‘Third Way’ implicitly means focusing on shared rather than contested values. By doing so, we strengthen our relationships and bridge what divides us. But the Third Way makes an assumption that is so fundamental and foundational that—if it were not true—the entire approach would crumble and fall into the abyss.
The Third Way assumes we have shared values. Do we?
Americans do have shared values, as readers of OurValues.org know. Ten shared values, in fact. These values cut across religious, demographic, and political lines, according to scientific evidence gathered in four national surveys. I present the ten core values in United America.
One of the ten—respect for others—is especially germane to the Third Way. It means acceptance and appreciation for people—no matter their race, ethnicity, religion, creed, or sexual orientation.
There’s a wide gap between this value and the reality we encounter in our lives, as I’ve written in United America. Often, we don’t live up to our ideals. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
Ken Wilson promotes the Third Way in his book about LGBT issues and Christian churches, A Letter to My Congregation. It means agreeing to disagree while affirming our shared values. My small contribution to this dialog is to affirm that yes, indeed, we do have share values and key among them is respect for people who are different.
The Third Way is not just about LGBT issues and the church. It pertains to any issue that divides us. It emphasizes what Thomas Jefferson said in his 1801 inaugural address: “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.” We can agree to disagree while still affirming what unites us.
Or, as Robert Fulghum expressed respect for others in an effective and prosaic way, “I am less inclined to protest, ‘Why don’t you see it the way I do?’ and more inclined to say, ‘You see it that way? Holy cow! How amazing!’”
Do you believe that respect for others is a core American value?
Do you see people living up to this value—or violating it?
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