Maybe I’m naïve. Maybe I’m sheltered and unworldly. Or maybe I just believe that we’re better than this.
My heart has been troubled the past few days over what I have seen coming through my Facebook feed. I have no desire to enter into a conversation about the latest “controversy.” Jen Hatmaker’s blog http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2013/12/21/the-duck-thing-is-there-another-way said everything I would have liked to say about this specific issue.
This particular firestorm is just the latest in a series of issues where I have seen people I like exhibit behavior I don’t like so much. Political discussions have never been so vitriolic as they have been in the past couple of years. I saw a cavernous divide between people I care about over a fast food restaurant. Unfettered racial rants. Gun control debates. Discussions about health care where actual human beings are likened to inanimate objects. Diatribes about the poor.
Often at the center of all of these discussions is Christianity; those who profess a Christian faith and those who not only don’t ascribe to it, but are openly hostile towards it.
I believe there are ways to have these controversial discussions without it leading to the numerous comments I have seen about “unfriending” people. Are we really to a place where we cannot abide those who believe differently than we do?
There must be a way to have a civil conversation about religion, politics and social issues without ending friendships.
As I mentioned previously( http://kbjackson.com/zero-shades-of-grey-confessions-of-a-black-and-white-thinker/ ) I’ve spent most of my life debating, whether in a legitimate forum, or just in my every day life. Because I lean towards being a black and white thinker, I am usually pretty tenacious in defense of my position once I have decided where I fall on an issue. Facebook hasn’t helped this.
There are many nights where my husband will look at me hunched over my phone typing furiously and say, “What are you arguing about now?”
And I will respond, “I wish I could walk away. I do. But when they say these things… I can’t NOT respond. How do you do it?”
“I don’t get involved in the first place.”
I have been working on strengthening this muscle in my own self. I chant to myself over and over, “Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.”
Sometimes I think I can make a tiny comment and walk away, but those who are already worked up will pounce and then I’m sucked in. And it’s an awful experience usually. I walk away feeling like I’ve been through something. There are those that attempt to keep things civil and those that don’t even try. My brain tells me there’s no point in trying to engage or convince anyone of something that is contrary to their position, and yet, there’s that part of me that says, “If you just say the right thing in the right way, maybe they will stop and think about it.”
But they never do. And still I never learn.
So the past few days I have been thinking very hard about this whole issue of conversations, how we can do them better so that everyone doesn’t leave it feeling terrible, feeling attacked, feeling misunderstood.
Here’s what I have come up with:
First and foremost, in order for a conversation to stay civil, we must come from a place of respect. If you don’t respect the person you are talking with, you might as well walk away right then and there, because it’s gonna get ugly. You know that old adage, “no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care?” Totally true.
I’ve seen many people come to these conversations loaded for bear, and their aim is to annihilate others with their “knowledge.” They are condescending and yet seem baffled when people start ganging up on them. I’ve actually seen people who agree with people like this ideologically say, “dude, you’re making the rest of us look bad.” Of course, there’s always those willing to tag team with them, they feed off each other’s comments and make the conversation no longer viable for civil discourse. There’s no place for common sense to enter in, so their nasty words go unchallenged and they feel victorious.
I think it’s important to be a good listener.
In regards to sensitive topics, often we are too busy talking to hear the pain behind the angry statements being made by others. Or we listen just enough to make a snappy rebuttal. Why do we feel like we’ve “won” when we’ve cut someone down publicly, causing them to slink away with a tail between their legs? We think we’ve “won” when they stop fighting back, never realizing that the last one standing in an argument like this is one who has bullied their way to the end, crushing people as they go. We feel self-righteous in our ability to speak our minds, never once stopping to ask ourselves if we might be causing damage to someone else.
I think it’s important to be empathetic. What people who are incapable of having a good back-and-forth without making everyone despise them are missing is empathy. You have to be able to stop and look at things from someone else’s point of view.
Your life experiences are YOUR life experiences. Much of your perception on how things work in this world is a direct result of that. Guess what? Other people have DIFFERENT life experiences. This has led them to see the world differently. Their perspective is not wrong, it is THEIRS.
Those who grew up in poverty have a different perspective from those who grew up in wealth. Those who are white have experienced a different world than those who are people of color. People are usually experts on their own lives, and yet somehow they like to believe it makes them experts on the lives of others.
We can learn so much if we take the time to understand where someone else is coming from. Sometimes things make sense in my own logic, but when I talk with someone who has actually experienced what is to me just an abstract concept, I find that my mind expands and I come to a deeper understanding of how the world truly works, not just how I think it should.
