Certain values and commitments are necessary to real conversation with the “other.” My thought is to define those we will adhere to going forward and let them determine what is appropriate and what is not. Before we can safely and constructively engage “issues” there should be agreement on values. I foresee establishing a charter that our follower travelers would agree to and be guided by in their conversations.
It is my sincere desire that we collaborate in forming and, then, declaring those values. Someone has to get the ball rolling and I will gladly accept that role. But my voice alone isn’t sufficient for the need. Help me out, please. Engage, suggest, admonish and think with me.
I’ll probably repeat certain themes over and over again. I am committed to a conversation of “others.” I don’t like labels because they short circuit understanding. But I think I have to use them to make my point here. I am not looking to create a Christian/Bahai conversation, nor a liberal/conservative, nor a brown/white, nor a young/old; nor any other x/x you can think of. I would like to create a conversation with all the either/or severely muted. I don’t suppose we can get rid of it entirely, but we can certainly stop leading with our differences and find the common ground that might lead to a celebration of those differences.
I thought about starting with the core value of listening but without the assumption of good will in the “other” listening rarely happens, not real listening anyway. So, what do I mean by an assumption of good will? As I said in an earlier blog (The Roaring Middle) I will be sharing from my faith in Jesus Christ as a Christ follower. That said, I long to hear from other faiths traditions and how they address similar issues. The assumption of good will is rooted in the belief that every person on the planet is created by God and created with purpose. As a follower of Jesus I believe that every person has both good and bad as a part of who they are. Some seem to have far more of one or the other but the very best have their faults and the very worst have a glimmer of the Creator’s spark in them. If I begin the conversation with the assumption that the bad is far more prevalent than the good I am likely to find the evidence to prove my point. It is at that point that all real conversation stops even if the words don’t. On the other hand if I start with the assumption of good will I will be looking for that evidence and far more likely to find it. You tend to find what you are looking for.
I know there are some truly malevolent people out there. I know you may have to look pretty hard to find the “good” in the “other,” but if you don’t at least try, then there is no hope of a conversation. Let me hasten to add that I am not suggesting that we instantly give trust to anyone or everyone. I am suggesting that you look for common cause and start the conversation from there. Let me close this with a simple illustration and then a challenge. Some time ago I was locked in conflict with an attorney who had an agenda that I was vehemently opposed to. In the midst of our heated exchange she mentioned a client that needed a neutral home for a baby they were hoping to adopt. If I remember correctly she was actually throwing that in my face believing it would shut me up. Within seconds I told her I would be glad to be the child’s neutral home until the adoption either went through or fell through. We stood on that common ground and accomplished something good, a home for the child. We didn’t have to resolve our disagreement to create that good.
So, the challenge. Take a moment and think of someone you are having a really hard time with, even better if it is a public figure. Now, get on the internet and find something good about them (if they are a public figure). See if you can find a common motive or concern. Sure, your solutions may diverge widely, but if your concerns are the same you have a starting place.
Finally, I want this to be a conversation. Add to my thoughts, challenge them, broaden them. Suggest other core values. I am not in a hurry. I know I already wrote this earlier, but I did say that I would repeat myself. Let me know what you think.
February 25th, 2021 at 8:36 am
I like what you wrote and am looking forward to whatever comes next. I don’t want to make a lot of comments but here are a few.
Labels: I would like an on going conversation about terms we should try to drop. Possibly “middle” could be dropped. Thought space is more than left or right. I do believe some of my ideas are better thought of as “other”. Think about graphing in three dimensions: left – right and up -down. There is much to be discussed about such things.
Suggestion: How about this as another proposed shared value? Active listening. The idea is to hear AND understand. Understanding is increased through clarifying questions and then stating, in our own words, what we thing the other is trying to communicate. This takes commitment to successfully. Again, much to be said about these things.
I am with you in this ministry of reconciliation. 2 Cor. 5:18
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February 25th, 2021 at 8:50 am
I appreciate your thoughts, David. I agree that “middle” either needs to be thoroughly explained or drop. I first used trying to make a distinction between the radical fringes that get all the media attention and where most people are. Active listening is absolutely one of the values. Right now I am thinking about starting with (1) assumption of good will or honoring the “other.” (2) Listening to understand, (3) resisting division and alienation, (4) epistemological humility, that is being certain of an opinion or position based on what I know but fully admitting that as other things come to light I may well change my mind in all integrity. (5) Sharing what I believe based on what I know without a demand that others agree. I am inclined to start there and keep it simple.
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