We have a habit of talking past each other far too often when engaging in dialogue about hot-button issues instead of taking time to pause and listen to other voices who differ from our own. David Gushee has been hard at work this summer writing a series over at abpnews.com exploring LGBTQ concerns. Arecent entry was geared towards more progressive readers, specifically dealing with how not to argue against those who hold traditionalist positions.
Reading any comments section under any article or blog post related to LGBTQ concerns and the Christian faith betrays the reality that we have not yet perfected the art of speaking to each other with grace and humility. Instead we succumb to fear-mongering language and the incessant competition to always be right. (Internet pro-tip: never read the comments section.)
Perhaps in lieu of this constant one-upping, we could instead work towards living in the tension of our differences. Certainly there are multiple views and opinions on what the correct reading of scripture is with regard to homosexuality. Can we not disagree and live peacefully as a family?
What I have found in my journey so far is that sometimes (though not always—no sweeping generalizations here) we in the progressive camp have a tendency to view the “conservatives” or “traditionalists” or “side-b affirming individuals” or whatever other alienating label we want to ascribe to "them", as if they're on a lower plane of thinking and just have not quite gotten it yet. The fact I'm writing this as an “us versus them” piece signals a problem I don't yet have the language to fix.
This truly gets us nowhere. If we wish to converse with others with grace, then we cannot simply brush off those who disagree with us as wrong or unimportant. This gets us nowhere. People shut down and we all go home frustrated and unable to finish the beers or coffee we were having these conversations over because they're bitter...and not in the good way. The mission of Level Ground is to truly create a safe space for dialogue, and in the spirit of this mantra let us all pause to allow space for voices opposing our own to be heard even if we don't like it. This does not mean we affirm their position, this means we affirm their humanity.
In his article, Gushee provides several helpful reminders for engaging in constructive conversation.
Do not dismiss the traditionalist-cited passages as “clobber verses,” deployed with malice in order to harm gay people. Certainly there are some on the conservative side who like a good clobber now and then, like we all do when we fight for our causes; but remember the good-hearted Christian folks who are simply trying to be faithful Christians and aren’t clobbering anyone.
Instead of clobbering those who we're convinced are clobbering us, let's all drop our hammers and choose to get to the bottom of why we believe what we believe about those passages.
Do not dismiss people who cite the Bible against your view simply as fundamentalists or biblicists or some other derogatory phrase. It’s not helpful, and most of the time, it’s not fair. Name-calling rarely advances the search for truth or the health of Christian community.
Leave the playground antics on the playground. Maybe play some kickball while you're there.
Do not dismiss whole authors (Paul) or sections (Old Testament) of Scripture as if we good contemporary folks know that they have little to say to our enlightened modern world —at least, not if you want to be taken seriously by traditional Christians.
These texts are canon for a reason, and the Old Testament is hella cool. Read them. Think theologically about them.
I say this for myself as much as anyone else. Engaging in fruitful dialogue with diverse perspectives (especially those different from your own) requires a legion of patience, gentleness, and self-control. This is a difficult road to pave, but one so desperately needed within the Church. Otherwise, we'll continue to fragment ourselves into isolation.
We're a family. Let's stay together.