Dale Hansen Is a Blowhard

Dale Hansen is a blowhard. That’s not my opinion; it’s his. In public interviews, he gladly cops to being loud, obnoxious, and overbearing. He broke a big story at SMU 30 years ago and now uses his bully pulpit to preach his values. Typically, I ignore blowhards. When an entertainer speaks out about politics or an athlete waxes wise about religion, I tend to roll my eyes and change the channel. For the most part, I’d prefer to have my preachers do the preaching, my actors do the acting, my politicians do the politicking, and my journalists do the reporting.

But even after all those disavowals, I can’t help agreeing with Hansen this time.

At the end of last night’s local news broadcast, during Hansen’s regularly-scheduled rant about matters only thinly related to sports, the blowhard offered this confession:

I think I was 12 before I realized that the N-word actually wasn’t the first name of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Elston Howard, and so many more.

My dad always referred to the black athlete (and any person of color he didn’t know) that way, but he loved the Matthews family. Henry and Billie Matthews were good people… the whole family was. My dad always said they were “different.”

The one black family he knew were good people; all the others he didn’t know? They were the bad people.

The ignorance in that reasoning, if you think about it long enough, will twist your mind.

He’s right. When we make assumptions about someone’s character or intelligence based on their tribe, we align ourselves with the most ignorant and judgmental from every tribe.

White people aren’t greedy. Black people aren’t lazy. Liberals aren’t stupid. Conservatives aren’t power-hungry. Muslims aren’t terrorists. Christians aren’t warmongers. And Nickelback fans aren’t lower life forms. At least not all of them.

Pastor and author Andy Stanley says there are only two things we use to fill in the gap between our expectations and reality — trust or suspicion. When someone’s behavior doesn’t match our expectations — for instance, when they’re late to a meeting — we assign explanations based on either trust or suspicion. We may say, “Ryan’s late to the meeting but he’s normally very reliable. He probably got held up in his last meeting. I’m sure he’ll be here soon.” Or we say, “Ryan’s late and he hasn’t called? Why couldn’t he just let us know he is running late? Does he not even respect us enough to offer that courtesy? That guy is so arrogant!”

The difference — the resource that allows us to fill those unsettling gaps with trust rather than accusation — is relationship. It is so much easier to suspect nefarious motives of people we don’t know. It’s so much easier to be suspicious of a stranger. That’s why Dale Hansen’s dad respected the black people he knew, but remained suspicious of the black people he didn’t.

We fall into the same trap with religion. Be honest: when you hear that someone is Muslim, do you immediately raise your suspicion that they may not be safe? When you hear that someone is an atheist, do you immediately suspect that they’re combative? Be careful how you answer because the next scenario involves you: what if we asked your unbelieving neighbors, “When you heard that the couple across the street are Christians, did you immediately suspect that they’re hateful?”

I’ve had many a conversation with unbelieving friends who are willing to make blanket statements about how “Christians are judgmental” or “the church is a bunch of hypocrites.” But in the same breath they offer, “Not you, of course.”

You see, if we want our neighbors to give us the benefit of the doubt — if we want them to refrain from lumping us in with the most unsightly factions of our own tribe — we have to offer them the same courtesy.

Dale Hansen’s dad can teach us something about the powers of ignorance and human connection. And I don’t think I categorize myself with the former when I say that Dale Hansen is a blowhard … but he’s a blowhard who’s right.