The Cost of Freedom: How Disagreement Makes Us Civil (Robert George, Cornel West, Rick Warren)

>>Ladies and gentlemen
welcome to Biola University. And we might even have a
few Biola students here. Where are you Biola students? [cheering] Thank you very much. I’m scripted because I think people are concerned that I might ramble on, so bear with me for a few minutes. I gotta make some introductory comments. It’s so good to have
all of you here tonight, and welcome those of you
who are live streaming for this wonderful event. This is the Cost of Freedom, How Disagreement Makes Us Civil. There are deep divisions in our society. Divisions which we are reconciling and struggling to go through. And there’s a contest
over what freedom means. Who matters most and
who gets to determine. That conflict drives wedges between people could make our life
together more difficult in how we navigate disagreement, and what kind of virtues we cultivate even when we disagree deeply is one of the most pressing
questions our society faces. We’re very honored tonight
for the very first time at a university embracing
a Christian tradition to have Dr. Robert George,
and Dr. Cornel West with us. [cheers and applause] And they will be more formally introduced in just a minute. And we’re also so glad Pastor Rick Warren, you’re here too to
facilitate this conversation. So thank you for saying yes. [cheers and applause] These are three of our
nation’s leading thinkers. They don’t see eye to eye on everything, but they’re committed to
cultivating conversations about difficult topics that take the quest for truth seriously, while respecting differences. This is a quest that’s
vital for those of us in higher education to support and promote in the broader society. It’s what we like to talk about here at Biola of life with a
firm center and soft edges. Biola University’s
Torrey Honors Institute, which is one of tonight’s
sponsor’s exemplifies this. For 20 years Torrey’s been committed to instilling undergraduate students with a love for truth that comes through dialoguing about great
texts, and big ideas. Students in our honors
program don’t always agree with each other,
sometimes they don’t always agree with the faculty
that are teaching them, but they learn through their discussions that reasoning together can help them discover unexpected friendships. And that is the beauty of conversing around those issues
about which we disagree. Our other sponsor is Biola University’s Templeton funded Center
for Christian Thought. Designed as a gathering place for scholars from around the world to grapple with the big issues and ideas of the day. This round table, interdisciplinary nature of these conversations
encourages this open mindedness. And I think one of the virtues that the church needs,
and our nation needs more than ever before is
the virtue of listening. Not just listening in order to prepare to respond to somebody else, but listening in order to prepare to learn from somebody else. And this year Center
for Christian Thought’s theme is Intellectual
Virtue and Civil Discourse. So it is a Torrey Program. And the Center for Christian Thought that are examples of
the sort of intellectual atmosphere Christian
universities must embody. Defined not by retreat, not by safety, or closed mindedness, but by curiosity, and discourse that sometimes can be a bit uncomfortable. That’s why I’m proud to see Biola hosting this conversation tonight and forums like this that engage the most difficult questions. And I believe, with all my heart that we can model a forum
of culture engagement that can be instructive
to a divisive world. If we as a Christ centered university can balance truth and grace, and live with that whole idea of a firm center and soft edges we can have a great witness. Having convictions and having compassion, it is not either or, it is both and. Jesus came full of grace and full of truth not half of each. It’s the Jesus way. And I believe we need more
winsome voices in this world. So the three leaders that
we’ll hear from tonight in just a few minutes, they each have strong convictions to be sure. And yet you’ll see them modeling civility, modeling conviction, modeling compassion, even amidst their disagreements. We have much to learn from them tonight. So I am so excited about
this evening, are you? You guys ready? Great night. [cheering and applauding] Please join me in welcoming
Dr. Melissa Schubert of our Torrey Honors Institute who will introduce our three distinguished guests this evening, Dr. Schubert. [applause]>>Thank you.>>So sorry, took her notes. That would have been really a big problem. That’s yours, and that’s yours, and this is mine.>>Thank you. [laughter] I’m so happy to join Dr. Corey
in welcoming you tonight. We are honored to be hosting all three of our distinguished guests
from whom we are eager to learn, and two whom
we are eager to listen. Their collective accomplishments, were I to spend time listing them all could keep us from
getting to the main event. So forgive me for being brief. Cornel West was the class of 1943, Professor of African American studies at Princeton University, before leaving the school in 2011 to become Professor of
philosophy and Christian Practice at the Union Theological
Seminary in New York City. He’s written 19 books, and
edited an additional 13. He’s best known for his classic, Race Matters, Democracy Matters, his memoir Brother West,
Living and Loving Out Loud, and his latest book, Black Prophetic Fire. He appears frequently
on the Bill Maher show, the Colbert Report, CNN, and CPAN, and has appeared in over 25 documentaries. West has also appeared in film. He had a part in the Matrix.>>Audience: Yeah. [cheering and applauding]>>And he has made
three spoken word albums collaborating with artists like Prince, Andre 3000, and more. [cheering] Cornel West’s passion, to bear witness to love and justice in a variety of media is nearly unparalleled. Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison
Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He served as a Presidential appointee to the US Commission on Civil Rights, and is a member of the
President’s Council on Bioethics. He’s the author, coauthor on five books including What is Marriage,
Conscience and It’s Enemies, and The Clash of Orthodoxies, Law Religion and Morality in Crisis. George is a frequent contributor
to First Things Magazine for which he’s also a member of the Editorial Advisory Board. And he’s written widely
for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, National Review,
Touchstone, Boston Review, City Journal and the
Times Literary Supplement to name a few.
[laughter] He’s been recognized for
his manifold accomplishments with, again, to name a few,
honorary doctorates of law, letters, ethics, science, civil law, humane letters, and diuretical science. [clapping] Rich Warren is a pastor
of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. He founded this church
with his wife Kay in 1980. And speaking of to name a few, today it averages 30,000 weekly attendees with more than 300 community ministries to groups such as prisoners,
folks with addictions, people struggling with mental illnesses, CEOs, single parents,
and those with HIV/AIDS. Dr. Warren advises leaders in the public, private, and faith sectors
on leadership development, poverty, health, education,
faith in culture. Time Magazine named him
one of 15 world leaders who mattered most in 2004. And in 2005 one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Warren’s a pastor, global strategist, theologian, and philanthropist. Please join me in welcoming our honored guests to the stage. [cheering and applause]>>Well thank you first
of all for coming tonight. It says more about you
than it does about us. Because it says that you’re
interested in learning. All leaders are learners. And the moment you stop
learning you stop leading. So thank you for being here tonight. You are literally sitting in the presence of genius in these two chairs right here. I’ve had the privilege of lecturing at a lot of universities around the world. I don’t know two more brilliant men than the two men that
are sitting right here, Robbie George and Cornel West. [cheering and applause] They, I can’t wait to hear
what they’re gonna say. And I’m not even worried about being the moderator on this, because I’ll just wind it up
[laughing by guest lecturers] and set it up and they’ll spike it. And so we don’t have to
deal a whole lot with that. Each of us are gonna take a
little introductory remarks and then we’re gonna start some questions. And then we’re gonna take
actually questions from Twitter. And those will be, if you’d like to send a question in you can do that. You may not like it, but the future of the world is diversity. And we’ve gotta learn how
to get along together. I do not believe in relativism. But I do believe in pluralism. Because the world is different. We’re all different. You know when I started Saddleback Church, I was thinkin’ about that. In the first two years of the church, it was a lily white, young, urban professional, yuppie church. Today Saddleback Church
speaks 67 languages.>>Robert: Wow.>>And actually in our
values, S-A-D-D-L-E-B-A-C-K, each letter represents a value. A stands for second chance grace place. But the A stands for
all nation congregation. And we want our church to look like heaven’s gonna look. If you don’t like getting
along with other people you’re not gonna like heaven. ‘Cause they’re not all
gonna look like you, and be like you, sound like
you, or smell like you. So we gotta figure out how to disagree without being disagreeable. You can have unity without uniformity. You can walk hand in hand without seein’ eye to eye on every issue. And one of the two things
that these two brothers have done is they have shown,
they’ve modeled civility. Now let’s just admit it. Our society is getting ruder. Would you agree with that? And the internet is provoking this. And the problem with
criticism on the internet is everything is permanent,
searchable, and global. And anybody can say anything about you, and it’s never goin’ away. And you just have to deal with that. So how do you learn to
get along with people in a world that are lots of differences? You know, because I, did the prayer at two Presidents. One was a republican,
and one was a democrat. I’m often asked are you left
wing or are you right wing. And I always say, I’m for the whole bird. [laughs and laughter] Have you ever seen a bird with one wing? It flies around in a circle. And I don’t know about
you, but it’s my opinion that nobody gets it right
all the time, especially me. And so sometimes they’re right, and sometimes they’re right. And we’ve just gotta
learn from each other. And so, over the past 12 years, I was talkin’ to Cornel
about this backstage, I’ve had the opportunity the last 12 years to really learn to work with people who I totally disagree with, and who totally disagrees
with me around the world. 12 years ago, actually this Saturday is the 12th anniversary of the Peace Plan, which Saddleback started. I came up with the idea, the vision actually sitting on the ground
in South Africa 12 years ago. And PEACE stands for,
promote reconciliation, equip ethical leaders is the E. A in PEACE is assist the poor. C is care for the sick. And E is educate the next generation. And I was tellin’ Cornel that I’ve sent out 24,869 of my members to 197 countries doing the PEACE plan. When you do that, you have to learn to work with all kinds of people. And there are bridge builders in life, and there are wall builders in life. I wanna be a bridge builder. And particularly, as an evangelist, you know you can’t win
your enemies to Christ, you can only win your friends. Before people are gonna trust Jesus, they wanna know, can I trust you. You know before anybody ever
asks is the Bible credible, they wanna know, are you credible. Can I trust you? And if you’re credible, well then maybe I’ll listen to what you have to say. And so, tonight we’re
gonna talk about freedom. We’re gonna talk about civility. We’re gonna talk about
disagreeing and agreeing and all of those things combined. Now these two guys, there are a lot of
differences between the two. But they’re more similar
in ways that you imagine. First they both love the Lord. They both love the Lord. Second they’re both patriots. They’re both Americans. And third, they’re both brilliant. They both taught at Yale. There are a lot of other things
that they’ve done together. So while they have different perspectives.>>We’re both pretty good lookin’.>>Oh, stunning. [laughter] Stunning. You know I didn’t wanna, [laughter] so you know, let’s listen, listen to, Robbie why don’t you tell us a little bit about your opening statement.>>Thank you Rick. And I just wanna say how
blessed Cornel and I are to be here with our dear brother Rick, Pastor Rick, my dear friend, and with the Torrey Honors
College, and Biola University. I wanna thank the president. I wanna thank Melissa. And everyone who’s been involved
in arranging this visit. I was here a little
over a year ago Cornel. And I had a wonderful time. I met with students, I met with faculty. I gave a little lecture. And at the end of it they said, we’ve got one request,
Brother Paul, one request, what’s that? Can you come back. And I was about to say,
I’d be delighted to, and he said, and bring Cornel West. [laughter] I said, if Cornel West
knew what was goin’ on here he’d be beatin’ the door down to get here. So I invited Cornel to
join me in coming out here. And I’m just so grateful to
him for agreeing to come along. We’ve just had a wonderful day. [cheering and applause] we had a wonderful day
meeting with the faculty a group of faculty members
with whom we discussed John Henry Newman’s great work, The Idea of a University, a book that’s truly prophetic. A book that we should
return to at this time given the condition of so many of our colleges and universities. They may be flourishing in many ways. Many of them are in pretty
good shape financially. The place where I teach is in
very good shape financially. But are these places in good shape in terms of the mission of the university? The values that they are
exemplifying and imparting? Well that’s not so clear. And so we need to return to Newman’s ideas about what liberal education means about the importance of
pursuing truth for its own sake. That’s what we’ve gotta get back to. And Newman teaches us such
important lessons there. And it was just wonderful to enter into discussions with those members of the faculty that were joined with us. Then we went into one
of the other buildings and we met with students to discuss John Stuart Mill’s great work on liberty. Another prophetic work
that is so important for us to return to today. A work that discusses the importance of freedom of thought and expression. Not just as abstractions,
as abstract rights. Well, you know I have the
