Five tips for having a rewarding Christian dialogue with an "adversary"

I love having a good conversation with someone who disagrees with me. Over the years, I’ve had hundreds of these types of conversations – mostly with colleagues in the church who disagree with me about the place of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender faithful.

Though I don’t know many people who share my joy in opening up a dialogue with those who they might call their “adversaries,” I believe those conversations are critically important for us to have. This is especially true if we are to better understand and eventually open our neighbors’ minds to the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in our churches.

So, with the hope that this will inspire you to pick up the phone, and invite someone you currently think of as an “adversary” to talk, I’d like to offer five tips on opening up a rewarding Christian dialogue with a person in disagreement with you.

  1. Approach the other person as a beloved child of God. See Christ in the eyes of the other person. Set aside every presumption you may have about him or her except that God loves this other, just like God loves you. This is often a mystery for me that our talk with help solve.
  2. Trust deeply that the Holy Spirit has a word for you both. Watch carefully for the gift God has for you in your exchange with this other. It probably will not be the same gift for both of you. It will most likely be a still, small voice so you must listen hard for it.
  3. Try hard to see things from the other’s point of view. Ask questions like: “This is what I hear you saying, is that correct?” or: “I want to make sure I get what you mean, is this what you said?” My own convictions have been strengthened many times by testing them against the other’s heartfelt words.
  4. Watch for those things upon which you both agree and highlight them. This can often lead to some struggle because being in agreement is foreign to us and we resist it. Still, it can be very healing to get up at the end of your conversation to go your different ways having acknowledged some things upon which you agree. It’s also a great way to start an ongoing dialogue. Can we agree that our goal is Loving God, or Loving Neighbor? These are the seeds from which further discussion can blossom.
  5. The goal is to keep the conversation going. Talking shouldn’t be seen as a means to an end. Talking is a sole purpose in and of itself. For this reason, I often do not share my position with the other person (Its well known anyway). I simply take in what the other is saying and seek the best way to prompt another response from the other by sharing of my self or asking a question that has occurred to me.

There is one crucial dynamic in all of these tips required to make this work: Nothing that the other says to you is about you personally. The other person speaks only from his or her ideas and so you need not take anything that person says as true about you. I am often disappointed and challenged by what the other says but I am usually not hurt or angered by it.

I pray for that same godly protection for you as you join in a conversation that I hear God calling us all to.

Originally posted at A Time to Embrace.

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Comments

It is interesting

that so many in the GLBT community want to set the ground rules for the discussion. This is dictatorial. Those who disagree with them--regardless of their attitude or actions--are (seemingly) automatically classified as hateful, homophobic, etc. While no one should excuse boorish or hateful behavior, there is another side to this issue that doesn't necessarily equate to ignorance or bigotry.

The discussion would be more productive if gays would stop assuming that criticism of their behavior is the same as wholesale condemnation of them as persons. They are not.

In others words, those in the gay community should not so closely associate the essence of their existence with their sexual orientation. They seem much more preoccupied with this than those in the hetero community. There are plenty of heterosexual Christians who make a healthy distinction between their sexual nature and their essence as persons. Many practice celibacy not so much to minimize their sexual nature as to maximize their spiritual one.

I speak here about spirituailty/transgender

As a transgender female who has a deep Christian faith, I am all too aware of how many Christian's choose to condemn LGBT persons by deviating fom the message of Jesus. Rather than love and embrace, too often they express hate and rejection. This is very very un-Christian like behavior....nothing less. Often it reveals that the Christian doing the condemning is far from actualized as a Christian. I remember the words of Jesus "Father forgive them for they know not what they do"....I offer here my position paper about the need to seek understanding of transgender females. I delve into the spiritual state of we who are transgender---I offer that we are very spiritual in nature...many of us as Christians.
http://wp.me/nQPn

Lovingly

In my experience

Hi! I am a lifelong lesbian, and I've had 100s of discussions with people on the topic, particularly with religious people.

95% of Christians I've personally met don't really seem to know or care who I date. I'm not religious, but my girlfriend is, and she gets a huge amount of support from my family and church group.

I've never met a homophobe face-to-face, but I see it *incessantly* when I read about GLBT issues in the news. I think at this point, I'm pretty immune to cyber bullying, but it really frightens me seeing things that people -- evangelical Christians in particular -- say everyday about me, my partner, my friends, my family.

They say I'm mentally diseased, compare me to child sexual predators, they say I should be forcefully removed from society (imprisoned or executed, whichever is harsher), they say my girlfriend isn't a "real" Christian or just doesn't love God enough, and they justify all those nastiness with "hate the sin, not the sinner" and other dismissive thought-terminating cliches. All the while, they assert their moral superiority of me.

Its not just the nastiness of the message, its the message itself: that being gay is fundamentally morally wrong and should be changed. Being gay is *not* immoral, its a normal variation in human sexuality.

No small wonder why all those discussions on "whether homosexuality is a choice" are so unproductive: it doesn't matter if sexuality is immutable or fluid, its not immoral, and there's no good reason why it *should* change.

As soon as someone enters a discussion with the assumption that homosexuality *must* be changed, they're already incapable of having a discussion with anyone.

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