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Author: DS Leiter

When Ordinary People Turn into Uncivil Bullies

When Ordinary People Turn into Uncivil Bullies

We’re all vulnerable to unhealthy stress responses. All of us. In this article I’m going to share an experience of seeing an unhealthy dynamic happen in an in-person discussion of public policy  in a class I was teaching, and what was needed to get things back on track. In the process I’ll describe how I knew things were really off track as well. In my small group communication and leadership class (which I’ve taught in several schools), I’ve sometimes taught…

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Open Letter to Climate Change Naysayers at Assertive Spirituality

Open Letter to Climate Change Naysayers at Assertive Spirituality

Editor’s Note: This week’s blog post is a guest piece from someone who was following last week’s piece and had both experience and expertise in science and sustainable agriculture to respond to the climate change naysayers responding to the article, yet wished to remain anonymous. I offer it here in a very lightly edited version as an excellent example of #AssertiveSpirituality. Go team! May we all continue to do what we can where we are with what we’ve got to…

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Greta Thunberg and the Problems with (Self-)Censorship

Greta Thunberg and the Problems with (Self-)Censorship

This inspiring image is circulating of Greta Thunberg sitting alone outside the Swedish Parliament a year ago with a sign. This is being circulated alongside yesterday’s climate rallies, where millions around the world, led by young people, led by Greta Thunberg, rallied for climate change in an effort to try to get change on one of the biggest problems our planet faces. We Can’t All Become Greta Thunberg—But We’ll Never Know If We Don’t Try Too often we internalize this…

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Unwrapping a Healthy Spirituality of Competition; Or, Why I’m Not Working to Persuade Conservatives

Unwrapping a Healthy Spirituality of Competition; Or, Why I’m Not Working to Persuade Conservatives

I’ve been hearing it a lot lately, these cautions from the “reasonable people.” “Well, if you want the conservatives to actually hear you, you should tone down the language there.” “Well, that comparison doesn’t apply to ALL the conservatives. Shouldn’t you be more inclusive?” In this article, I plan to follow up on my previous article about “Jesus and the Limits of Listening” as well as other blog posts I’ll link throughout by discussing why I don’t think It’s always…

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In Praise of Empathetic Anger; Or, Toward Healthy Anger Understandings

In Praise of Empathetic Anger; Or, Toward Healthy Anger Understandings

Like many of you, I was raised to be terrified of conflict and the anger that came with it. As I’ve described before, I was taught the devil term to-be-fought-at-all-costs definition of anger, one that lumped the emotion in with the most extreme forms of those emotions and also with the negative outcomes of people acting out on their anger in what I’ve been previously calling a horns effect. In the present article, I plan to praise a very different…

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When “Christian Nice” Gets Mean about Forgiveness

When “Christian Nice” Gets Mean about Forgiveness

A couple of weeks ago I talked about how “Christian Nice” can get (unintentionally) mean about negative emotions. Last week I talked about “Nice” culture tends to enable covert abuse and authoritarian politics. This week I plan to continue those themes by talking about why the use of the word “forgiveness” within “Christian Nice” contexts can be potentially damaging when directed at those who are abused and/or oppressed. Some Important Definitions In doing so, I hope to continue our discussion…

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Why “Christian Nice” Enables Covert Abuse and Authoritarian Politics

Why “Christian Nice” Enables Covert Abuse and Authoritarian Politics

So if you follow this space, you know that I grew up in a “moderate” religio-political space that followed the rules of “Christian Nice.” Under the surface, that often meant that the kind of “peace” that was spiritually elevated as a “god term”—that is, as I’ve said before, something to be defended at all costs, and, in this context, actually also seen as more godly—was too often associated with the suppression of confrontation. This meant “conflict” and “confrontation” were treated…

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How to Be a Moderate Ally in the US Today

