I believe we can hold a variety of beliefs and still be a gift to one another. To me our many gifts, abilities and shapes make up a richer community that is only whole with all the pieces in place. Your perspectives and passions are gifts to me that can sharpen my thinking, enrich my viewpoints and keep me honest. This is the very nature of Love. Yet I feel in a minority, in a world of shock jocks, divisive politics, positional faith, and black and white values.
I was drawn to express my convictions this week after having a discussion on a "hot button" topic with a friend I respect. (I'd tell you what it was, but I don't want that to become the topic here and now.) My friend expressed trouble understanding how I could hold my point of view, opposite to their own, on the topic at hand, and still claim to be a person of faith. I could hear in their voice a sadness at my "mistaken position."
My goal has become to learn from another, learn more about another and to honestly be myself. First, because I know that most times my mind isn't changed in a discussion. I am, however, influenced, enriched and challenged by others in conversations. (When was the last time you changed someone's mind on a strongly held opinion in one conversation?) So I am truly saddened when such diversity is seen as a problem, a limitation, a non-negotiable impasse, rather than a gift.
As a Christian I value the teaching of Jesus and I think he had much to say about this. For instance in Mark 12:13-17 I noticed that Jesus willingly offered respect to political leaders who worshiped gods that he would have considered off the mark. I wonder if I can do any less with those who disagree with me, that is to offer them respect. This story reflects, for me, a pattern of Jesus'. A pattern of love, respect, engagement, grace and trust that God is bigger than any situation.
So, I am also saddened when those who share my perspectives and opinions make fun of sisters and brothers who hold different opinions. I am poorer when others enter discussions with sarcasm rather than openness and candor. I am robbed of learning and relationship when another refuses to converse because I have been dismissed as unequivocally wrong.
And, I am energized in honest, thoughtful conversation that brings to the table passionate ideas and well founded facts. I am strengthened when our encounter challenges me to express why I believe what I do. I am affirmed when you care enough to engage me honestly with your beliefs and embrace me with opportunity to share mine. I grow in such exchanges.
We live in a time when this kind of discussion has been labeled as weak, as selling out, as ineffective, and as impossible. I believe that we not only can have these discussions, but that when we dare to enter into these risky places we come a little closer to a world of peace built with love.
What do you think?