim Muehlhoff: ... "taking a knee, which is crazy peaceful. And still people are like, 'No, no, no, no, no. That's illegitimate as well.'" So Theon's conclusion was, "It's dominant culture saying, 'I'll be honest with you. There is no expression of this that I'll accept, because I don't want to hear from you.'" Rick, that has really stayed with me of how do you ... and we address this in that theme issue. Is civility a silencing technique sometimes? And I think you and I would both say, "Yeah, it can be. Yes."
Rick Langer: It can be used that way. You're right.
Tim Muehlhoff: So, what do we do about that?
Rick Langer: Yeah. So, that was it. Now that you mention it, I remember when that came up in the interview. And I think this is in the written copy. I can't remember. But I remember when he said that, I said, "Well, that seemed to me like it worked pretty well." And I was like, "That didn't seem to be that radical a form of rhetoric." And I think Theon Hill's response was, "Buddy, wake up and smell the coffee."
And I thought, "Yeah, he's actually right," because I, in my personal sentiment, particularly when he went to taking the knee ... I can't remember what he did first. He sat down. He sat on the bench.
Tim Muehlhoff: You know what? He sat. And a Marine approached him and said, "Please don't sit. Do something else." Yes.
Rick Langer: Yeah. They had a conversation, and he said, "Kneel." And they both thought, "Yeah, that sounds good."
And I thought, "Oh, well, to me, this was like the ideal model of it." But I think Theon Hill was right, that I am perhaps an outlier in terms of my feeling about that. And I thought that was great. That was a good way to make the point in a way that you couldn't ignore it, that was Theon Hill's point with it, but that is not just destructive or wantonly disrespectful to people who ... in this case, touching base with the guy who actually was in the military, because that was part of what people were concerned about. So, that was a fascinating moment. And I think you're right. I think it is indicative. I think his observation was right that it's indicating perhaps a bigger resistance to talk about this than we might think.
Tim Muehlhoff: And remember the Proverbs say, "A person's words are like the thrust of a sword." And so let me tell you an interesting thing that happened. I really did use this in my classes, Theon's thoughts about radical rhetoric, and used Kaepernick. So there's a girl sitting in the front row, Rick, and tears are coming down her cheeks. And I just stop. And I look at her and I said, "Can I just ask you to unpack that a little bit?"
She goes, "Listen, I'm a military family kid. I've had family members who have lost their lives. This is really hard for me to hear." And I thought the beauty of that is, does that keep me from using the sword? I don't think so, but you better know you're using a sword. You better know that you are hurting people in making your message by kneeling. So I get the hurt and the anger. It's not always dominant culture just keeping you quiet. There are people who feel very strongly about the flag, rightfully so. And to kneel, that is really hard to watch. So I like what Theon's saying, let's wield that sword of radical rhetoric, but let's understand what we're doing when we do this. Real people are getting hurt. And maybe that's even semi the point, because you're going to have to feel some pain before change happens, but understand you're inflicting pain. I thought it was a fascinating interview with Theon.
Rick Langer: And that's an interesting addition. I appreciate you sharing that image, and perhaps for me, who just mentioned the fact that I think about, "Hey, this is great. What's the problem?"
And it's like, well, the problem is you have a person here whose family members have died, given their life for the country. And it seems like a gesture or it can easily be read as a gesture intended in some measure to dishonor America or bring shame, to use the language that Gregg Ten Elshof used, to bring shame on America for what it has done. And that's really hurtful. So good point, the complexities of that kind of a rhetorical move are not to be underestimated.
Tim Muehlhoff: And let me go back to something you said. This was the previous episode, because this was a two-parter on our 50th episode. We talked about Dr. Gregg Ten Elshof, his book on shame. Remember Gregg's reaction to the topic was, "I'm curious about this. I'm going to dig deeper"? I would say that's really hard with radical rhetoric, but ought to be the same response. I get that radical rhetoric is in your face and it's being intentionally provocative, but it still ought to provoke the same response. Remember? So Dr. James White, we had on the show and, he said something, Rick, I will never forget. Dr. White ... James ... Reverend White, sorry ... said, "When you run up to an accident and you pop your head in the window, is really your first response, 'See, you should have been wearing seat belts?'"
