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Open Tombs

Our van stopped in front of a crumbling concrete wall spray painted with Islamic symbols and stained with bleeding rust. I slowly opened the car door, its hinges squeaking loudly in protest. Stepping from the vehicle, I heard the sound of broken shards of glass crunch under my descending boot along with distant shouting. The commotion seemed to be coming my way.

A nearby heap of burning trash wafted sour-smelling smoke. A sudden gust of hot wind sent smoldering haze up past second story windows where women wearing headscarves glared down at me.

A pack of teenage boys, along with a few men, suddenly appeared down a narrow road strewn with garbage and all seemed agitated, if not angry, in their advance. But they all scattered like a startled flock of birds when a large man suddenly stepped toward me from between some buildings. The man was wearing old rubber sandals, sweatpants, a grease-sullied T-shirt, and a curdled scowl that extended down to his bulging neck. I had been told he was a man not to be trifled with and who had the final say in all things pertaining to the Silwan Village.

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Reasoning About Reasoning

Disagreement flourishes in today’s conversations and captions. Whether a lengthy and healthy exchange or a short and summary epitaph, no end to provocative and polarizing rhetoric is in view. Knowledge has never been more abundant or accessible1 – consensus suffers neither of these alliterated accolades. My high school mathematics teacher opined throughout my many classes with him that “the problem with common sense is that it isn’t.” He lamented the lack of shared sensibility and reasoning required for civility and consensus.

While debate and disagreement cannot be claimed as a twenty-first-century phenomenon, the fact that both have proliferated through social media platforms and social gospel priorities is equally undeniable. People around the globe are inspired or offended at the click of a mouse. To paraphrase and modernize the words penned by James, the half-brother of Jesus, “Even so the (mouse) is a little member and boasts great things. Behold, how great a matter a little (click) kindles!”2 This short essay introduces a path forward in these contentious times to be productive in disagreement and reach the elusive acquisition of truth and not merely the hoarding of facts. By looking at three classic types of reasoning, the battle lines of conversation can be softened without compromising the firm lines of truth.

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