Of course, I believe there are moral absolutes. I believe there is truth and there are lies. I believe there is good and there is bad. There is right and there is wrong. But I didn’t create those moral absolutes and it’s not my job to enforce them. My job is to live them as best I can and love others.
I believe it’s important to know which battles to fight.
I saw someone liken their fight against Obamacare to the struggles of Nelson Mandela.
I’ve seen people on both sides of the aisle passionately defend politicians who have done little more than pad their pockets and inflated their own egos.
I’ve seen people take a stand for things that have left me scratching my head. Are we really so complacent and comfortable in our own lives that we have no concept of which injustices are truly worth fighting for?
When I saw people outraged over the backlash against the owner of Chick-fil-A to the point that they were gorging themselves on chicken sandwiches in defense of his right to speak of his values, I found myself wondering if there might be a better way to live out our faith.
We “live our values” by posting Facebook rants from the comfort of our cushy homes, and the arduous task of waiting in line for an hour to consume fast food.
Meanwhile the world watches us live out our values. They see so clearly what we seem to be missing.
We here in America are so clueless about real persecution it is flabbergasting.
The LGBT community is being persecuted because some redneck with a reality show thinks their sexuality is sinful?
Christians are being persecuted because a multi-millionaire can’t say whatever he wants without there being consequences?
You want to know about persecution? Look outside of this country.
Christian martyrs. Murder of gays. Ethnic cleansing. Girls who are denied education and sold into sex trafficking.
Let’s be advocates for GENUINE persecution victims.
Don’t make blanket accusations or place labels.
Just because someone is of a certain faith or political party does not mean that they ascribe to every ideal that others do. Within each party, within each faith, there is room for dissension. It’s not all or nothing. Also, you can hold a belief without bashing people over the head.
You can believe in the Biblical definition of traditional marriage and NOT be homophobic. Homophobia implies that one is either afraid of the gay community or hates them. It’s simply not true. Does that mean that there aren’t those who profess a Christian faith who truly are homophobic? Of course not. There are, but that is not living by the example of Jesus. You CAN believe the Bible teaches homosexuality is a sin, and still love people who are gay.
You CAN be a Christian with gay friends. Honestly, if you call yourself a Christian and you don’t have people in your life that you love who aren’t living their lives exactly like you are living yours, you’re probably missing a huge component of what it means to be Christ to the world. The Bible says, “Be in the world, not of it.” That doesn’t mean “close yourself off from everyone who doesn’t think and believe like you so you won’t get their sin on you.”
For my non-Christian friends, it is hurtful when you attack someone for not believing the same way you do.
For my Christian friends, it is hurtful when you attack someone for not believing the same way you do.
It’s not ok.
Please don’t use the Bible as a weapon.
I cannot tell you how many conversations between Christians and non-Christians this week have including both throwing the Word of God around like a Frisbee.
Christians: Do you not value the Scriptures more than to use them to hurt others? To bash them over the head with verses that mean nothing to them, but reinforce why they want nothing to do with God? Why must you take verses out of context so that all people see is judgment and not Grace? Don’t forget that it’s God’s kindness that led US to repentance. Perhaps we should consider that example one to live by.
Non-Christians: Unless you have a master’s degree in Christian theology, please do not attempt to use the Bible against others in a conversation meant to make them look foolish. Taking verses out of context to make your point is disrespectful and rude. Your understanding of our faith is limited, and cherry-picking verses when you do not have a concept of the bigger picture will not dissuade anyone. While you may have decided that the Bible is untrue, that God doesn’t exist, please understand that for those of us who do, your condescending use of something we hold sacred is a gross display of the kind of intolerance you say you despise in Christians.
The harder we try to be right, the more wrong we are.
At the end of our lives, do we want to look back and see all the moments when we were right? Or do we want to see the moments of love, service, kindness, reconciliation?
Do unto others as you would have done to you.
We call this the “Golden Rule.”
You can find this concept in every major religion and ancient philosophy throughout history. Funny how we just can’t seem to get this one right.
Whether someone is of a different ethnicity, whether they come from a different political ideology, whether they are gay or straight, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, atheist, we should be able to live our lives by this concept.
An interesting thing happens… we teach people how to treat us by the way we treat them and those around us. When we engage them with kindness, they often will reciprocate. When we are rude, they get defensive and rude back. When we say hateful things, they feel justified in hating us.
When we treat others in a way we would like to be treated, we open up a dialogue, not a debate. We can leave conversations feeling good about ourselves and those we engaged.
After all, those victories earned by belittling others are shallow and unsatisfying. It’s just not what we were made for. We were made for more.