right to say whatever I want, you shouldn’t shut me down. Not just as abstractions, but as essential conditions in the enterprise of truth seeking. We should value freedom of
speech, Mill teaches us, not because there is no truth, but rather because there is a truth that needs to be pursued. That we need to pursue. That we need to appropriate. And it’s only in conditions of freedom, where the mind is free, where people are free to
enter into discussion, and dialogue, and debate
that we can pursue the truth. So it’s been a wonderful day. And we’re just so grateful to everyone for coming out to hear us this evening. Now to the evening’s business. It’s sometimes said,
the most powerful bond in the human world, is
the mother child bond. And I believe that. That’s probably true. But I wanna call attention this evening to another very powerful bond
that is too often over looked. It’s a bond that we need to appreciate in order to make that bond
happen in our discourse, in pluralistic societies
like the United States of America where people disagree. And I call this the bond of truth seeking. The bond of truth seeking. What I have in mind is this, let’s ask ourselves the question, why do we enter into discussion
and debate when we do this? Why do we do it? It’s a question that goes
all the way back to Plato, and his depiction of Socrates and his interactions
with his interlocutors in the Gorgias, and in some
of his other dialogues. Why do we do it? Do we do it for victory? Do we talk for victory? Do we talk to show off, make
a spectacle of ourselves? Do we talk to impress people, like at cocktail parties,
or maybe in a freshman class or something like that? Why do we enter into
dialogue, discussion, debate? Well the reason that we
ought to be doing that is for the sake of the truth. Now if I’m just trying to defeat you, my interlocutory in a debate, to show how much smarter I am, or to gain publicity for myself, or to show off, or to become a public
figure, or a celebrity, that’s not worth much. In the end those goals end up, even if you achieve them,
being ashes in your mouth. What you should be about
with your interlocutory, the whole point of discussion and debate is to arrive at the truth together. And when we understand that as the point, and we understand the value of the truth, that the truth is not merely
instrumentally worthwhile because it can be useful for other ends. But truth itself is inherently,
intrinsically worthwhile. It inherently enriches and ennobles us. That’s why we should
be appropriating truth as much as we possibly can. When we recognize that, then we will not see our interlocutor as an enemy to be defeated, but rather, even if we disagree, even if we strongly disagree, as a friend with whom we are engaged in a common project with a common goal. What’s that goal? Trying to get to the truth of whatever the matter is under discussion. It may be a profoundly important matter. It may be a matter of justice and human rights on which we disagree. The human condition is such, we are poor, fallible,
frail, fallen creatures. We can be wrong even
about important things. We can be wrong even when
we’re trying to be good. Even when we’re trying
to do the right thing we can line up on the wrong side. And the only way that we can have a hope of being on the right side is to think as critically
and carefully as we can, and engage with people who don’t see it just the way we do. Listen to their arguments, not in a merely notional sense, but with an open mind. The president was
absolutely right about that. That is so critical. And when we’re doing that with each other, we are forming that bond of truth seeking. Yes, the method might be dialectical, it begins from disagreement. We might not reach agreement. That’s actually not the
most important thing. Agreement is not the most important thing. Truth is the most important thing. And we are now working together as friends in a common enterprise, albeit
a dialectical enterprise of exchanging reasons, disagreeing, but in a common enterprise of trying to get to the truth of the matter. And there’s a beautiful analysis. We discussed this today with the students in the Torrey Honors College. Beautiful analysis provided
by John Stuart Mill in the second chapter of On Liberty, the chapter devoted to freedom
of thought and discussion, where Mill says there
are two possibilities when you are engaged in discussion and debate with someone you disagree with. One possibility is that
he’s right and you’re wrong. Now if he defeats you in
the argument in the sense of showing you the error, the fallacy, the problem in your logic, the error in your premise, that’s a defeat you should welcome. Because he’s just deferred
upon you a great benefit. He has moved you, or helped you
to move from error to truth. And if truth is what we think it is, especially as Christians, for whom truth is God’s truth. As Christians, people who
are devoted to the one who tells us he is the way,
the truth and the life. If we have the appreciation
of truth that we ought to have as human beings, and
especially as Christians, then we will realize that that friend, because he cannot be an enemy, that friend has conferred upon you an inestimable blessing and benefit. But Mills says, what if
it’s the other way around? What if actually you’re
right and he’s wrong? Well Mills says, you still
shouldn’t shut down his speech or refuse to engage with him. Because even if he’s wrong, if he’s an intellectually serious person, someone who is thinking
about this the way you do, and we can all make errors. None of us is 100% right about things. Alright, so if we’re engaging with him, and he raises questions
that cause us to think. He shows us why people
of reasonable good will are not all on one side. Even if he’s in error, we
have learned more deeply, we’ve been able to appropriate, and not simply notionally to understand, the truth of the thing we believe. We’re not left just in the same position, believing the truth as a proposition, we’ve got a deeper appreciation
in understanding the truth because we’ve understood
why the very best, strongest arguments
against what we believe, nevertheless fail, despite their strength, despite the reasonableness of the person who is engaging with us. When two people, or more, are involved in that kind of enterprise, they are bound together by that bond, by that truth seeking. That’s a foundation for friendship that’s stronger than anything. Friendship always
involves common projects. Even on Facebook, where we have our Facebook friends. There’s the common projects that we’re discussing on Facebook. It’s a virtual friendship. But it’s still a friendship because we’re integrating ourselves
together around common goals. Alright and sometimes they’re good goals, sometimes they’re bad goals, but they’re common goals. But when your common goal is
this highest and best thing. When your common goal
is getting to the truth, and you’re united in that enterprise, you’ve got something much
stronger binding you together than whatever the disagreement
is that separates you. And that friendship itself is an integral aspect of our wellbeing and fulfillment. So now we have not only truth in common, but we have the friendship in common. We form this bond of friendship that arose out of seeking a good together, seeking a common good. That bond is itself an aspect of our wellbeing and fulfillment because we human beings are not merely intellectual creatures, we are also relational creatures. And I’ve learned a great deal from my brother Cornel West here. He’s still wrong about some things, but I’ve learned a great deal, [laughter] from him.
[laughter continues] But one of the things I have learned is just how powerful that
bond of truth seeking can be. And how deeply it can unite two people in the bond of friendship. And at the end of the day, it’s not about whether
you reach agreement. Even if the disagreement maintains. It stays in place. The bond created by friends
dedicated to the truth, working together to get to the truth is the most powerful thing. So that’s why I bless the day that Cornel and I began this enterprise together. And I hope that by our own actions here and in other places, other people will see just how much there is
to be gained by civil, and more than simply civil, carefully listening discourse. Where we’re not just
tolerating each other. Yes, I’ll listen, I’ll sit here and not interrupt you. That’s civility. But really listening to what
the other guy has to say with the thought that, you know, it’s not just that I
have something to teach, I’ve got something to learn too. And I have something to learn, even if I’m right about
the thing being discussed, and my interlocutor is
wrong about the thing. Cornel. Oh, yeah.>>I just wanna say, what
Robbie just was talking about is the difference between
resolution and reconciliation. They are not the same. You can, if you have a marriage, it’s, it needs to be reconciled. You can reconcile without, before you resolve all of the differences.>>That’s right.>>And you can be
reconciled to another person without resolving all of your differences, and that’s exactly what
you were just saying.>>And I wanna say something about it. Disagreement is no impediment to love, and it’s no impediment to joy.>>Thank God, or none
of us would be married.>>That’s right, yeah. [laughter] There is nothing, for me that is as joy inducing
as seeking the goal of getting to the truth
about important matters, with an interlocutor, with a friend, with a dear brother who shares that goal. Where we’ve got a common
bond that is now uniting us. At some point you will find, if you do this seriously
with serious interlocutors, at some point you will find, you have gone beyond merely exchanging reasons and arguments. At some point you will suddenly discover, you’ll be in the midst of it before you realize what’s going on, that the two of you are thinking together. You’re not just exchanging reasons, you’re thinking together. Last night in our seminar, Professor West and I are teaching at Princeton, wonderful seminar, we have 18 terrific
Princeton undergraduates, just brilliant young men and women. We were examining the work
of the French existentialist, Christian thinker, Gabriel Marcel. And Marcel talks about the
relationality of human beings, and the importance of tolerance, and the importance of dialogue. But then he talks about another level that goes beyond simply,
in a friendly way, exchanging ideas, and he
calls this, communion. Communion. We human beings should go beyond friendship to communion. When you are no longer just exchanging reasons and arguments, as beneficial as that
is to each other right, to the common project. When you go beyond that to the point where you’re thinking together. Thinking together doesn’t
mean agreeing necessarily. It means thinking together
about the project. Pushing each other
along about the project. Thinking together in a way that gets you on the same trajectory even if you don’t, in the end, end up at the same place. That is communion. And it’s a rare thing,
but an important thing for human beings to reach
that kind of communion.>>Brother West.>>Absolutely. Well first I just wanna say
that I’m so blessed to be here. That this day has been a very special day at Biola University, is one of the best kept secrets in the country in terms of the quality faculty,
and the quality students, and the depth of the conviction. Anytime I get a chance to be in dialogue with brother Robbie, Professor George it’s always a joy. I have a very deep love for my brother, that we’ve been through hell
and high water together. [laughter]>>Robert: It’s true.>>We’re two of the, two
highly misunderstood, misconstrued brothers in the country [laughter]>>Robert: That’s so true.>>That was truth. It’s very, and it’s true. We’ve got deep disagreements
and we struggle it out. But it’s always in the context of love. And let me, my dear brother
Warren in the flesh, it’s just a beautiful thing to see you and salute the ways in
which you and sister Kay have been such forces
for good here and around, around the world. Still full of fire. Wanna salute the captain of the ship, President Barry Corey, the two brothers who picked
us up at the airport, brother Matthew, and our dear brother, what’s our dear brother, [laughter] Paul.>>Oh Paul.>>How could I forget Paul. [laughter and applause] Professor Matthew Wright
and Professor Paul Spears. But I do wanna say this, that I wanna begin on a note of piety, because I think that in our very dark and bleak moment in the
cold and cruel world in which we find ourselves, and our fundamental attempt to be in the world and not of it, ought to begin with an acknowledgment of the sources of good in our lives. I am who I am because somebody loved me. Somebody cared for me. Somebody attended to me. And what are the ways in which I can build on what has been given to me, as gift horizontally, as gift vertically, grace, to keep alive that
tradition because I come, you were listenin’ to John
Coltrane when you came in. And I hope it wasn’t
just background music. [laughter] ‘Cause John Coltrane is a part, and a voice, and a figure
in one of the greatest traditions in the modern world. Which is a musical
tradition that in the face of catastrophe mustered the courage to bear witness to compassion. In the face of being
terrorized for 400 years decides not to terrorize others, but fight for freedom for everybody. As Frederick Douglas says, so learn the truth as John
Coltrane and as Curtis Mayfield, as Aretha Franklin, as Erykah Badu, as Toni Morrison, James Baldwin. We can just call the roll as it were. And it’s a human tradition. But it’s one that I have been blessed to be a part of, not simply because I showed up in a particular family, that West family that’s
nothin’ but a love caravan. [laughter] I wish you could meet my father. I’ll never be one half of
the human being he was. And then on the Shiloh Baptist church on the chocolate side of
Sacramento, California. Willie P. Cooke Caravan of Love as well. Well, we live in a moment, probably the most
commodified, commercialized, marketized culture in
the history of the world. Every nook and cranny shot
through with obsession with money making and profit taking. 30 years ago that was not the case. We are still the same human beings, with the same ugly proclivities, but just less gas in our spiritual tanks in the present moment. Spiritual malnutrition
is much more pervasive. And by spiritual malnutrition I’m not just talkin’ about an emptiness of soul, but I’m talkin’ about and indifference to the suffering of others. A callousness to those
who are catching hell. Great rabbi Abraham Joshua
Heschel used to say, “Indifference to evil is more
insidious than evil itself.” Or William James, probably the greatest, most lovable, and adorable of all the public intellectuals in
America in the last 200 years, he say, “Indifference is the one trait “that makes the very angels weep.” It’s the very opposite of what it is to follow the way of the cross, as opposed to the dominate
