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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Arthur Brooks NPB20

I watched the 2020 National Prayer Breakfast live on C-Span on February 6. I was profoundly moved by the words of Arthur Brooks.Yet I did not hear much about his speech afterwards. It was overshadowed by other news including the President's own comments at the event.

I think Brooks' comments were so important and timely for our country that I want to lift them up without reference to the President, and invite others to read, watch, and consider them on their own. I believe they are a good and godly word to those with hears to hear, starting with ourselves.

A Follower of Jesus

After an impressive introduction (see end of this post), Brooks introduced himself saying, "I'm not a priest, not a minister; I'm a social scientist and university professor. But most importantly I'm a follower of Jesus, who taught us to love God... and love each other."

Crisis and Opportunity

At the outset Brooks identified the biggest crisis facing our nation as "a crisis of contempt and polarization that is tearing our society apart." He promised not to depress us with his remarks, but to show us that in this crisis resides the greatest opportunity people of faith have ever had to lift our nations up and bring our people together.

His description and identification of this crisis rang true for me, and with his promise to show the opportunity therein for people of faith, he had my attention!

Love, Moral Courage, and some Homework

I listened closely over the next 14 minutes as he talked about Jesus teaching to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Brooks made practical application to the world of politics by sharing an example from his own family. To contrast disagreement and contempt ("they are stupid and evil") he described his parents as very different from himself politically, but people he loves deeply. He asked the group at the prayer breakfast, "How many of you love somebody with whom you disagree politically?" Brooks said that moral courage isn't (necessarily) standing up to your enemies or those who disagree with you; rather it is standing up to the people with whom you agree on behalf of those with whom you disagree. Stepping (leaping?) right past those who call for civility and tolerance, Brooks said Jesus didn't teach us to tolerate our enemies, but to LOVE our enemies. He then gave three homework assignments to flesh this out:
  1. Ask God for help - because this goes against human nature
  2. Commit to reject contempt - disagreement is one thing and good, but disagree without contempt
  3. Go out looking for contempt and turn it on its head - this is how we'll change (and heal) the country

I highly recommend digging in to Brooks' remarks directly. You can read the text of his remarks HERE (if you can't access that see HERE), and a video (14 min.) of his remarks is below:

Arthur Brooks: According to the introductory remarks, Brooks is the "professor of the practice of public leadership" at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is also an author and Washington Post columnist. He was also president for the previous ten years of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. He is an economist, with notable work on culture, public policy, technical economics, and the sources of happiness; he is also a classical musician. His remarks at the prayer breakfast are from his recent book, Love Your Enemies.

*Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

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