I’m a huge fan of the Trinity Forum, a Washington DC-based organization that seeks to “connect thinking leaders with leading thinkers in engaging the big questions of life and coming to better know the Author of the answers.” In the last few months they’ve been knocking it out of the park with a series of weekly online events with some of the best thinkers and culture-makers out there, including Alan Jacobs, Karen Swallow Prior, Dana Gioia, Tish Harrison Warren, John Lennox, Marilynne Robinson, Makoto Fujimura, James K.A. Smith, Marilyn McEntyre, and Arthur Brooks. That’s a partial list, and just since March! Their YouTube page goes back several years and can keep you busy for a very long time.
It’s Election Day 2020. If you’re feeling pessimistic about the state of American culture and public discourse, I commend the work of the Trinity Forum to you. It will give you reason for hope, as well as a model for ways to contribute to the conversation in meaningful ways.
I’ve had the Trinity Forum on my mind because I recently watched a conversation between Dr. Robert George and Dr. Cornel West that the Trinity Forum hosted in Nashville last year. Dr. George is a Princeton professor, a leading conservative intellectual, and a Catholic. Dr. West is a Harvard professor (as well as Professor Emeritus at Princeton, where he and Dr. George met) a radical leftist, and a self-described “funky Baptist.”
Dr. Robert George (left) and Dr. Cornel West (right)…Politically, however, Dr. George is right and Dr. West is left. And they aren’t nearly so close together.
If these two men viewed one another as bitter antagonists, none of us would be surprised. But instead, they have a deep friendship based on mutual respect and admiration. Each of these men believes that the other has got it completely wrong on some pretty important issues. But each trusts that the other is acting in good faith; each trusts that the other is interested in knowing what is true and good. And so they are able to go at it hammer-and-tongs in a way that enriches their friendship—and moves them closer to the true and the good—rather than destroying their friendship.
I’m not going to try any further to describe the friendship between Cornel West and Robert George. Instead, I will encourage you to see it in action. Take ten minutes to watch this highlight video from their presentation in Nashville. It will do you a lot more good than whatever election-day coverage you are tempted to obsess over today. And if that short video captures your imagination, here’s the full, two-hour version, which is just great. And if you still want more Cornel West and Robert George, here’s a one-hour conversation the Trinity Forum hosted a week or two ago.
An opponent isn’t the same thing as an enemy. There are truer stories than the scary stories our politicos are constantly telling us. Writers, it’s our duty and our privilege to tell those stories.