ways of the world. And so anytime we talk about civility I wanna begin on a spiritual note and talk about a piety. And by piety I’m not talkin’
about blind acceptance. I’m talkin’ uncritical
deference to doctrine or dogma. I’m talkin’ about a way of life in which you acknowledge those
sources of good in your life, the wind at your back, so you remember so you can
revere something bigger than you, and you have the courage to resist in the name of familiar kingdom of God, a beloved community. But even if you’re not Christian, there’s some other good
things to fight for. Love, democracy, freedom, and so on. But we never wanna lose
sight of the specificity of our Christian identity
and Christian faith. And what is that specificity. One, the quest for unarmed
truth and unconditional love. But it’s always a fallible quest. And that unarmed truth, the condition of truth is
to allow suffering to speak, 25th chapter of Matthew,
the least of these. The elderly, the children, the widow, the fatherless, the motherless, the physically challenged, the poor, the workers, gay brothers, lesbian
sisters pushed to the side. Any group of human beings that our society easily loses sight of their humanity and forgets, even if only for a moment, that they’re each individual made in the likeness and the image of God. But also, not just that unarmed truth, but unconditional love. And I think one of the
saddest features of our day, is American culture is more and more beginning to look like
a Hamlet like condition. And Hamlet as you know, is the most sophisticated, philosophical protagonist in all of modern literature. Written by the greatest
borrowed in the English that most of, the language that many of us dream in, Shakespeare. [laughter] I know we’ve got some
Spanish brothers and sisters, so I don’t wanna be culturally
imperialist about this. [laughter] If you’re dreamin’ in
the language of Cervantes that’s a beautiful thing too. [laughter] That’s beautiful too. Oh yeah. The language of Gerber
in German or whatever. But the important thing is, Hamlet suffers from the inability to love. And Dostoevsky in The
Brothers Karamazov says, “Hell is defined by those who suffer “from the inability to love.” Well American culture more and more becomes a joyless quest for pleasure, insatiable pleasure,
never get enough of it, endless, bottomless, and the inability to really
be committed to love. Because love is a form of death. And you have to learn how to die in order to learn how to love. That’s why the New Testament says what, Christians must die daily. Die daily. When a culture’s joyless
quest for pleasure is a denial of death, that’s why we can easily deny those locked in a social death. We can deny those locked into civic death. Those wrestling with psychic death, spiritual death. We were talkin’ before about wrestling with the issue of mental illness and you and Kay have been
magnificent in your courage. I’ve been prayin’.>>Thank you man.>>Magnificent in your courage. But the ways in which it’s so easy to lose sight of the precious humanity of those wrestling with
the mental illness. I mean I’ve been to jail so many times, and at least one out of three of the brothers and sisters in my cell are wrestling with mental illness. And unable to get medication. And they tend to stay
in there longer than me. And I stay in there long enough. [laughter] I’m ready to go, I’m ready to get out. [laughter] But in talking about, disagreement we’re not just talking about something political, we’re not just talkin’
about even something civil, we’re talkin’ about
something spiritual, you see. Something profoundly spiritual. And for Christians it is
inescapably spiritual, you see. And in the end of course, it’s an acknowledgement of having a hermeneutical humility. And an intellectual humility. Acknowledging that you could be wrong, and there’s a good chance
that you are at times wrong. But you’re still willin’
to stand in your truth, and try to speak your truth, and opt for a deep integrity, rather than a cheap popularity. [applause] Because so oftentimes in America, to be popular is to be
well adjusted to injustice.>>Audience Member: Oh!>>See that’s not the kind of popularity Christians ought to be interested in. To be popular being well
adapted to indifference, that’s not the kind of popularity Christians ought to be interested in. The benchmark of the
Christian way of life, of the way of the cross, is there go some of those strange folk who look like they’re fools
in the eyes of the world, who are still tryin’ to
love against the grain, knowing that justice is what
love looks like in public. Just like tenderness is what
love feels like in private. And you say, oh, those
are those strange ones. That’s the way it was in
the early church wasn’t it. Those are those strange ones
still talkin’ about love. Obsessed with that
Palestinian Jew named Jesus who was enacting, embodying that love. You say, yes, that’s
right, you got it right. That’s right, you got it right. That’s what we’re about. So in that sense I do wanna begin on that pietistic note
and that spiritual note. Because all in I think Reinhold Niebuhr put it so well when he said, “Any justice “that’s only justice soon degenerates “into something that’s less than justice.”>>Robert: Good point.>>Justice must be rescued by something much more deeper than
justice, which is love. Love of truth, love of neighbor, and familiar love of enemy. And we won’t go into that now, but I think that’s very, very important. ‘Cause it means then even your foe is part of the human family, and in some ways an extension
of your own humanity. Because for most of us, I know in my case, that I was a gangster before I met Jesus, and now I’m a redeemed sinner
with gangster proclivities. [laughter]>>Yeah that’s it. [laughter and applause]>>Pray for me, pray for me. [laughter]>>You know, I knew moderating
this was gonna be easy. [laughter] I had all these questions here, I have a hundred questions just on just what you guys just talked about. You know when you talked, you we’re sayin’ about,
with gangster proclivity, one of the things, we have a program in our
church that was started in Saddleback called Celebrate Recovery. And it is a Christian 12
step based on the beatitudes. And one of the things that makes it different from Alcoholics Anonymous, is at Alcoholics Anonymous you stand up, and for 40 years, you may not
have had a drink in 40 years, you’ll stand up and say, “Hi, I’m Joe, and I’m an alcoholic.” You’re making your primary
identity with your weakness. We don’t allow people to do
that in Celebrate Recovery. We stand up and say, “Hi, my name is Joe, and I’m a follower “of Jesus who struggles with alcohol.” Big difference.>>Cornel: Absolutely.>>My primary identity is not in my sin, and it’s not in my weakness. It’s in my relationship to Christ. Now, was that good or what? What these guys just said. I mean thank you all, God bless
you, have a great evening. We’ll see you later.
[laughter and applause] Alright that was just unbelievable. Wow. I really have a lot of questions. But let’s just forget these questions, and let me ask you this, [laughter] Robbie talked all about truth. And Cornel talked all about love. Let’s talk about the interplay
between these two things.>>Cornel: Mm.>>Robert: Oh yeah.>>Okay, lets just talk the, okay, because I’m thinkin’ here, my mind is just reelin’, I’m thinkin’, there’s a verse in Isaiah where it says, “Truth is dying in the streets.”>>Yes, yes.>>”Truth is dying in the streets. And I know we all believe that. Truth is dying, but there’s
also a verse over in Timothy where it says, that in the last days, “men will be lovers of pleasure, “lovers of selves more
than lovers of God.” We know that’s true too. Now the Bible tells us that Jesus was full of grace and truth. He’s the only ever one
that had this balance. Full of grace, and full of truth. And Ephesians tells us to
speak the truth, and love. So I want you to both, and don’t give me a slogan answer. Go ahead and go deep on this. Where do you see the interplay
between truth and love. Because some people use
love to fudge on the truth. And some people use truth
in a very unloving way. So let’s talk about that.>>Well number one, we’ve gotta be serious about what the truth is about love. We have to have the true
understanding of what love is. We, look, sometimes intellectual historians divide up the epochs
and put names on them. So sometimes the medieval period is called the age of faith. And the enlightenment period
is called the age of reason. Well if the medieval
period is the age of faith, and the enlightenment
period is the age of reason, what age do we live in? We live in the age of feeling. The age of feeling. Feeling is the touchstone of everything. The measure of everything. And what do we do with the concept of love in the age of feeling? We reinterpret, we retranslate
love into a feeling. Love is a matter of feeling, and love is a matter of
respecting people’s feelings. Or stroking people. Or making people feel good. Because feeling is the
touchstone of everything. Well whatever that is, that’s not the Christian
understanding of love. Christian love is not a matter of feeling. It’s a matter of volition. It is the active willing of the good of the other for the sake of the other. And I’ll tell you something. That makes it hard to love. If it’s just a matter of
feeling, that’s not so hard. Well with some people it’s hard. But you know, it’s hard
to love some people, ’cause you can’t feel
very good about them. But it kinda makes it
easy on us to just treat, bein’ nice to everybody,
and strokin’ everybody, and sayin’ oh yeah, I’m okay, you’re okay. Remember that book I’m Okay, You’re Okay. Not exactly the purpose driven life. You know, put very well known
[laughter] books sold a lot of copies.>>I’m not okay, and you’re not okay. But that’s okay, ’cause
God says we’re okay.>>And we’re in big trouble. [laughter] So once we understand
the truth about love, we understand that loving is a lot harder that you think it is because sometimes love involves tough love. And this is where disagreement again comes into the picture. Because when we disagree with people sometimes we have to
tell them hard truths. We have to be open, as
brother Cornel said, to the possibility that we’re wrong and in need of revising our view, maybe we need to hear a hard truth comin’ from the other side, but sometimes we need
to deliver hard truths, when it would be easier to say nothing. Or to go along with whatever the trends in the culture are, a culture that is, as Cornel says, loves
pleasure and prestige, and status, and these fleeting things. Or it’d be easier just to stroke people and say, I’m okay, you’re okay, or certainly you’re okay
whether I am okay or not. But that’s not loving people. And sometimes we really
have to deliver a message. Now sometimes when Christians say, well look I’ve gotta
speak the truth in love, but I do have to speak the truth, other people will respond
to that by saying, you Christians are just
guilty of prejudice. And you hide your
prejudice behind the idea that you should hate the
sin and love the sinner. They wanna tell us that
by rejecting the sin we are rejecting the sinner. And we’re all too often so intimidated, or so unwilling to bear the
consequences of truly loving, because it really is
hard, that we go silent. Or even capitulate. But that’s not love. What our obligation in
those situations is to do, is to say, no matter what you call me, no matter what the
consequences are for me, I am going to speak the truth in love. And I’m gonna speak the
truth because I love you. If I tell you, you
shouldn’t be doing that. You shouldn’t be going down that road. If I criticize your
ideology because I think that ideology is destructive and contrary to human wellbeing,
contrary to your wellbeing, you are gonna be called names. I’m gonna be called names if I do that. But that’s what speaking the truth in love really is all about. It means getting, first of all, to the truth about what love is. It’s not being a feeling. And then the responsibilities that come with truly loving, which can be really hard
because it can bring the wrath of the culture, the dominant power in the
culture down upon you. But that’s what we’re called to do. I mean Jesus didn’t say, come and follow me and
you’re gonna be really rich. Come and follow me, you’re
gonna be really popular. Come and follow me, and man, things are gonna go good for you.>>He said, “if they hate
me, they’re gonna hate you.”>>That’s right, and he said, “If you wanna be my disciple, “take up your cross and follow me.” Now what does that actually mean? In practice? That means being willing to
take the slings and arrows that come with other people thinking really badly of you
because you’re out of touch with the dominant ideology of the time. But still we’ve gotta do it. Can I tell a little story on Cornel since I have the microphone?>>You know he’s often called the prophet. Which is someone called
to speak the truth.>>You know but I’m not a prophet. I am a, my momma’s child, and daddy’s kid. That’s all. [laughter]>>You got the prophet the non prophet– [laughter]>>I gotta tell a Cornel
story since he told about how many times he went to jail. [laughter] So I was elected Chairman
of the US Commission on Religious Freedom, but
this is not a story about me. And I was gonna be sworn
in by Chief Justice Roberts at the US Supreme Court
in the marble temple. It’s magnificent. I invited my family. It was a wonderful honor
and opportunity for me. But I, since this was gonna
be a human rights job, chairing the commission, I wanted my dear friend
and brother Cornel West to come and hold the Bible
for me when I was sworn in. And I wanted a proper Bible. So I asked, and they
graciously granted my request. I asked the people at
the Harriet Tubman house, in Auburn, New York to let me borrow Harriet Tubman’s Bible for brother Cornel to hold for me to be sworn in on. Well that’s not what the story is. Now we get to the story. [laughter]>>Richard: Sorry you’re times up. Go ahead Cornel. [laughter]>>We’re walkin’ up the
steps to the marble temple. Of course they’ve got a good
deal of security around there. And one of the guards looks over at one of the police officers, looks over at Cornel, gives him the look. And I’m thinkin’ to myself,
what’s goin’ on here? And Cornel looked over at me and he said, “You know, brother Robbie, “this is the first time I’ve ever been “to the Supreme Court where I wasn’t “comin’ here to be arrested.” [laughter]>>That’s true, that’s true.>>Richard: That was speakin’ the truth.>>That’s right.>>Richard: Speakin’ the truth.>>He was there as an honored
guest of the Chief Justice. We had a wonderful time in the chambers. We had a beautiful ceremony. We got photographed with
Harriet Tubman’s Bible. It doesn’t get better than that. That was great.>>And the fact that it
