It seems to grow ever more difficult for people to talk about things upon which they disagree. That’s partly a result of the media and culture portraying positions in polarizing exaggerations: disagreement becomes “hate speech.” Make a mistake or trip up on words and you’re likely to be labeled the world’s most stupid idiot. There’s no effort to understand, or find common ground.
Unfortunately, the same seems to be true in the Church. We find it hard to converse calmly about the role of women in the church, about “emerging” leaders, about politics forcryingoutloud, and homosexuality, to name a few. We, like the media, often condemn in polarizing exaggerations. Women leaders are all feminists. Young, emerging leaders are ignorant of Theology.
That’s a long introduction to a beautiful article I found on the subject of dialog, called Loving the Holiest Object. The writer is primarily focused on the conversation between Christians and gays, and makes some simple, compelling points.
“First, you cannot have a conversation with anyone unless you are willing to listen. In the prologue to his book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Timothy Keller makes the point that the rhetorics which surround evangelical Christianity as well as secular liberalism are both couched in profound fear of their own imminent destruction.
“For instance, ‘The gays and lesbians are gaining political power. If we don’t squash this, traditional family values will be destroyed.’ Or ‘The religious right has a vast conspiracy to oppress all people, and if we don’t stop them, we will all be enslaved.’ Keller asserts that if both groups could simply own that both appear to be flourishing in numbers, rather than diminishing, perhaps we could maintain more civil and more fruitful discourse. Keller also suggests (which was radical to me) casting the other person’s argument in the best possible light, to give them the benefit of the doubt, rather than casting them as perpetual and disposable straw men in the battle for rightness and stability being waged inside your own mind.”
When is the last time we tried to view our “opposition’s” argument in the “best possible light”? Think how far that might go in helping us understand each other. If indeed, we could ever make understanding – rather than being “right” – our goal. We hammer people with TRUTH, claiming it’s in love, and are satisfied we’ve done our job. When perhaps hammering someone with LOVE might open their heart and actually achieve the desired outcome of allowing them to hear the truth.