DISCUSS, ARGUE, OR BLOVIATE?

I read an observation today that resonated with my take on things. Lance Witt noted, “In this election year, the amount of vicious attack and trash talking has reached a new high (or low). No matter what your political persuasion, I think you would agree that the political environment has become increasingly toxic.” I then saw the date Witt published his piece: March 11, 2016. The author’s observation was almost three and a half years ago!

Obviously it is not a new concern, but I continue to be concerned about and discouraged by the continued degradation of today’s discourse at pretty much every level. Politicians and those deeply captivated by politics seem to be leading the way, but it certainly isn’t limited to them. Verbal attack and trash talking is widespread.

There is nothing wrong with having strong beliefs and opinions, but how they are held and discussed is important. An arrogant and demeaning attitude towards others can do more damage than good.

When I was fresh out of college I had that ugly disease of thinking I knew it all. Given the opportunity to continue my education in three different graduate schools, I was exposed to a lot of religion, theology, and biblical interpretation that was far different from what I had learned and believed. I wasn’t there, however, to change anyone’s mind, but to learn – and I learned a lot.

I’m not a politician, but in my many years of being a pastor and teaching in a variety of venues, I have been involved often in controversial discussions. When it comes to Christianity, religion, the Bible, faith, doctrine, and theology there are many strong beliefs and opinions.

I wish I could say I have always been gracious and understanding, but that would not be true. In the last several years, however, I’m confident I’ve made significant progress in how I deal with those who come from a different background and have a different understanding or interpretation of the Bible and its meaning.

How are you doing when it comes to discussing controversial issues and matters? Are you respectful or demeaning? Do you listen or dominate? Do you discuss or argue? Do you bloviate? Do you give the impression that you think you know more than you do?

I wish people could say about me what one reviewer said about the author of a book dealing with controversial Christian material: “he means to speak as a friend to friends and he never comes close to being harsh or offensive.” As trite as it may seem, it is true that we can agree to disagree without destroying one another.

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