was tied to Brother Robbie keeping track of precious human beings, be they Muslim, be they Jews, be they Christian, be they Baha’i faith, and others who are wrestling
very vicious persecution, and how do you keep track of them. But for me, when you talk
about love and truth though, it has so much to do with courage. And we used to sing
this song in my church, must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free, know there’s a cross for everyone, and there’s a cross for me. And you can’t talk about that cross unless you’re talkin’
about unbelievable courage. And you see, we live in a culture, a superficial spectacle where people are more and more
convinced that the highest level of attainment is to be
smart and have big dollars. And the worst thing in the world is to aspire to be simply the
smartest person in the room. [audience member laughs] Let the phone be smart, you outta be wise, [laughter] compassionate, courageous. But in a market driven culture, courage has to generate
some short term gain, or some short term pay, or
it’s held at arms length. You see. And so you really can’t talk
about telling the truth, unless you’re willing to be courageous. I mean the greatest
modern Christian thinker in my view, was Soren Kierkegaard. He said to be a Christian is to do what? “to live dangerously.” See most Christians wanna be safe. They want security. You see it’s blessed assurance,
it’s not blessed security. [laughter]>>Good line. I’m gonna Tweet that. [laughter]>>But it’s very important.>>They’ve already done it.>>They’ve already done it, that’s right.>>It’s not rational certainty,
it’s blessed assurance. You’re standin’ on the promises not, not premises. Not logical premises, not
geographical premises. So you gotta be free
enough to be courageous, to be led and to learn how to die. To learn how to die is to what? Critically examine yourself. It could be Socratic, it could
be prophetic, or whatever. To render yourself accountable
to the higher standards in the same way John Coltrane, he’s rendering himself
accountable to Johnny Hodges, Charlie Parker, and he
knows he can’t aspire, he can’t go beyond them. They’re the higher standards. And yet what does he do? He creates new levels in his standards because he’s critically examining himself. He’s learning how to die in
order to learn how to love, and gives us, Love Supreme. Deep. [laughter] Not me, Coltrane. Not Coltrane, the tradition. Not just the tradition, the best of what it is to be human. Black people have no monopoly on it, but when you’ve been
wresting with social death, and civic death, and psychic
death, and spiritual death for 400 years, and hated so intensely, you can teach the world
somethin’ about love, if you are courageous. Thank you Martin King. Thank you Stevie Wonder. Thank you Fannie Lou Hamer. Right now, the moment in Baltimore. Rage, catastrophe. How will the rage be filtered? Through love and justice,
or hatred and revenge? Crucial question. Not just for black people. Not just for Baltimore. For America. And without that courage,
then the love and the truth is suspended, and what kicks in? The ways of the world. Hatred, revenge, envy, resentment, domination, oppression, exploitation, the same old story that the
cross was trying to interrupt. [audience murmurs] The cross trying to disrupt. Brother Oscar Owens knows what I’m talkin’ about for West Angeles. We’ve been talkin’ about
this in Union Seminary for 35 years with James
Washington and others. Same story, but new
circumstances, new conditions. And I thank God we’ve
got a younger generation who are just tired of the obsession with smartness and dollars. They want something deeper. [applause] They want something more real. They want something more livable. They want a stronger armor. The sixth chapter of Ephesians is no joke. [laughter] You’ve gotta thicken that armor. Put it on. Get on the battlefield. And love. And learn how to die. And then offer it all to the glory of God ’cause it’s not about you, it’s not about your ego. It’s about somethin’ much, much grander. That’s it, it’s a mystery.>>What marcel calls–>>Exactly it is a mystery.>>In other words not
a problem to be solved. It’s something to be entered into, and explored more and more deeply. It can’t be exhausted. It’s not like, you know figuring out whether the planet Pluto
exists or doesn’t exist. That’s a problem. Scientists put their mind to the problem, they use the technology they have, to solve the problem, does
it exist or not exist. The important questions
about leading a human life, what it means to be a human being are not problems that can be solved. Too much of modern thought
is premised on the idea that the great existential questions are problem to be solved.>>Richard: Good question.>>Ultimately to be
solved by the application of therapeutic methods. We live not only in an age of feeling, but an age that tries to transform existential, spiritual issues into therapeutic problems.
>>Personal fulfillment.>>Yeah, exactly.>>And the tremendous
authority of science, and the fetishizing of technology.>>Which is not to say that
science is a bad thing. No science is a good thing. Not saying technology is a bad thing. Technology’s a good thing. But technology is not
gonna give you salvation. Science is not gonna give you salvation. It’s not going to answer the deepest longings of the human heart. And when we think it will, we are just setting ourselves up for a profound disappointment,
alienation and cynicism.>>You’ve both quoted, “Deny
yourself take up the cross.”>>Yes, yes.>>Which is the exact opposite
of what society teaches. In those days nobody took up the cross, unless the Roman’s were
gonna nail ’em to it.>>Robert: Yeah, I know.>>He’s saying come and die. In fact, it’s interesting, the very first words of
Jesus, in his public ministry, are three words, “Come and see.” “Come and see.” Jesus goes out to the Jordan river. He’s baptized. The next day he goes out
to the Jordan river again. John turns to two of his
disciples, Andrew and John, and says, “There goes the
lamb of God, follow him.” And Andrew asks the first question of Jesus in his public ministry. He said, “Where you going Lord?” And Jesus gives a simple question, answer, “Come and see.”>>Cornel: “Come and see.”>>Now that’s about a low level a commitment as you can get.>>Robert: Yeah, “Come and see.”>>You don’t have to check, sing anything, sign anything, sacrifice
anything, just come and see.>>Cornel: Just come and see.>>And that’s where we start with people. But we don’t leave them there. We move, the whole
business of sanctification, the whole business of spiritual formation is moving people from come
and see, to come and die. Which is what you were talkin’ about. Now I wanna go back to this issue, ’cause both of you, both
talked about humility. And being humble in our, the fact that we might not be right. I believe in the inerrancy of scripture. I do not believe in the
inerrancy of my interpretations. [murmurs and clapping] Now I could be, I could get
those wrong, on occasions. So how does, let’s go to
humility and civility, and put those things together. I think humility is maybe one of the most misunderstood character qualities. A lot of people think humility means goin’ around puttin’ yourself down. Oh, I’m nothin’, I’m no
good, I’m nothin’, I’m junk. Jesus did not die for junk. You wanna know how valuable
you are, look at the cross.>>Cornel: That’s right.>>Jesus did not die for junk. You are deeply flawed,
but you are very valuable. You are deeply flawed,
and you are a sinner and I’m a sinner.>>Yeah, we’re lowly, dust of the earth, yet made in the image and likeness of the divine creator and
ruler of the universe. Both of those are true.>>So let’s talk about humility. I think humility is not
denying your strengths. Humility is being honest
about your weaknesses. And Paul says, “Follow
me as I follow Christ.” But he says, “I’m the
chief among sinners.” And he could be very honest
about saying, “Follow me.” because he was also very honest about all the stuff he did wrong. And he writes it down for posterity. So talk to me about how humility
and civility go together. Both of you. Cornel, why don’t we start with you.>>Yeah I start off reflecting on humility as a response to an ontological condition. And what I mean by that is, we are the kind of beings
who are crack vessels. We are the kind of beings
who are fallen and finite, and therefore it’s on the one hand, just an acknowledgement of the sheer facticity of who we are. So people who run around thinking somehow, that they’re entitled, and
have assets or something because they’re better,
they’re not just arrogant, but they’re living a lie. And therefore, they’re in denial. I mean look at, for example, the legacy of white supremacy, or we could talk about any other, anti Jewish, anti Arab, anti Muslim, ideologies, or anti women, or whatever. But let’s just look at the
legacy of white supremacy. It is an ideology that
tries to convince persons that somehow they’re better,
and superior than others, and it’s just not true. Now of course, it’s alive. But it’s a lie. You see, it can operate. But it’s just not true. You’re living a life of
mendacity in that sense. So what Christianity comes along and says, is I’m gonna remind you
from whence you come. Made in the image and
likeness of God, elevated. Sanctity. We say dignity now, but
that comes from the stoics, of the pagan brothers and sisters. [laughter] But for Christians it’s sanctity. And we’re trying to sanctify the world to the degree to which this kingdom of God can work through us as crack vessels. And at the same time, an acknowledgement that we can’t do it alone. We gonna need a whole lot of help, a lotta aid, a lotta grace.>>Yeah.>>And hence the humility.>>Well that’s that verse where Paul says, “work out your salvation
with fear and trembling, “for it is God who works in you.” Now notice it doesn’t say
work for your salvation. It says, work out. When I go to a gym, I’m not goin’ to get, to create muscle, I’m goin’ to strengthen the muscle that God gave me. I didn’t get that muscle as a gift. So work out means develop what you got. So while you’re workin’
out, God is workin’ in. That’s what you’re saying.>>Cornel: That’s nice. [laughter]>>You could Tweet that one, ’cause I’m gonna Tweet yours. [laughter] You know I always say, the first time you quote
something, you say, “Now, Rick says,” then the second time you use it says, “It’s been said.” [laughter] And then the third time you use it, say, “You know, I’ve always thought.” [laughter] If you use it three times, it’s yours man. [laughter]>>No but it’s gettin’ at the truth.>>Well to relate to the humility virtue to the main subject matter of
this evening’s conversation, intellectual humility, I would say that the key to that really is recognizing our fallibility. Understanding that though
we are rational creatures we’ve been endowed with this remarkable, literally God like gift
of reason, of rationality, our reason is imperfect. Theologians call this the consequence, or the noetic consequences of sin. That sin not only weakens our
will to do the right thing, it darkens the intellect. As a natural law theorist
it pains me to admit that. But it is actually, it is actually, actually true, yeah, [cross talk] Well it’s somewhere–>>You heard if first right here. [laughs]>>So we have to recognize that
we are of fallen creatures, and that we can be mistaken about things. But let me tell you what
intellectual humility in the current context is not. It’s not supposing that, I must yield or bow, give up my own judgment
about right or wrong, or good or bad, or true of
false, or just or unjust, to bring myself into
line with the dominant ideology of the secular culture. That’s not intellectual humility. I don’t know what that is. That’s conformism. That’s going along to get along. Or getting along to go along. It’s not what intellectual humility is. Intellectual humility
recognizes fallibility, and so it’s willing to
enter into conversation, into dialogue with somebody
who’s got some reasons to give against your view, or
against your interpretation. Now that applies to people
when we’re interacting with people who’ve got a secular argument against Christianity, to an
atheist who wants to engage us. We should be listening to him. We are fallible. We could be wrong about the God question. I said that at Biola. We could be wrong about the God question. I don’t think we are actually.>>Richard: I’d bet my life we’re not.>>We’re all bettin’ our
lives that we’re not. But we need to be willing to listen and not just sit respectfully and listen. But actually hear what somebody, who will actually defend the secular, or atheistic point of view. Listen to what he has to say, think about the credibility
of what he’s saying, and then say what we have
to say in response to that. Now those are two very different things. Actually listening and trying to learn, and being open to the possibility
you’re wrong is one thing. Just capitulating to get yourself in line with cultural orthodoxies
is another thing altogether. That is not intellectual humility.>>Well that’s, that’s also the new terminology, the new definition of tolerance. Tolerance used to mean,
I treat you with respect and dignity even if I
totally disagree with you. I will treat you with respect and dignity, and as Cornel said, you’re
made in God’s image, and I’m gonna treat you
with that kind of value. Today tolerance, for
a lot of people means, all ideas are equally valid. Well that’s nonsense. The person who says the
moon is made of cheese, and the other one says
the moon’s made of rock, are not equally valid ideas. All ideas are not equally valid, and that’s what you’re saying, is that humility is not saying, well whatever you wanna just believe.>>Yeah that’s right. I mean even when it comes to the interpretation of scripture. Scripture does require interpretation. And you’re right, we may believe that the
scripture’s telling the truth, but we can’t be absolutely certain that we’re interpreting
the scripture correctly, which means we have to be
in dialogue with each other, and with–>>Richard: And with the church.>>With others. We need the church, exactly right. But, if we are driven to a
particular interpretation of scripture, not by anything
internal to the scripture, or the Christian tradition itself, or in virtue of the correct use of the philosophical
tools that are available to us to bring to bear to interpret more accurately what has been said. But rather, again, if we’re being driven to a particular interpretation ’cause that will get us in line with a secular cultural orthodoxy, that whatever that is,
it’s not Christianity. It’s simply deforming the witness of the church to make it conform, so we can hang onto the
consolations of Christian faith, such as they are, without having to actually witness to the Christian faith which is a scandal to the world and always has been. [audience member clapping]>>Cornel.
