Ann Coulter, with whom I often agree philosophically and disagree tactically (it’s not hard to catalogue her plethora of over-the-top, even ugly, comments), wrote a book (which I haven’t read) entitled, “How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must). I write today to suggest that, at least for Christians, the word “if” doesn’t apply; if I’m going to be at all concerned about Jesus’ commission to love everyone, a decent percentage of “everyone” will be liberals. Ergo, if I love Jesus, I must not only talk to liberals, but if I’m going to love as Jesus loved, I need to…gulp…love liberals.
I could stop there and have already made a point worth meditating upon.
But I’ll take it further. Last week, I had the real privilege of talking, for two hours, with a liberal. You may remember my series of posts on homosexuality prompted by conversations I’d had with “Bob”, a new friend and a liberal. Yesterday, “Bob” and I sat down at Atlanta Bread Company and on purpose talked about the issue of homosexuality, as well as some other stuff that came up.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. And “Bob” did as well.
What, Byron? You, a conservative, didn’t feel the need to browbeat/condemn/judge “Bob”, the liberal? (In fairness to “Bob”, by the way, he didn’t categorize himself as a “liberal”, and if indeed he is one, he is certainly of the much more moderate variety. Though we didn’t mention her name, I get the feeling that Nancy Pelosi would scare the bejabbers out of him to nearly the degree she scares me.) Ummm…no. Neither did I feel the need to “win”, to score points with my delivery, or put him in his place, or to prove that I was right. No, we just…talked. And laughed. And asked questions, and tried to honestly answer them. I look forward to doing it again sometime. And from “Bob’s” follow-up email, it’s clear he does as well. In fact, he told me that there had been times in his life when he’d held back from speaking his mind out of fear that he’d get into a shouting match or ugly confrontation with someone, but that he felt that he could speak his mind with me, and not fear that I’d get angry. He’s right; I feel the same way about him; I take his words as a tremendous compliment.
So…how does all this happen? Digressing one more time, I think that this ought to happen a lot more often than it does, people of differing perspectives taking the time to listen to each other instead of lobbing hand grenades across well-barricaded lines of demarcation. Christians should, of all people, take the lead in speaking respectfully to others—yet how many of us simply fight fire with fire?
Back to the question: how do two people from differing perspectives have respectful conversations? Some thoughts finally on “how to talk to a liberal”:
- Speak with respect. I may not agree with a person’s positions, but every person is created in the image of God. I must accord sincere respect to everyone, not because of what they profess to believe, but because of the imago Dei stamped upon them.
- Listen. When we feel like we must win, we won’t shut up and allow the other person a chance to express his views. If he feels/acts this way as well, we are at an impasse where little can be accomplished saved the inflammation of passions, heat instead of light. Chances are that when a person is allowed the opportunity to express how he/she really thinks, stereotypes will fall, and while we may not reach the same ultimate conclusion, we will at least come to appreciate how people arrive at their conclusions.
- Be honest. This should be self-apparent, but the temptation, again if we’re trying to win a point, is to clip the coin a little bit in our own direction. I don’t have everything figured out; do you? It’s OK to admit this, folks.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. If we can’t laugh—and especially at ourselves and our foibles—then we need to seriously take a pill. Big time. “Bob” is a master of self-deprecating humor, a genuinely funny guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously. How would it have come off if I’d taken some position that suggested that my way, in every way, was the only right way, if I’d failed to acknowledge my own capacity to be wrong?
- If we don’t do everything we do—everything—with love, then we’re sunk. Period.
You probably have some bullet points to add. Feel free.