Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dialogue not Debate

The minister at my church concluded a series of sermons on truth this past Sunday with his final lesson on "speaking the truth". He began by discussing how there are three subjects that are often seen as taboo in America: money, politics, and religion. Two of those subjects happen to be my favorite to talk about! Oops. I think that the reason these subjects are seen as taboo is because they often lead to heated debate and anger. Sometimes, such discussions ruin relationships. People's religious beliefs and political opinions cut at the heart of who they are, and when those beliefs and opinions are challenged or derided, it can be hurtful.

If you are reading this blog, it is likely that you have strong political beliefs of some sort. Those espoused political ideologies could theoretically range from totalitarianism to anarchy, but are more than likely somewhere in between. When we discuss such ideology with others, what do we do? Do we get angry when they disagree with us? Do we pretend to listen to their opinions only waiting until we can talk ourselves? Do we share our opinions with conviction and listen to the opinions of others intently? I hope that we do that last option. We need a dialogue not a debate when it comes to politics. This applies to all of us: politicians, political staffers, campaign workers, grassroots activists, political junkies, and those of us who may only have a passing interest in politics.

There is a lot on the minds of those interested in politics in these times: legislative policy, presidential agenda, primary elections, political speeches, endorsements, PAC and campaign contributions, and politically focused non-partisan organizations. All of these engender a strong response from us. Strong responses are good; it means that we have opinions are built upon deep-seated principles and well thought out viewpoints. However, it may also make us prone to debate and argument rather than dialogue. My mom always said when I was growing up, "God gave us two ears and one mouth because we are supposed to listen twice as much as we talk". By definition, a dialogue means that two people talk, and two people listen.

I don't mean that we are supposed to be pushovers or that we aren't supposed to be vocal in our opinions. In fact, sometimes we're too timid, fearing that we may be misunderstood or seen as radical. Let us be passionate and principled not pushy. Let us be bold but not brash. Let us be intrepid but not insulting. Let us have a dialogue not debate.

Crossposted here.

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