Sunday, July 29, 2012
Irritating "hot topics"...
This week the news seemed to be full of angry shouting people. I wish I could say that I was beginning to wonder where the ability to have a civil discussion has gone, but I have to say that I am well into the middle or perhaps past the middle in wondering. It seems like everyone is so interested in shouting their personal belief that they end up drowning out their own ability to hear.
Please understand that I do think we need to take a stand for what we are passionate about. Passion calls us to action, it moves us forward, and it pushes us to learn and grow. Making decisions based on knowledge we have gained and taking a stand for those decisions is important. Making sure that knowledge is truthful and accurate is crucial to making a wise decision. No one likes to be deceived, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Unfortunately many people are being deceived by themselves because they only listen to what they want to hear and they only believe what is comfortable. It seems to me that once a belief is challenged and the ‘line’ of comfort is crossed, anger rises, and labels and rehearsed answers become easier than dialog.
If I say that I am pro-life, then it makes different people think different thoughts. Some cheer and are glad to have the company, some apply a label and quietly move on, some become angry and want to tell me how stupid I am, and some stand on the sidelines to see who will emerge victorious. But does anyone wonder what I mean by pro-life? Each person’s reaction has their own label attached to it and they presume that they know what I mean if I attach the label pro-life to myself. Attaching labels can be risky because everyone else’s baggage comes with it.
I prefer to say that I believe in the sanctity of every life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. From the time the baby is in the womb, the baby is ‘he’ or ‘she’ to me – not it. Disability does not devalue life in my eyes. Age does not become a reason to encourage suicide. The closest ‘hot topic term’ that fits what I believe is ‘pro-life’ but that term does not usually inspire enough dialog for people to learn what I believe. The response seems to be to attack with rehearsed rhetoric or to quietly slip away hopefully unnoticed.
Unfortunately, no matter what the ‘hot topic’ is and no matter which side is being stated, the response seems to be identical. Sadly we seem to have lost the ability to communicate – the ability to have a civil discussion. Without this how can I share what I believe with you? How can you share your passion with me?
How can we stop this downhill spiral?
Perhaps it isn’t hopeless. I am willing to listen. Are you? I can put away the media’s tendency to stereotype and label people. Can you? If each of us does this with every uncomfortable conversation we encounter, perhaps we can begin to change the way people respond to each other – one conversation at a time. I may not change my point of view – and you may not either – but a conversation that begins with respect opens lines of communication that name calling and canned rhetoric close.
Of course, the angry shouting people will still make headlines. Quiet intelligent conversation is probably not going to make the nightly news; however, it may open many barricaded hearts wounded by previous battles. There is a saying that goes something like this: God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we might listen twice as often as we speak. I think I will start there.
22:36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 22:37 Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 22:38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 22:39 The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 22:40 All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:36 - 40 NET