How to Be a Moderate Ally in the US Today

As I’ve explained before, I grew up in a denomination which many describe as falling *just* on the Evangelical side of what’s known as the Evangelical-Mainline divide among more conservative and more progressive churches in the US. That means I know many people in the US today who claim to be religio-politically moderate. Most of these are polling in the “independent” category on political surveys–but some are more independent than others. I’ll be frank—I believe the country has swung so…

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“Go Back Where You Came From,” White Evangelicals, and Territoriality: An Analysis

“Go Back Where You Came From,” White Evangelicals, and Territoriality: An Analysis

This week the current head of the US administration told four congresswomen who were women of color, three of which were born in the US, to “go back where they came from” (if you want to find out more about that, Google will get you to lots of articles–or hold on, and I’ll be linking a few throughout this article). This article is an analysis of this statement using tools from the communication field, including the way the phrase is…

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When “Christian Nice” Gets Mean about Emotions

When “Christian Nice” Gets Mean about Emotions

If you haven’t been keeping up with my schedule, by the time you read this, I’ll be largely done with speaking about “Stress, Trauma, and Conflict Communication” at the Wild Goose Festival, which is a progressive Christian social justice-themed festival in the Bible Belt in the Southern US. As I’ve described before, I grew up in my own mini-Bible belts in the Midwest. But the Southern US Bible Belt is its own special cultural flavor of Bible Belt. This piece…

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White Evangelicalism Eloped with Unhealthy Nationalism: An Analysis and Call to Action

White Evangelicalism Eloped with Unhealthy Nationalism: An Analysis and Call to Action

QUICK NOTE BEFORE I EVEN START: In this article, as with this previous one and this previous one, I refer to “White Evangelicals” as a cultural and religio-political group. I refer to their presumed race mostly to separate this group from POC Evangelicals, most of which hold VERY different beliefs on the ways religion ties to questions of social justice and what we should be doing in the political realm. When you read the rest of this post and respond…

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Unwrapping the Unhealthy Immigration Rhetoric in Dobson’s July Newsletter

Unwrapping the Unhealthy Immigration Rhetoric in Dobson’s July Newsletter

Last week I helped you compassionate folks who want to help with the concentration camps at the border to think through how to help out without freezing up or looking away. One of those options I suggested was to speak up against authoritarian religio-political rhetoric. This week, I will provide a brief analysis of unhealthy immigration rhetoric in Dr. James Dobson’s July Newsletter piece (here’s a link that hopefully won’t give his site credit!) about his visit to one such…

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How Not to Look Away from Concentration Camps

How Not to Look Away from Concentration Camps

As I’ve described before, I grew up wondering, and thinking through in Sunday school and ethics classes, how people looked away as the Holocaust was developing. And whether I would have the guts to do the same in a similar situation. Well, now that I’m all grown up and have the PhD in Communication and teach about this stuff, I’ve studied enough and observed enough to realize the apocalypse has been on for a few years now. (Certainly, as I’ve…

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The Risks and Rewards of Assertive Spirituality (A Year of #AssertiveSpirituality Part 2)

The Risks and Rewards of Assertive Spirituality (A Year of #AssertiveSpirituality Part 2)

Just over a year ago, I started this Assertive Spirituality project—and with it, to my knowledge, coined the term “Assertive Spirituality.” My first post on this blog started out with a friend’s question about whether Assertive Spirituality was “a good thwack over the head.” I responded by including a definition of assertiveness from the textbook I teach out of in my Small Group Communication university classes. I might possibly have failed to adequately point out the connection between assertiveness and…

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Abortion Rhetoric, “Baby Killers,” and the Horns Effect (A Year of #AssertiveSpirituality Part 1)

Abortion Rhetoric, “Baby Killers,” and the Horns Effect (A Year of #AssertiveSpirituality Part 1)

In this article I plan to start my “Year of #AssertiveSpirituality” series by discussing a few of the reasons it’s so hard to have a reasonable problem-solving discussion about how to reduce and care for women with unwanted pregnancies in this country. Often, this issue gets classed as a battle between those who insist on making abortion illegal and those who advocate for other solutions. In this article I plan to unpack how that works from a communication perspective, as…

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