He said, "But that's what we do with Black Lives Matter movement." We don't ask about all the pain that gave rise to the movement. We say, "Oh no, no, no, no. You're Marxist. Done." To me, that's rhetorically popping your head in the window and saying, "See, you should have been wearing seat belts." No, we need to listen to the pain, the heart that gave rise to Black Lives Matter, and then obviously critique it. Sure. But if you don't feel the pain first, that might be the thrust of a sword that is done without taking into consideration all the pain and the hurt that led to the moment. And so, let's be curious. Radical rhetoric forces you to deal with it. And we can say, "Well, I'm not going to be curious now because you ticked me off."
Rick Langer: Yeah. I think that's a great insight, Tim. I think you're right as you say that, that there's something about the radicalness that makes it harder to be curious. Nonetheless, we should be probably curious all the more. And in fact, it actually is in some way an easier thing to be curious about because you can just say, "Hey, wow. I see you taking a knee in this context. I find that hurtful and disrespectful to the country and people in my family who've died for that flag. I imagine you're seeing something else going on. Talk to me about that." So there's an easy way to get into that, if you're willing to be curious. But I agree with you, I think that's one of the hardest things to do, when you have that radical [inaudible 00:22:03], to actually turn around and be curious.
Tim Muehlhoff: Which brings me back to the revival episode, because if my heart is hardening-
Rick Langer: That hasn't happened yet, just to be clear.
Tim Muehlhoff: That hasn't happened yet. We're going to do this. Yes.
Rick Langer: Tim's just going off in his little fantasy world.
Tim Muehlhoff: Yes, yes, yes.
Rick Langer: It's fun to watch, but go ahead.
Tim Muehlhoff: If my heart is hardened, radical rhetoric just hardened it more. So if there's not a moving of the spirit that I can set aside my anger, hurt, to focus on your pain, I don't think that's happening for some of us unless the spirit's really moving.
Rick Langer: Yeah. Getting attention and moving the needle are two different things.
Tim Muehlhoff: Yes. Oh, well said.
Rick Langer: So you can get someone's attention with the radical rhetoric thing, but all it does is fix that needle. The last thing they're going to do is give up on that. So let me pick up on another episode, because you all already touched on this. But episode seven and eight were with James White. And Tim has known James for a long, long time through his Cru connections and all that. But we had a great conversation. We don't need to go into this in any great depth, but again, one of these moments that I've just really kept is when we each described our version of growing up in the '60s. And James was growing up ... Where was it? Was it in Mississippi?
Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah [inaudible 00:23:18].
Rick Langer: Anyhow, somewhere in the South. He's Black and is experiencing a huge amount ... I mean, he's growing up under Jim Crow laws during the civil rights movement. And you can imagine all the turbulence, upheaval, violence, and all the things that he experienced there. Tim, you were in Michigan, and the setting you were in there has a huge number of people who are Black, but you were white. And so you had a completely different experience than James White did there. And then I was growing up in the '60s in Boulder, Colorado, which is just not very ethnically diverse. It was very white area. We have some Hispanic population, very few Black people, I think maybe two or three black kids in my high school of 2,000 students. And we were three people living in the same country in three different worlds.
So, great moment for us to realize that. But then I start thinking, "How often is that true of the people that we're talking to or having a disagreement with, that in some pretty profound sense, they've simply grown up in a different world than ours, and all the structures that generate meaning, the sources of fear that they have, the things that gave them hope versus anxiety, wildly different than what we have experienced"? And that, to me, was one of those things that just applied far beyond just the context of racism that came up when we were talking to James White.
Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. I had a professor in my grad school, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, who said something in class I'll never forget. He said, "Your American dream is my American nightmare." And I thought, "Wow, to see it so differently and have different experiences, I think is a fascinating thing." So if you want to check this out just a little bit, I actually used this in one of my books ... So, Jordan Peele had a movie come out in 2019 called Us. It follows a family that lives in a reality, but there's an alternate reality. The same time that they're living their lives, you get a peek into an alternate reality that mirrors it, but shows you the negative side of it. And that happens at the exact same time. These are parallel realities. And I was struck by that movie. Now, remember, it's a horror movie, so please be careful when you go to watch it.
Rick Langer: Thank you so much.
Tim Muehlhoff: My wife would not watch Us. There's no way.
Rick Langer: My wife wouldn't either. I probably wouldn't either, but go ahead.
Tim Muehlhoff: But the fact that there's parallel realities has really stayed with me. And I think that's what Reverend James White was saying. And here's my white privilege. I'll say this. I can choose to pop into the other reality, but I can leave just as quickly. And to be honest with you, I don't often think about jumping into that alternate reality because it's uncomfortable. I'd ask questions I don't know if I have answers to. That, to me, is at least part of my white privilege. But thank you, James White, for pointing us to a part of America that was not our experiences, but when listening to his, it was like, as a Christian brother, I need to be concerned about that.
Rick Langer: Yeah, yeah. And it's a great tool, as we mentioned, of so many other controversies we have that may come back to the same thing, of really, really different existential worlds that we grew up within. And it could even be within shared communities where people are in different parts of it.
Tim Muehlhoff: Yep. Wow, my goodness, Rick. We want to say, very sincerely, we never, would've gotten to 50 without you, our listeners. And so, we do not take that for granted. Everybody who's gone to the Winsome Conviction website, we're so happy that we've gotten great responses. So thank you, sincerely. We've had a blast. And I think we've been convicted and we've learned a bunch. And so, hats off to another 50, Rick. [inaudible 00:27:27]-
Rick Langer: That's right. We're looking forward to our next 50 episodes. And by the way, we-
Tim Muehlhoff: All on revival, all on revival.
Rick Langer: Great.
Tim Muehlhoff: A 50-part series on revival. What do you think?
Rick Langer: I'm thinking that probably won't happen, but it's fun to watch you get excited. One of the things that ]I would really encourage you do is we'd love to have you invite other people to join in listening, to pass that along. If you've enjoyed the podcast, let me encourage you to pass it on to other people who might enjoy it as well. There is no question that the things we've talked about on the Winsome Conviction Project, how to converse across boundaries of conflicting convictions within your own community, how to cross boundaries into different communities who have different viewpoints, how can we approach those things, keeping conviction intact, but creating room for meaningful conversation, those are the things that get us up and out of bed in the morning. These are things that we've been talking about for now 50 episodes on the podcast. And it's very, very clear in our culture that the trendline isn't really good on these things. So it's becoming increasingly problematic.
So let me just encourage you, and obviously it doesn't just have to be our podcast, but as you find valuable resources that help foster or you think could help foster a more civil tone of discourse, a willingness to hear, and in that sense, love one another, let me encourage you to be an activist for that, just passing along, "Hey, you might check out this book, this podcast, this thing." And just be a person who's following the example of Shane, of saying, "Look, I may not have a national microphone, but by golly, I can sit down with the other folks on my daughter's volleyball team and have a conversation and invite others to join in." So let me just really encourage you to pick up the baton for being a bit of an activist for better conversations, better interaction, better engagement with people with whom you differ. So thanks for joining us. We'd love to have you subscribe to the Winsome Conviction podcast. If you haven't already, you can find it on Apple Podcast or Spotify, or wherever-
Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah, give us a like. Say, "I like it."
Rick Langer: Yeah. Give us a like. Do whatever it is. We'd love to have you weigh in on that count. And also check out the Winsome Conviction website. Thanks again for joining us, and we'd love to have you join us for 50 more.