A Word from the Head of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy regarding The World Table


A scene along the Provo River
(click to enlarge)


My announcement of The World Table on Friday at the 2013 FAIR Conference has generated a fair amount of discussion in certain quarters — some of it friendly and hopeful, some of it (largely because I’m the one who announced it) rather ignorantly but predictably hostile.  I passed one thoughtful expression of worried optimism from my Facebook page on to my friend Charles Randall Paul, who founded and leads the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, the organization behind The World Table.  (He works with me and with chapter custodians of various traditions in order to improve interaction  for all.)   I liked his response and, with his permission, am copying it here:



I think this emailer is honest, fair, knowledgeable, respectful, and yes, likable!   (Let’s see.  I am not an easy grader, so I would guess this person would have a WT score of 84 out of a hundred, when Jesus would likely have 90 and Lucifer 55 in our current culture — the former losing points on likability (being just too honest) and the latter mainly for dishonesty but also unfairness.) :)   
The emailer has rightly focused on issues that have been on our minds for a couple of years.  Quickly to a few of the points: FRD aims to provide a better alternative — a substantial improvement — for public interaction that encourages honest contestation instead of angry contention.  Of course there will be unintended consequences.  FRD has no idealistic plan to do what God cannot — to change human hearts that desire not to change — but FRD does desire to make clearer to a rising generation that they can engage in more honest and respectful ways that build healthy trust and credibility between rivals and critics, and that give more truth and love to influence the messy world.  We have no meter for “purity of heart” but we do have a meter for perception of public behaviors and attitudes.  Generally speaking, God meters hearts and we judge behavior and attitudes.  
We will have monitors for extreme bad behavior — and the system allows us to take people off the air quickly.  Mostly of course, it is a self-correcting system that relies on people looking/feeling closely at the motives as well as the content of any communication.  Here the honesty factor, the first one on the score box, is the main defense.  Devilishness — the desire to bring others misery or worse — cloaked in “light” is most effectively revealed sooner or later by the LIGHT of human and/or divine awareness.   There is a presumption that undergirds our method:  It is that the truth that matters most, the truth that we love and desire to serve others for our mutual good, becomes known/felt by behavioral interaction over time. There is always risk in this process.  This is not a utopian formula to find the real evil doers and the real angels.  But it does allow for more light and less heat to bring us to discern when our critics’ motives and methods are trustworthy and credible — even though we still disagree with them.   We will still be doing evil and angelic things in the world, but our goal is to establish a new social category that is normative: “the trustworthy critic, rival, or opponent.”   
Of course, ‘trust and verify’ is the way to sustain good will.  The interesting thing about social media is that IF you speak differently about people in their absence than you do in their presence, it tends to become quickly known.  With The World Table system, millions, perhaps billions, will have in their consciousness the fact that what (tone and content) they say about another in public has consequences for how they are viewed in public.  The ‘devil in each of us’ will be marked for dishonesty and for cowardice.   The ‘angel in each of us’ will be marked for truthfulness and for courage.  If after a lifetime someone stands before The Judge who lived an entire life of service and who was known far and wide for being respectful, fair, knowledgeable, and likable BUT who was faking it all the way — dishonestly hating the people helped — then that person would have a high World Table rating and The Judge would have an interesting problem.  But that is NOT our problem. 
The World Table is a place for real conversation — like heaven was before the world (assuming the emailer might think pre-mortal heavens are plausible) –where people will disagree and use their freedom to dissuade others or persuade others as they desire.  We are just trying to keep the serious game less contentious, but wars even in heaven will no doubt occur from time to time.  We are promoting more noble and loving fights in preference to ignoble and hateful ones.  So real conversations include inevitable conflict as well as cooperation.  The latter is easy to deal with.  But, in conflicts, the WAY we treat our rivals or opponents says more about us and our religion than anything else.  In this regard, FRD wants everyone to live their “religion” as best they can.
Randall Paul


Incidentally, anybody who is interested in serving as a beta tester for The World Table prior to its formal debut need only sign up for “notifications” here.  Beta testing is slated to begin shortly, and those on the notification list will be invited to participate if they wish.


Posted from the banks of the Provo River



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On disdaining Provo
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Regarding some message boards and newspaper comment sections
  • Chris Crabtree

    Daniel, I am very much looking forward to the World Table. I have long been an advocate of real-identity over anonymity, and one who has long believe that your interactions whether they be face to face or keyboard to keyboard, should reflect a consistent, respectful and meaningful character.

    I find it fascinating that within the context of discussions on the web surrounding the theory of Intelligent Design (my latest hobby), how closely the attitudes, reactions, assertions, misrepresentations, accusations of dishonesty, ignorance or stupidity; that come from the anti-ID crowd so closely mirror those of the typical anti-Mormon crowd. I think you would find the similarities rather staggering. For example, take the recent reviews of critics at Amazon.com to Stephen Meyer’s latest publication “Darwin’s Doubt” (wherein he presents a thoroughly researched, documented, focused, well-written and intelligently argued position for ID). It is nearly impossible to engage these critics on any sort of reasonable level. Or compare the literary demeanor found works published by the Discovery Institute with those of their critics. The differences are, to me, both obvious and concerning.

    Thank you for sharing Dr. Paul’s email. I look forward to hearing more about the World Table as the launch approaches.

    • DanielPeterson

      I’ve noticed exactly what you mention. Some positions are simply unworthy of serious engagement, apparently, and the only proper recourse is to call those who hold them, or who even give them genuine consideration, insulting names.

  • DanielPeterson

    Hmmm. Thanks. Don’t know how that happened. I’m correcting it right now.