Recent Shootings in the United States give rise to concern about an increasing tide of extremism in resolving intensely held opinions (see The Christian Science Monitor, June 10, 2009). Among them, an anti-abortionist in Kansas shot a well-known abortion doctor; a recent American convert to Islam took the lives of two soldiers on leave in Arkansas; and a white supremacist killed a black security guard in Washington DC's Holocaust Museum.

The heinous acts themselves are indefensible in a civil society. But perhaps the more salient issue revolves around how individuals get to the point in their deeply held convictions that allows them to breach the limits of acceptable behavior and rational thought. Care in these instances is being given not to characterize the perpetrators as representative of the views of those who might have valid concerns about the broader issues involved. Certainly hate, racism, prejudice, and intolerance can never find justification in rational discourse, but sometimes the issues of extreme self-interest and partisan or philosophical concern lie just below those insufferable states of thought. When we can no longer have civil discussion, without anger or frustration, about some of the more divisive issues that challenge us politically and socially, just how far away are we from the unjustifiable?

Many have rightly called for more tolerance, patience, and understanding of points of view that may seem irreconcilable. Sometimes there might be no obvious compromise, given people's historical, philosophical, religious, political, or sociological makeup. And sometimes human debate reaches the point where the issue can no longer be right versus wrong, but perhaps right versus right—meaning that both sides of the argument have defensible points of perspective. What then?

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Testimony of Healing
July 20, 2009

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