>>I mean part of the problem>>Has been though, this
is where I wanna defend my secular brothers and sisters, that we needed the pluralizing, and secularizing of public discourse because so much of the record
of institutional religion has been one of intolerance, if not outright persecution. So that the secular folk had,
[applause] and we gotta keep in mind,
most of those secular folk came through religious traditions, came through Christian’s traditions, were taught to love the truth, and discovered, lo and behold, the churches are less interested
in the truth than power, because they had adjusted
themselves to monarchs. They had adjusted themselves
to elites at the top. Whereas Jesus had just told
them to be love struck. Period. Not color blind. Not concerned about
what your politics are. Not concerned about what
your sexual orientation is. Not concerned about what nation you are. You supposed to just love these folk. You say, wow. That’s serious. Now that means,
[laughing] that means in a broader
sense that all of us are gonna be failures
because you gonna have institutional expressions of this that reinforce, not just hierarchy, but power, domination, and so forth. So the secular folk had to
come along and say look, we gotta create a public space where people can enter with respect and without humiliation
because these state churches, and these institutional
religious practices don’t create this public space. That’s what liberalism was. Now I’m not a liberal. But I appreciates the
insights of liberalism, visa vie kings, and monarchs,
and visa vie state churches. The American revolution was what? An attempt to ensure a pluralism in public life, and public discourse, for religious, non religious, for Mormons, for agnostics, and so forth and so on. That was an achievement in the species. The problem of course, was that it was also tied
to empire and imperialism. It mistreated indigenous peoples. It enslaved Africans. It reinforced patriarchal households, oppresses sisters of all colors. But it still created this space. And then we have to become, we have to build on being love struck.>>Richard: Yeah, yeah.>>As we connect to those
issues of patriarchy, and racism, and imperialism,
and so on you see.>>But two points about that.>>Would you accept that
formulation brother–>>If you’ll allow me a distinction.>>Okay, okay.>>Let me tell you what
the distinction is. There’s a distinction between
a secular public sphere that is a civil public sphere in which all citizens can
enter on terms of equality, and vie for the allegiance
of their fellow citizens. And then there is secularism, which is a world view, a pseudo religion that competes with the great traditions of faith and other secular systems. The trouble with our dear
secular brothers and sisters, and we work with them everyday, and we love them as we must as Christians. And many of them are quite lovable, and so it’s not too difficult. The trouble is–>>Cornel: And some of them are very wise.>>They’re not proposing,
in so many cases, a secular and civil public square, but rather the establishment
of secularism as the governing public philosophy of the United States.>>I’m critical of that.>>And the record of secularism, and we as Christians should
be the first to criticize the flaws, and the errors
of Christian history, of the sins committed
>>Of our own past. In the name of the church,
by officials of the church, by Christians ourselves.
>>absolutely. We should be the first. But let’s not deceive
ourselves into thinking that the record of secularism is pure. The record of secularism
>>oh no. is horrific.
>>Oh no. It gave is fascism. It gave us communism. It gave us eugenics. It was the great and the good. It was the leaders of the
powerful corporations, of the great foundations,
even the mainline churches, that embraced the dogmas of eugenics. Expressed by no less
an establishment figure than Oliver Wendell Holmes
in his famous opinion, in Buck against Bell upholding the mandatory sterilization
of an allegedly feeble woman minded woman
under a Virginia law on the theory that three
generations of imbeciles is enough. That wasn’t Christians that were embrace, at least it wasn’t
traditionalist Christians that were embracing that. Although too many
Christians of the mainline fell in line with it. It was the secular liberal elite that went for it hook line and sinker, and didn’t abandon it until
Hitler gave it a bad name. And guess what. It’s now comin’ back.
>>Cornel: Oh Lord it’s true. But in a different dress,
in a different rhetoric, in the language of our
autonomy, and choice, and liberty and so forth.
[applause] So we have to be very careful.>>Oh absolutely, absolutely. And if we look at all of these traditions as human traditions, and we know, they’re gonna have some ugly undersides and some nice sides.
>>That’s exactly right. But let’s, but let,
>>but that’s why>>We always have to be open to argument.>>Let’s look at one figure who sits atop much of what we’re talking about, and that’s the great Anton Chekhov. Now Chekhov is in some ways secular, because he’s agnostic. He’s a medical doctor. Tending to the poor during the day, and writing some of the greatest plays. I’m told you’re gonna have
The Seagull here May the 8th. I wish I could be here. But I will be here in spirit
for that Chekhov play. But, he goes through the
Russian orthodox church. He fundamentally committed to the notion, condemnation of non forgiveness for all. There’s probably more in Chekhov’s corpus than there are in many churches.>>Robert: I agree with that.>>In terms of love. But he can’t accept the
Christian consolation, even though he’s fundamentally, not just committed, he enacts and embodies the Christian compassion. He goes to church on Sundays. He’s moved by the passion. And he simply says, it’s
too beautiful to be true. So he’s got a deep Christian
sensibility you see. He reminds me of Simone Weil.>>Robert: Simone Weil, that’s right, the great French thinker. That’s right.
>>That’s right.>>She’s a Jesafile. She’s in love with Jesus,
but she can’t accept Christ.>>In the end she, everyone wonders, and she
doesn’t accept baptism.>>She will not,
>>in love with Jesus, She goes right to the edge,
>>And doesn’t accept baptism. In that sense. So is Chekhov then in some sense secular? Yes. Does he represent so much
of the great insights of our own tradition in terms of love. Yes, he gets out of Christian churches, Russian orthodox version right. And he exemplifies levels of humility, truth telling, acknowledgement
of his own fallibility. And of course such a great writer. [cross talk]>>Believe and point
out, even the secularism in our society today had Christian roots. And we’ve got this cut flower syndrome, where you cut off the roots. Flower looks good for awhile, but it’s eventually gonna go. You know, liberalism–>>Robert: It’s invading the capitol.>>Liberalism has changed in its meaning. When I was a kid, liberalism would say to our government as
we were going overseas, don’t impose western
values on other cultures. Let them be there own. That would be classic liberalism. Okay, don’t impose our values. Now because I’m in the PEACE Plan, because I’ve been in dozens, and dozens, and dozens, dozens of countries, I’ve seen it now where the
government is saying to people, we’re not gonna give you aid unless you agree with us on abortion, and on all these other
issues that they’ve got. And now they’re,
>>Robert: Homosexuality. They are imposing their values. It’s the exact opposite of
what it was 50 years ago.>>No, that’s absolutely true. And you’re right that we are depleting the capital that was built up by Judeo Christian civilization. We’re not paying anything in. We’re just living off the capital. And I think in the long term
that’s really quite scary. Even in the medium term,
that’s really quite scary. But I think, Professor
West is absolutely right to bring Chekhov into this. And what we’ve got in Chekhov is not a sort of standard
issue, liberal secularist at all of the sort that
we would recognize today. We’ve got a man with a prof… And a great genius, an artistic genius with a profound Christian sensibility. I think it would be fair to say, tell me if you would agree with it. I think it would be fair to say that the following proposition is true. No Christianity, no Chekhov. Without Christianity
>>oh that’s true. There could not be Chekhov,
and the contributions of Chekhov.
>>Of Chekhov. So the make–>>Chekhov knew the difference
between hope and optimism.>>Yes he did.>>Yeah.
