By Mary Owen
If you have questions, there are places to go to get answers and share in the conversations about what is taking place your community, state and country.
The first stop in your information gathering journey could be a facilitated discussion called, Power, Privilege and Racial Diversity in Oregon Wednesday, Feb. 22, 7 p.m. at the Stayton Public Library.
While census data shows Oregon’s population becoming more racially diverse, the perception persists the state is one of the whitest states in the nation. The discussion will explore what systems are in place to prevent the racial integration and equity many Oregonians strive for, and actions that allow people to embrace the opportunity presented by a more diverse Oregon.
The discussion, led by Willamette University Professor Emily Drew, is the first in a series hosted by the Oregon Humanities’ Statewide Conversation Project and the first in a series of four conversations sponsored by the Stayton United Methodist Church.
“We realized this election brought out some deep division in this country, and that we need to have conversations, not just among ourselves, but in our community,” said the Rev. Janine DeLaunay. “Our hope is to get people to see beyond the divisive rhetoric we see so much of, and instead have real dialogue about important issues.”
DeLaunay said the discussion series is open to anyone who has an interest. “From everything I read in the newspaper and hear on the radio, there are lots of conversations that are beginning,” she said.
Stayton United Methodist is also hosting an adult class, Dynamic Discussions, Sundays at 9 a.m. that explores meaningful topics such as United Methodist’s social principles, political correctness, and working class frustrations.
“Last Sunday’s topic was ‘Fake News,’ a buzzword making the rounds this past election season,” DeLaunay said. “Fake news is a close relative of propaganda and another name for an outright lie. We read a New York Times article interviewing the 23-year-old graduate who bought the defunct website, ChristianTimesNews.com, and posted a fabricated story about ballot fraud. He was less interested in influencing the election and more about driving people to his website where he received advertising dollars for each ‘view.’ He made a quick $5,000, but the story went viral, played well into the political narrative of the day, was investigated and the advertising pulled.
“We also talked about how to Spot Lies, Fake News and Propaganda so we wouldn’t be duped so easily in the future,” she said.
Faith, DeLaunay said, is not just private and personal, but should influence the public sphere.
“The purpose is not to win an argument, but to hear many points of view and explore the ideas within a Christian framework,” she added. “If someone has a strong point of view on a topic, there is probably a good reason. You can’t figure that out if it’s your goal to convince them that you’re right and they’re wrong.”
Future conversations with the Oregon Humanities Project include In Science We Trust: The Role of Science in a Democracy on March 22 and Too Busy to Rest: Boundaries and Balance in a Nonstop World on Wednesday, April 26.
“This is our attempt to really engage people,” DeLaunay said. “We hope these conversations happen at other places and that we aren’t afraid to talk to each other. Listening is the real key here. Seek first to understand, not to be understood.”
Oregon Humanities connects Oregonians to ideas that change lives and transform communities. Visit www.oregonhumanities.org to learn more. For information on about this free community discussion, call the Stayton United Methodist Church at 503-769-5700.