My thoughts have experienced a bit of a bottle-neck in regards to all that’s in the cultural air. I have lost count on the number of hot-button issues to comment on or avoid — maybe you can relate.
When I first began this blog, I thought it would be an exercise on finding the nuance that was often missing in our current cultural conversations and hoped to approach this informed by a Christian faith perspective. I hoped I could contribute to the conversation by saying your nuance is needed, and the nuances of the other is also needed and that we needed to make space for one another.
I also wanted to react to the toxic forms of tribalism I’ve been witnessing over the years. Honestly, I remain staggered that we live in such a time when each issue has been so polarized. I remember seeking advice on blogging and preaching on avoiding hot-button issues and the friend said, avoid the politicized loaded ones, and I sat there thinking, “I can’t think of one that isn’t politicized and thus, loaded.”
Avoiding talking about particular issues hasn’t seemed to lessen the cultural tension in my corners. Further, voices that call you to take a side have been further amplified and even rewarded in some ways – but unpacking that observation may be for another day. Til then, it sure seems that if I call someone the devil, I lose 50 friends but gain 100 new ones – that’s disturbing.
So I’m left often wondering, what would it look like to live in a society where a chief value was to listen to the voice of the other and to truly work to understand the other person’s perspective? What I mean is the chief value would be to seek to understand the other as opposed to being right. Currently, understanding the other feels very secondary, and very optional. Being right, or more right than your ideological opponent seem like the supreme values. And that thinking, puts “the other” in a secondary place.
Wouldn’t you and I love to live in a place where “the other” sought to hear you and truly understand you first? Well, “the other” would love that from you and I as well. Now, we can all certainly appreciate that not all opinions are created equal, that not all opinions have been informed by the same quality of thought and have been shaped by various pieces of data, personal experiences, values and points of logic and on and on. But what if we could seek to understand the other first?
And even if the same conclusion wasn’t reached, even if the arguments kept their opposing perspectives, we would not only gain mutual respect and understanding for each other, but I suspect the conversations would also grow. And not just the conversations but those us of having the conversations would also grow. Hopefully, they would grow beyond the rhetoric and into better community. And that community would have diversity of thought, ethnicity, and more.
The nuance for me isn’t going to be found in discovering the “most-right” rhetoric and articulation of a complicated matter – That feels like a unicorn chase. It will never be right enough. But what if we did two things here? First, what if we created our opinions, convictions, and ideologies in ways that best we can – with intellectual integrity, a robust moral compass, with prayer (for those that hold that practice essential) and with faithfulness to a common-good belief system? And second, what if we would truly to seek to understand the beliefs of those around us who are doing their best to find their way in this complicated, painful world that hopes for healing, justice, redemption, and love?
We don’t listen merely to see where you think they got it wrong, but to listen to the heart of why they hold this belief or position. And what if they did that for you? That would be the first step, that God-willing, would eventually lead us down a long, likely winding road that eventually lead us all to more thoughtful, a more informed, and more fruitful positions, and a more redemptive way forward for us all.
That’s type of nuance way of thinking that I crave.