>>Yeah.>>That’s a big deal.>>And in some sense the Blue’s idiom was the idiom of the 20th century. It was the most barbaric, and beastly, and brutal of all recorded time. 150 million fellow precious
human beings killed. And the blues that was created
by black folk in America. Not just the music,
the idiom, catastrophe, catastrophe, catastrophe,
whatcha gonna do about it. Will it be compassion? Will it be wisdom? Will it be revenge, hatred? Chekhov is a poet of catastrophe. But he situates it into everyday life. The misery of everyday life. But it is catastrophe. But it’s so much love coming in. But the difference between
Chekhov and the Blues is that the Blues is in
some sense still American.>>Hm.>>See we Americans, you
know, we romantic folk. It’s like that green light at the end of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s
great novel, The Great Gatsby. Gatsby still believed in the green light. [laugher] That’s America. Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow will be, just wait til tomorrow. We ascribe metaphysical status
to the future, to futurity. Whereas Chekhov was was not American. Even the Blues say, like,
get up in the mornin’, whether it’s bad but what, tomorrow morning will be better.>>Chekhov’s not saying the
sun’ll come out tomorrow.>>Exactly, he’s Russian, and that sense.>>On the other hand each [laughter and applause] each culture has its contribution to make. And God bless the Russian culture. It’s given us such magnificent
works of literature, and poetry, and drama, and so forth. But I think we’ve got our
contribution to make as well. And I wouldn’t want America
to give up that sense of hope. I would say hope more than optimism. When it degenerates to mere optimism it’s not worth anything.>>Optimism is psychological. Hope is theological.>>Robert: Hope is theological,
a theological virtue.>>Yeah.>>And it cannot really exist apart from the other theological virtues. Without love and faith, there is no hope. Just as without hope, there
can’t be love and faith.>>But most American
culture is about optimism. It’s not about hope.>>We’re gonna have to take some questions from the internet in just a minute. But I wanna ask one more of Cornel.>>Mm hm.>>’cause thins thing’s
called agree to disagree.>>Cornel: Absolutely.>>How do you define freedom? And what does freedom mean to you?>>How do I define freedom?>>Yeah, what does it mean to you. And take as much time as you need on that.>>It’s a wonderful question. See I think there is no
such thing as freedom without it being over
against some constraints. So that liberty does not
reduce the licentiousness. It’s just license in that way. But freedom for me, is so rooted in the, well put it this way, the early Karl Barth defined the Gospel as radical love, and freedom and radical freedom in love. So that I wouldn’t wanna define freedom independent of the love. And I wouldn’t wanna define freedom in just an individualistic mode you see. I would wanna define
freedom as us being, yes, individuals with a certain sanctity, but always against the matrix of family, community, tradition, and
then God, and kingdom.>>Okay so there’s some fundamental values that are holdin’ up freedom.>>Yeah, I mean–>>Well, love is not
really a value though. Love is a way of life,
a mode of existence. Value’s a little bit too
textbook like in that sense. It doesn’t cut deep enough. You know what I mean? That’s the existential point
in that sense though, yeah.>>Our founders talked
about ordered liberty. The American experiment
in republican government was an experiment in ordered liberty. And they drew precisely the distinction that brother Cornel drew
between liberty and license. License is the freedom
to do what you want, when you want, however you want, with whomever you want,
no matter the reason. Ordered liberty is
liberty morally ordered. Ordered to the good. Empowering us, enabling us,
removing the constraints in our way so that we can go out and accomplish our vocations, the things that we are called to do. The things that are fully in line with the integral
wellbeing of human beings. To pursue our own, say artistic ventures, or our political causes, our communion, our brotherhood together. It’s freedom for service,
for service really. So I think we have to bear
that understanding in mind. Now why did they call it an
experiment in ordered liberty? Or an experiment in republican government? It’s because past efforts, earlier efforts to form republics, to give
up authoritarian regimes, give up kings, give up strongmen, give up Cromwellian type
rulers had all failed. Had all failed. And the temptation was to think that human beings simply can’t
be governed by themselves. They can’t be governed
as republican citizens. They always have to be
subjected to government. So when the very first federalist paper, the publius, that’s the pseudonym, tells us that the real
question that this constitution that was being proposed places is, can human beings be governed
by reflection and choice, or is the fate of human beings always to be governed
by accident and force? They knew that question did
not have a definitive answer. And so they proposed a
constitution as an experiment to see what the answer would be. Like scientists doing an experiment to see what the answer would be. If the constitution survives, if we live by the constitution, if we maintain republican government, we will have proven that–>>And yet they divided the power because of the fallibility of man.>>Oh yes, if you look at
the 10th Federalist paper it’s all about how depraved human beings, you know, as a Southern
Baptist you’ll appreciate this. It’s all about how
depraved human beings are, therefore they can’t
be trusted with power. You need power to check power. Lincoln at Gettysburg, when
he reflects on the question, why did we do this, why
did we fight this war, why did we not simply
let the south secede? Why all this carnage and bloodshed, far more than anybody
except perhaps Sherman ever imagined it would be. The war has gone on longer
than anybody thought. The carnage has been more
astounded that anybody thought, as he’d say in the
second inaugural address. Well what was the reason? Here was the reason. To see, to establish, to
ensure that government of the people, by the
people, and for the people, all governments of the people right. But government by the
people, and for the people. In other words republican government, does not perish from what, the North American continent, no. From the earth. He was recalling the founders idea of an experiment in ordered liberty. We needed to pay the heavy cost, the terrible carnage of the war in order to ensure the republican
experiment could continue in the hope that it would be vindicated, and that we would show that government of the people, by the people,
for the people could endure. If it had failed, Lincoln feared, this is why he fought the war, if it failed here, because of secession leading to further secession, leading to a disintegration
of the American experiment, leading to an American Napoleon, if that happened the message for all time, in the indefinite future, that people across the
world would take from it, is that republican
government is a noble dream that can never work. We’re dependent on kings and authoritarian rulers and strongmen.>>But see this is where
though the thickness of evil and the darkness of history comes. ‘Cause even given the majestic words, and the magnificent
experiment in democracy that we associate with the USA. First, it’s on somebody else’s land. You see what I mean? It’s on somebody else’s land. So you got
[applause] an indigenous population
in that same constitution. Talk about savages and so forth and so on. Secondly, the slave issue that you don’t get in the US constitution. There’s no reference to
it, just the slave trade. So you got denial. And you end up fighting an
ugly, barbaric civil war over an institution not
invoked in your constitution.>>Richard: That’s goin’
back to not wantin’ to hurt their feelings in the south.>>It comes back you see. Now Lincoln, part of
the genius of Lincoln, and of course Lincoln was someone who was able to grow, because he was for sendin’ black folk out out of the country up until 1862. ‘Cause he just felt they
couldn’t live together. De Tocqueville makes the same point in the last chapter of the greatest text written on democracy in America. You see, this is how deep
white supremacy cuts. Lincoln was just honest about that. Like you say, his best friend
was a slave holder, right.>>Lincoln’s best friend
was a slave holder.>>Lincoln was just honest about that. And Lincoln just felt, look I love black folk,
but I got a lot of cousins. [laughter] And I know them very well, and I’m tellin’ ya what
they think about Negroes. So Lincoln’s just honest. And this is a man with one
year of formal education. So we want all the students here at this wonderful place to graduate. But Lincoln never went to college, but at least two went through him. That’s self education. Wisdom, Shakespeare, Bible. You see what I mean. That’s, we were just blessed to have him at that particular moment, when the country almost went under. But then what happens
after the death of Lincoln? Here comes slavery by
another name called Jim Crow. [audience member whistles]>>But were we not blessed
to have our founders? They were fallible, they were frail. They made terrible mistakes. Jefferson was a slave holder. Adams and Hamilton were profoundly against slavery of course. So it was a mix.>>Cornel: Washington.>>Washington owned slaves
but he freed them in his will. But aren’t we blessed by the experiment in ordered liberty that
our founders gave us? What if it didn’t happen?>>Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. I mean that’s part of
the dialectical tension. Because on the one hand their efforts did facilitate the
creation of a social order that was fallible, open to revision, with amendments and so forth. And that’s very important. And the checks and
balances, very important. But at the same time
the scope and the depth, the depth of the suffering that went on between 1789 and 1865. So you had this constitution that was a pro slavery document in practice, no matter what the words said, you see. All of that suffering, and we don’t calculate ’cause we’re not engaging in just the calculations, so that it’s, I do support the democratic
experiment called the USA. I just recognize that it was
also an adventure in empire. And I also recognize
that it was a night side that we continue to have to deal with all the way up to Baltimore.>>The compromise on slavery
made the constitution and the republic possible. That doesn’t mean we affirm slavery. Obviously we do not.>>Right.>>The people on the anti slavery side, on the racial justice side,
who agreed to the compromise, the Adams and the Hamiltons, others. Franklin eventually became a
strong opponent of slavery. He had owned a slave earlier in his life. Became an opponent.
>>Cornel: Yeah, yes, yes. Why did they make the compromise? Why were they willing to do it? Because they needed, they thought they needed to vindicate the
idea of republican government and they could do it in such
a way as to put slavery, in Lincoln’s words later, on the road to extinction. You know, there wasn’t the
option of immediate abolition. It was not an effective option. Those of us that work in
the pro life movement, Rick and I are involved in that, often people say, well look you know, America’s a bad place because it’s got such a terrible
record on abortion. We need to abolish abortion immediately. Well that’s not a practical reality. So some of us say, no no no. Let’s do the incremental steps. Let’s do the work step by step to roll back the abortion license just as Lincoln and the
other anti slavery people went step by step to roll back the institution of slavery. Sometimes you can’t have the
ideal just right here and now. But you gotta be moving
in the right direction. Putting in place a system of principles and institutions that
holds the most promise of justice down the road. I don’t think you disagree with that.>>Well no, I understand
what you’re sayin’, but you’re talking now
in prudential terms.>>Robert: Yeah.>>And we understand prudence
and practical wisdom, very important. But at the same time you
and I agree that still, this righteous indignation of what those who have to pay the cost of
that prudential compromise. And we both, we agree with that.>>Robert: I agree.>>Not think for example, think for example though, just briefly in American history, [applause] what if the 180,000 black soldiers did not join the union army? What if the confederacy had won? Then we’d said, well it’s 1789, we gotta move step by step, and sooner or later we movin’
in the right direction. But the confederacy won. So how many steps we gonna take down this long road before
black humanity is affirmed? You see what I mean? That’s also a perspective
that we have to wrestle with.>>But what’s the alternative? The question is always,
what’s the alternative? You know, what’s the better strategy? If we got the practical
goal of eliminating a great evil, slavery in it’s day, or what I believe abortion is in its day. If we have that goal we need the most practical strategy
that will get us there. Do you remember Douglas,
Frederick Douglas’ great tribute to Lincoln. Now Douglas wasn’t always
favorable toward Lincoln– [crosstalk]>>a slave I owned from Illinois after that first inauguration. That’s brother Douglas right there. That was brother Fred. [laughter]>>When Lincoln died.>>But he was talking
about Lincoln’s support of the fugitive slave act. Which was one of the most barbaric acts in the history of the country, and Lincoln supported it. But go right ahead..>>But when Lincoln died. [laughter] you’re makin’ it easy. When Lincoln died Douglas
paid tribute to him.>>Cornel: Yes, yes he did.>>He paid tribute to him, and I can’t quote the exact language, but I’ll give you the flavor of it. He said, reflecting on Lincoln’s career and his achievements, he said, from the pure abolition viewpoint, Lincoln was slow, dull, hesitant. Not moving forward as quickly
as we would have liked. And yet, judged from the point
of view of statesmanship, as we must judge him, Douglas said. Douglas came down on one
side of that question. Do we judge him from the pure
abolishion point of view, or from the statesmanship point of view? From the statesmanship point of view. He was swift, effective, determined. He was taking steps that would be the best steps available to put slavery on the road to extinction. John Brown was not going
to eliminate slavery.>>No but John Brown said, we got more than a problem, we got a catastrophe on our hands. That was his witness. Now unfortunately he was
killin’ innocent people. I think anybody who
kills innocent people–>>But that effort was
not gonna end slavery. If slavery was gonna end, it wasn’t gonna be by John
Brown inciting slavery.>>No but John Brown said, the only way you gonna
end slavery is bloodshed. And it turned out to be that.>>Yeah, but not John
Brown’s method of bloodshed.>>Not the method, but he just said, there will be bloodshed and war. And it turned out to be.>>You know I think the, this
is a very profound question that these guys are
talkin’ about right now. And that is, how much do you compromise when people are really suffering?>>Cornel: Yes, absolutely.>>Do you just go slow? Do you go as fast as you can? Do you go strategic? I asked this question in
another format eight years ago when McCain and Obama were
runnin’ against each other. And I did a civil forum at Saddleback. And I asked–
>>Cornel: Yes. And one of the questions
I asked them was this, does evil exist? And if it does, what do you do with it? Do you ignore it? Do you compromise with it? Or do you eliminate it? And they both gave very different answers. But, and I’m not gonna
go into that right now, but the bottom line is, there’s a difference of opinion on that. And how do you, right now for instance, Christians are being beheaded
by ISIS on a daily basis. Do we go slow on that?>>Robert: No.>>Or do we got fast on that? I’m just asking, how fast do you go when people are suffering?>>Cornel and I have joined together. We were out ahead of this. What, a year ago, before most people had heard about ISIS. I knew a bit about it because of my work on the Commission on Religious Freedom. And I put out a call for decisive action against ISIS early on. Military action, I called
for the destruction of ISIS as a fighting force. And one of the very
first people to join me without my asking him to
do it, was Cornel West. Now neither of us is saying that we should be reckless in the committing of US military forces to this project, and just go in an unthinking way, and just bring as much
force as we can possibly bring to bear as quickly as we can, because it’s not gonna work. But doing nothing is also not an option.>>Richard: Yeah right.>>So what we need to think about is, what is the most effective strategy knowing that we’re not gonna
be able to end this thing. Especially now that we put
if off for more than a year, and delayed and let ISIS
gain more and more territory, and more and more prestige and support in that part of the world. We know we’re not gonna
be able to eliminate it now in a single strike. So we need an intelligent,
well thought out plan to get to the ultimate goal of eliminating ISIS as a fighting force.>>Okay let’s take some
questions from the internet. Let me get out my, my phone here and we’ll get some, some questions. By the way, hang on here. Alright here’s a question number one. How can the oppressed disagree civilly with their oppressor, and why should they?>>Well I would say that, the question is how does the oppressed respond to oppression with integrity, honesty, decency, and courage.>>[Female Audience Member] Yes.>>So as a Christian I do hate the deed, and still love the doer. But I don’t like the doer. [laughter] Oh no, no no no no no. No no no. So that, but it depends
on what the context is. If there’s a context, in
which there’s a public space where the oppressed can
enter without humiliation, or being disrespected,
then that’s wonderful. If the oppressed enter that public space, and there’s still disrespected, that over, and over, and over again, then we’re moving toward a
serious clash and conflict. Because we begin to exhaust, it’s like Mandela in South Africa right. They explore every possible
non violent option available. Then in 1957 Mandela says, we’re finally the spirit of the nation. And we’re gonna, armed struggle, but it’s armed struggle against property. Now I think that’s very interesting. Even in Baltimore you see, if you look at the response
of the attack on property, versus the attack on human beings. You say to them,
[applause] it’s like oh my God,
this is outta control, this is the worst thing that can, wait a minute this brother just got shot. This brother just got, broke his back. Wait a minute. Well somehow we got to make sure that the tears of the mothers, of the sisters, of the daughters and sons who are shot or mistreated by the police have the same status as the tears of the police’s wives when
the police are killed. So even the President. See, brother Obama upset me. He been upsettin’ me for a long time. [laughter] Long time. God bless him.>>Don’t go there Cornel.>>But no, but I mean,
you get the President comes out and calls these brothers and sisters thugs and criminals.>>[Female Audience Member] Yeah, yeah [laughter] And I said to myself, well wait a minute. If you wanna talk about criminals you can start with Wall Street in 2008. [cheering and applause] How come Holden didn’t prosecute
one Wall Street executive? You wanna talk about criminals, you could talk about drones and what happened on the killing list. So in that sense let’s be
broad in our conception. But by using that kinda
language it makes it difficult to stay in context with
the humanity of the folk, even when they’re doin’ the wrong thing. But the violation of property for me, just doesn’t have the same status. I’m with Mandela. Do you agree with this in
terms of property versus human, human life.
