Opinions should reflect willingness to understand
Students should not be afraid to have opinions in a time of growing polarization. | Maddi Seyfarth/THE CHIMES
An American historian, a Brazilian philosopher, a German theologian and countless others have shaped their works and their lives on the conviction that a moral person cannot be neutral in the face of oppression and evil. The lives of students should be defined by action, but should also be shaped by the willingness and bravery to hold and express beliefs and convictions. The art of having an opinion has become the unofficial national pastime for numerous Americans, however the active willingness to permeate the historical amnesia established in all societies and the act of understanding the other side must also be part of this aforementioned tradition as well.
The myth of neutrality
It seems as if everyone today has some sort of opinion on topics ranging from the latest classroom gossip to the most newsworthy political development. Politics has become increasingly polarized and, as a result, students retreat from the public forum in the belief that refusing to involve oneself in a discussion or debate about a particular issue will ensure their innocence. The truth is, no one can ever be neutral in any situation. The American historian mentioned above was Howard Zinn, who declared repetitively throughout his career that “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” Students must first acknowledge the importance of having opinions and standing up for beliefs and convictions. On the contrary, it is also important for students to humbly accept the fact that the train of time and history will continue to chug along regardless of one’s opinion. Opinions and quick platitudes seldom alter the course of history. Actions, not words, will determine the direction of society’s progression or regression.
It is important to have opinions, but it is also important to reach across the aisle in an attempt to communicate with the other side. Students live in an increasingly dangerous and polarized world. Paulo Freire, the Brazilian educator and philosopher mentioned above, famously claimed, “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” We cannot act like Pontius Pilate. As Christians, we must stand with the powerless, the marginalized, the oppressed and the weak. In an article published by Truthdig, journalist and pastor Chris Hedges writes about “the price of resistance.” To stand with the poor and the oppressed is to be treated like the poor and oppressed.
Beliefs and convictions
Students should not stop holding opinions, even if their opinion goes against the status quo or accepted beliefs of a particular community. In certain situations, standing up for the truth would result in being treated like a pariah.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the German theologian mentioned above. Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazi regime for his involvement in the Confessing Church movement and his refusal to join in with the other German Christians who allied with the Nazi regime.
As Christians, our opinions should reflect our beliefs and convictions. Students cannot stay neutral. Speak up not only because one has the right to, but speak because one is morally obligated to use their voice and creative skills to take a stand.