>>Oh there’s no question. Okay.>>Human life matters
much more than property.>>Absolutely, absolutely.>>I also, I’m not to
happy with Obama myself.>>Oh, for good reason,
yeah, for good reason. No, indeed, indeed.>>You know, I honestly think, and I actually told this
to Benjamin Netanyahu, that I believe the model for peace in the middle east is actually in Rwanda. ‘Cause somehow they figured out a way to get people who were killin’
each other 20 years ago, every time I go to the
West Bank or whatever, I see more fences goin’ up, more walls, more an eye for an eye, and
we’re killin’ each other. And it’s blindness. When I go to Rwanda, I see, this family killed
everybody in this family except these two people, and yet, they’re livin’ next to each other without armed police, without barbed wire. Somehow they figured out
how to do reconciliation. Even South Africa. I admire Mandela. But Mandela did not bring reconciliation. He brought peace. And he brought a peaceful
transfer of power. But he did not bring reconciliation, ’cause there’s not
reconciliation in South Africa. Not compared to for instance, Rwanda where you actually have people who literally were hacking each other up, or one group hacking another group, and they are, I’ve been in
reconciliation rallies there, where these two people would give their testimonies to each other. And part of that is, is I was talkin’ to Kagame
one time, and he said, I said, what do you thinks the secret. He said, “Leaders absorb the pain.” he said, when they came, when the freedom fighters
came back in to stop the genocide, and they
were vastly over numbered by the genociders, and he says, you walk in a room and you’re
whole family’s been killed, and your mom is layin’ on the floor, she’s dyin’, she’s been raped, and there’s the guy who did
it, and you’ve got the gun. What are you gonna do? And he said, “We made a law. “You may not kill them because “we believe in the rule of law.” And he said, “We’re gonna actually “take them through a justice system.” And that’s why actually
Rwanda has the second highest prison population next to America. Now they did outlaw the death penalty, and said if you admit your crime, we will give you time off, and if you show us where the bodies are. But absorbing the pain,
was a big, big difference. And I think that that’s a method. Let’s get onto the next question.>>No that’s very hard to do. [cross talk]>>Question number two. What’s an issue that each of you changed each other’s mind on, as a result of dialogue together?>>Well, [laughter] [cross talk] Cornel has a very,>>Richard: Where you gonna eat tonight>>I’ll go first ’cause
Cornel has a very long list, and I want him to choose the right one. [laughter] [drowned out by laughter]>>Humor makes a difference
in a friendship though. [laughter]>>One of the very first things, I don’t even know if Cornel
remembered talking about this. One of the very first
things that we talked about, we were on a college campus, we were meeting in Princeton. Cornel was interviewing me for a magazine. It’s a long story about that.
>>Cornel: Brother Andrew. Brother Andrew, that’s right. And one of the things we talked about was affirmative action. Race based, or ethnic
based preference policies in admissions to
universities like Princeton where we were teaching, or in employment, or in government contracting. And I’ve always been quite critical of those kinds of programs because they strike me as inconsistent with the basic principle of equality. And there’s some other
problems with them as well. But Cornel asked a set of questions that made me think a lot
more deeply about that. And Cornel softened my kind of wholesale, general opposition to
those sorts of things when he raised some questions about, whether we would really
want it to be the case, if this simply was the way
the numbers worked out, that at a university like
Princeton University, we didn’t have any more than the smallest, token representation, two, three, four, five black students,
would our campus be, not be worse off by virtue
of the effective absence of people from the African
American community. And when you think about that question, the answer is of course we
would be worse off with that. Now how we handle that exactly, what do we have quotas? You know and how do we choose which groups get the benefits and which don’t. Pacific Islanders yes, Sicilians no. How do we do, there are a lot of problems I still see with that. But I see this is a much more complicated, and difficult issue than I did before I engaged with Cornel on the question. And this is something I now wrestle with in a way that I didn’t before.>>Richard: That’s a great illustration.>>If I could say just quickly, what I was deeply impressed
by when I got a chance to know brother Robbie was the ways in which he would always defend our precious conservative evangelicals. Not just Christians, but
evangelical anythings, Muslims, others in the Princeton context. Where a kind of secular
sensibility is predominant. And I’m always deeply impressed by that. I think what has been
reinforced in our conversations is that is the degree to which, I have always been very
critical of big banks and big corporations
that are unaccountable. The one percent who own 42%
of the wealth in the country. And I remain very critical. But I think my suspicion of big government has been deeply reinforced by dialogues with brother Robbie, and the hierarchy, especially given its
powers of surveillance, and the possibilities of
FBI, and other agencies reinforcing the kind of violation of rights and liberties. And the possible creation
of an American fascism. You get big business, big
banks controlling politicians, and then big government coming together keeping track of everybody, and the dissenting voices but not just pushed aside–
>>that warning goes>>back to Eisenhower.>>Hm?>>I said that warning goes back to Eisenhower
>>oh, that’s right he said>>that in his speech right
before he left the Presidency. You’re absolutely right.>>You know, who’s the biggest beneficiary of big government, well it’s big business.>>Alright here’s our, we got time? Yeah, we got time for this.>>Good.>>Here’s a question for Cornel. How do we? How do we that are living in a painful, living in a painful truth convince our brothers and sisters out
of their apathy to our pain? [audience murmuring]>>Examples are the go cart of judgment. That’s what Immanuel Kant says in the Critique of Pure Reason. On page 178 of the Norman
Kemp [drowned out by laughter]>>He gives us the page,
did I tell ya, genius. What’d I say, he names the page.>>No, no no that’s not genius, that’s just readin’ that
text over, and over, and over, and over again.>>Richard: Yeah right.>>That’s all. But what I mean, but what the important point here is, is that all we really have is, our attempts to be imitators of a Jesus who we have a relation with
that facilitates our courage to love in a world of
overwhelming hatred and revenge, and domination and exploitation. How do we love always
through that darkness? You see, and it doesn’t make any sense. It seems to be groundless. It’s characterized by an
objective uncertainty. De Kerchove talks about
it is the most absurd way of being in the world
and yet it is the mot magnificent way given the
joys of serving others, and given the relations of a God who in some ways continues to weep given the condition of the world.>>Robert: Amen. Amen.>>Alright, here’s number four. Are there intolerable opinions? If so how should we spot
them and respond to them? If not, now do we tolerate evil opinions?>>You wanna take that one?>>sure, sure. [laughter]>>Or we can just pass it
up and go onto number five.>>No no no no no. Brother Robbie, he’s
got an answer for that. [laughter]>>I think– [Richard] That was very
Jesus like of you to do that. [laughter] You take that one.>>I’m something of an extremist on this. I will confess, an extreme supporter of John Stuart Mill’s
principles of liberty in chapter two of On Liberty. I’ve been a critic of Mill’s
general harm principle articulated in chapter one of On Liberty. I can’t give you the page number. Cornel’s got it memorized. [laughter] But in chapter two when
he talks about liberty of thought and expression. And my view is, that especially in the university context. Especially in the context of a university that is non sectarian
like Princeton University, that doesn’t make a
faith commitment upfront, take a stand, but presents itself as an institution that is
welcoming all points of view, providing a forum for
the engagement of ideas. So the kind of university
in which I spend my days. I think it’s very important
that we be willing to listen to anybody who’s willing to come into the university context and present reasons and arguments. In other words do business in the currency of academic discourse, the
currency reasons and arguments, even if I deeply oppose, if I abominate the
position being articulated. Professor West and I have a
famous colleague, Peter Singer. Peter Singer not only
believes in the legitimacy of abortion through
the entire nine months. He believes in infanticide. The killing of infants. The moral permissibility of the killing of infants even after they’re born. Now this to me is an
outrageous abomination. In a sense that is an
intolerable, intolerable idea. The idea that any human being, any member of the human family can be directly targeted
for killing, you know, that to me is just an intolerable thing. And yet, I would be the first one in line to oppose the eviction of Peter Singer. This scandalizes some of my conservative pro life friends to oppose, to oppose evicting Peter
Singer from Princeton. Now there are some
people who feel about me, some people feel about Cornel, the way I feel about Peter Singer. Now, and that’s because Professor Singer is prepared to make arguments, and give reasons for his position. So if he’s willing to do
that, I am willing to listen. And I am in fact, willing
to listen with an open mind. Now none of those arguments
has cut any ice with me. I’ve listened to them respectfully.>>Richard: But he has
the right to persuade you?>>It’s not just the right to say it.>>Yeah.>>In the university context, in the context of truth seeking he’s got the right more than to say it. As terrible as I think it is, he’s got the right to have me listen and thoughtfully consider
what he has to say. Our devotion to truth
should be so powerful that we are willing to do that. Because it is conceivable
that even an opinion that strikes us, and
me, and probably strikes many of you as so
abominable could be right. And even if it’s wrong, which I’m quite confident it is, we have something to learn about the basis of our belief
in the sanctity of life from confronting the very best reasons, that a very intelligent
person can adduce against the sanctity of life position. Professor Singer makes,
leaves us in no doubt that what he is aiming
for is the destruction of the basic sanctity of life principle that’s part of our Judeo
Christian heritage. So now, does that mean that I’m in favor of simply unlimited speech? No, and I don’t think anybody really is. What I’m against is abuse, hurling epithets, incivility, a grunt, or a name calling episode is not making reasons and arguments. It is not the currency
of academic discourse to simply, verbally assault
someone, or brutalize someone. But if someone’s willing to make arguments and provide reasons,
and cause us to think, then I think we’ve got to tolerate it in the rich sense of toleration. Not just letting him speak,
but listening to him.>>But, and that comes because, yeah, you can clap for that. [applause] That comes because you have
confidence in the Gospel. And that you believe
in a free market world, may the best idea win. We got the best idea. It makes sense. A lot of Christians
don’t, aren’t confident, that what they actually
believe is the best idea. And so their reticent to pull back on, and or they want to
stifle off competition. I’m not afraid of competition. Bring it on. Because, and that’s what this
Center for Christian Thought does is to bring it on. Okay and that’s what our
apologists at Biola do. Bring it on. Because we’re not afraid of these things. You know, probably 10 years ago, I was in China, and
actually had a state dinner in my honor, and people saw. And the Politburo was there, and they were honoring me for, I won’t go into the
whole background on it, but I got into debate with the members of cabinet of the
communist party in China. In fact, I was actually sitting next to the Director of Religious Affairs, who’s the guy in charge of persecution.>>Cornel: Wow.>>And so, and as I began to talk to him, and I said, see the problem with you guys is you want the economic
success of the west without the ethical, and moral, and theological underpinnings. I said, you want freedom of markets, but you don’t want freedom of speech. You don’t want freedom of information. You don’t want freedom of religion. You don’t want all these other freedoms. If all you have, you impose capitalism on a society that you don’t
have a Judeo Christian ethic, what do you get, you get Russia. You change communists for oligarch, and you just get another set of thugs, controlling who’s got, which
is exactly what happened. Is a few guys have all the wealth. You’ve got to have that
moral ethical basis. That’s why we go back to
this cut flower syndrome. If you cut off the roots, is America a Christian nation today? I would say no. Was it founded on Christian principles. Undoubtedly. Undoubtedly. Because we have two sets of founders, not just the political founders, we have the pilgrim founders. And they came here for religious liberty. And that’s why the first freedom, and you know, and Robbie and I have been on panels on this before. The first freedom is freedom of religion. That’s why we call it
America’s first freedom. It is the first paragraph, first phrase of the first sentence,
of the first paragraph of the first amendment. Freedom of religion comes
before freedom of the press. It comes before freedom of speech. It comes before the right to assemble. It comes before the right to bear arms. Because if I don’t have
the freedom to believe, and that’s what you’re
giving Peter Singer, you’re giving him the freedom to believe what he wants to believe. And I support that. Because if I don’t have the freedom to believe what I want to believe, what I feel is true, then I don’t need the freedom of speech. I don’t need freedom of the press. I don’t need freedom of assembly, ’cause I don’t have the
freedom of conscience.>>But I think the problem is, is that, see it’s one thing to say, is I would say, that I would fight for the right of brother Rush Limbaugh to be wrong [laughter] because I have a libertarian sensibility in my own Christian witness. But it’s another thing, when
you look at the structure, see if you have a corporate media that is able to transmit all
kinds of lies about people, with very little accountability because they have big money. So they could, let’s say MSNBC could lie about brother Robbie, big money. How’s he gonna account, how’s he gonna render them accountable? You know what I mean? Or Fox news can lie about different folk. And all of ’em involved in lies. I mean MSNBC is neoliberal propaganda, milk toast, spineless, democrats. [laughter] See what I mean. And much of FOX propaganda for republicans.
>>You are an equal opportunity>>offender, I like that. [drowned out by laughter]>>FOX news you get, you know, a lot of mean spirited republicans. That doesn’t mean all
republicans are mean spirited. But that’s the propaganda
machine to make big money. Right back to the money making again. At that point you say to yourself, well yes we have to be libertarian. Yes we will defend our
popular voices and so on. But the structure’s one in which, if the money interests are gonna shape the very framework in which
we engage in our discussion, then what happens to the culture? It becomes more debased. It becomes more and more dumbed down. And it just becomes a matter of–>>I have a hard time arguing against that because we saw it recently from
my point of view in Indiana. The Indiana Religious
Freedom Restoration Act, which was a perfectly good valid bill, that was guilty of none of the crimes of which it was accused, was smeared, by the media almost universally, and by big business and
the corporate structure. The entire elite establishment came down on that law depicting it in an entirely false light. Most Americans were led to believe that the law was a monstrous
license for discrimination, when it was absolutely
nothing of the kind. And yet, the forces that knew that these were
spectacular lies being told lacked the resources to actually
get their message across. Now we’re in a little
better shape, I think, than we were prior to the
creation of the internet, because there are ways to
communicate with people going around NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, MSNBC, FOX, New York Times, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street
Journal, and so forth. So there’s something there. But the problem that
Cornel puts his finger on, really is a problem. When there is a monopoly viewpoint. When there is an established
cultural orthodoxy, and the major media of communication are with the program and not letting alternative arguments be heard, and alternative voices be heard, we’re in big trouble. We can congratulate ourselves,
pat ourselves on the back for being a culture that
recognizes free speech. But only one side’s being
able to communicate.>>Cornel: Absolutely.>>Okay last question, ’cause
we’re runnin’ out of time. But this, just bring it on home here. Should universities be a safe place? You know we’ve heard about–>>No that’s the last thing they need.>>We’re gonna protect your feelings, and political correctness and all.>>Brother Cornel was preachin’ about this on the plane on the way over here. You cut loose brother. [laughter]>>Know that when students
decide to go to university, they’re coming to learn how to die. They’re coming for critical scrutiny. They’re coming for
critical self examination. And anytime you let a
certain assumption go, that’s a form of death. And there’s no development of maturation or growth without that death taking place. So when you graduate from Biola, and you get that diploma, that beautiful smile, and
the sparkle in your eye, your momma and daddy sacrificing inexplicably for you to graduate. [laughter] And if you’re the same person you were when you were a freshman
you wasted their money. [laughter and applause] If you didn’t learn how to
die you wasted their money. [applause] it’s critical process. So the last thing you
need is a safe place. You want to be unsettled in such a way that you have access to
a great set of traditions of earlier voices, in the past, who themselves were unsettled, but had the courage to
pursue a quest for truth, and for knowledge, small case, small t, and thereby allow you to become a more mature, a more loving,
a more compassionate person, even as in the end you will fail. Samuel Beckett is right. Try again, fail again, fail better. Try again, fail again, fail better. And they put your body in the coffin, and they gonna say, what
a majestic failure he was. [laughter] Oh, he was, but he still fell on his face. Thank God we got a God that loves us, that can still embrace us.>>All I can tell you is, if you’re a student and
you’re looking for safe space, don’t come to the classroom
where Cornel and I teach. ‘Cause that is not a safe space. Whatever your views are, I don’t care if they’re Christian, if they’re secularist, if they’re Muslim, if they’re Jewish, if they’re Marxist, whatever your view is, that is going to be challenged. It’s gonna be challenged
with the very best arguments that can be mustered against it. If you look at, I’m
teaching this semester, in addition to my seminar with Cornel, a civil liberties course. My civil liberties course covers all the hot button issues,
affirmative action, religion in public life, abortion, marriage, death penalty, targeted killing. You’re not supposed to
say assassination right. Targeted killing, all of these issues. Now if you look at my syllabus, you will find that no matter where you are on any of those issues, you’re gonna find powerful arguments in those readings against your position. They’re gonna trouble you. They’re gonna disturb you. They are going to make
you worry about your view. I think as teachers, that’s our job. It’s not to make you feel
comfortable and reinforce you–>>Richard: Or to feel good.>>Or to feel good, it’s certainly
not to make you feel good. It’s to make you feel, yeah kind of pulled apart, you know, intention, wondering what’s up here. Maybe I’m not thinkin’ the right thing. That really is our job. We want kind of the development of critical intelligence. Not again, now not
because there is no truth. You know that all three of
the fellas sittin’ up here in front of you are people who are strong believers in truth, and strong opponents of the idea of moral relativism. It’s not because there is no truth. It’s precisely because,
if we’re going to get to the truth of the matter, we must on any given issue, understand and appreciate
the most compelling arguments to be made on both
or all sides of the question. If we’re not doin’ that,
we’re not thinkers. We are ideologues. We are dogmatists. We are not thinkers. And even as Christians it’s important for us to understand that our
faith is a thinking faith. Our faith is a thinking faith. [applause] So our critical intelligence is in play in the very activity of
living the Christian life.>>Wow.>>You know, Cornel just keeps comin’ back to death. And you keep comin’ back
about what it means to live, and those intentions together are, it is life through death,
which is the resurrection. That is what we are.
>>That’s the cross.>>That’s the cross, that’s the cross.>>Years ago, the famous bishop, Catholic bishop Fulton Sheen
went to a leprosy colony, and he was visiting lepers in the colony. And he went over to talk to one young guy who was sitting on the ground, and just a loin cloth around him. He not only had leprosy, but he had evidently
several other skin diseases, ’cause he had open sores on his body that were oozing and pusie. And he said he leaned
over to talk to this guy, and he was wearin’ a cross. And the chain broke. And he said the cross
fell into this open sore on this man’s thigh, the ooze and the pus. And he said, at first he was revolted. And he said, I stepped back, and it just kinda made
me sick to my stomach. And then he said, all of a sudden, I was overwhelmed with compassion. And I reached into the sore, and I took up the cross. I heard that story when I
was a university student. And when I heard it I thought, that is the finest
definition I’ve ever heard of what it means to follow Christ. To go out into the sores of life, where people are bleeding, and hurting, and don’t know the truth, and are dying in the streets,
and take up the cross. And if we don’t do that,
I doubt our Christianity. Let’s thank these guys
for a great evening. [cheering and applause] Thank you guys.>>Group hug.>>Love you. So great to see you.>>Love you guys. Thank you.
>>Thank you. [applause continues]>>God bless you all [applause continues]>>Great job guys.>>God bless Biola.
>>Great job. God bless Biola University. [applause continues]>>Announcer: Biola University offers a variety of biblically
centered degree programs ranging from business, to ministry, to the arts and sciences. Visit to find out how Biola could make a difference in your life. [bright music]

8 thoughts on “The Cost of Freedom: How Disagreement Makes Us Civil (Robert George, Cornel West, Rick Warren)

  • Very frustrated that this is largely a soup of metaphor and generality: much hand-holding, well wishing, and poetic manoeuvring around hope, faith, love, optimism, secularism, integrity, power, vessels, Shakespeare, Bible, rationality, truth and so on with prudential "majestic words".

    They gave an explicit definition of what Christian Love is – but no concrete follow-up on what to do with or about it. Perhaps the closest to an objective act is Cornel's endorsement of letting marginal people have a voice, but this is still quite vague (also eliminate ISIL and abortion).

    What does "radical freedom in love" do five minutes after one leaves the conference hall? I'm glad that love is active, but active how, when, to whom, in what degree?

    I also don't see over what these two disagree.

  • There are thought to be 2 Christian worlds. If you draw a diagonal line from the tip of Western Africa (Morocco) through southeastern Europe and on up through Russia. Everything to the east of this line represents where Christianity has generally been persecuted (costly Christianity). everything to the west has generally been non persecuted Christianity (safe Christianity), only then can you begin to see the real problem and enormous threat of multiculturalism.
    There is a concerted and unignorable effort to move this diagonal line in a westward expansion, and hardly anyone is addressing it. The line will be eliminated one day but problem will NOT be solved with radical love, not unless it comes from the hand of god himself and not before Christianity is delivered into the hands of the enemy.

  • Viewer Discretion mentioned "…I spent two hours watching this and it's just a couple of guys on a stage being effusive, vague and convivial." This is true. A fascinating thing about the orbit of the New Testament, in terms of it's content (even if someone relegates it to un or trans historical) and engages in complex literary analysis to explain away the earthiness of it, you never find it's author's loving "categories" of politically designated and determined individuals. Though, of course, categories do pop up eg. Barbarian, Scythian etc.. Colossians 3:11. But these categories, when the author's mention them, are NEVER evocative to elicit empathy, sympathy or compassion – – ever. You see, that's the problem with brother Cornell's rhetoric: it uses Biblical terms and phrases from which to catapult into a sociological-driven ie. evidence, to re-interpret what was always and at all times Biblically a proclivity of humans to doubt, distort and diverge away from that which our Creator designed. Hence, when Christ came he sought not to "awaken" dormant virtues nor cultivate a corrupted culture. BUT rather, as Ephesians says, "His purpose was to create one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace." [2:15b] These two men optically by their discussion, (I am not exegeting their hearts) have reduced the "mystery" Ephesians and Colossians talks about, of a historical death effect and affecting a historical condition of alienated and estranged people FROM God, into a symbolic metaphor for the type or sort of life one mediating on the "Christ event" should and is expected to live. But reverentially, (to the speakers it seems) all notions and opinions are merely culturally conditioned preferences (even emotionally charged ones!) that amount to humanities way of coping with a cold and cruel world. Christ Jesus converts rather than merely comforts. His Cross restores rather than rearranges. His resurrection vindicates what all other religions equivocate, to mediate and re-create that which sin sought to abdicate and obfuscate.

  • The word "reverentially" should read "referentially" with an "f" not a "v". Meaning: their (speakers) concept of what constitutes objective reality is bound within the lookers inner set of experiences, rather than received from without ie. a revelation.

  • So much in here is comment worthy. The defense of the Indiana religious ideology protection law is a misrepresentation at best a lie at worst. Sure it was a good bill if you were a Christian who's values were discriminatory.

    Looking at what was going on across America at the time of this legislation in the treatment of the LGBTQ community by the religious right. The fact that religious freedom is already fully protected under the constitution. Looking truthfully at this anyone can see that the results of this bill were intended to be even though religious people like the one defending it here work hard to deny its intent.

    If religious freedom trumps other law than it not only permissible to discriminate but most religious documents have rules spelled out for the faithful allowing and justifying slavery, killing other humans, abuse both child and domestic, the subjugation of women & children, etc.

    Any law creating a tired society where one group is guaranteed preferential treatment and defense is wrong.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *