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Talking Past…


I have a college friend with whom I’ve become somewhat recently reconnected via Facebook. In fact, there are a bunch of us from that same circle of friends who regularly share old memories and family updates. We’re even planning a reunion picnic for this coming summer. Good stuff.

If only it could stay at the level of old memories and family updates.

This friend posted something within the last week of a political nature related to the on-going tussle between the Obama administration and the US Catholic bishops about the forced provision of contraceptives by Catholic institutions. My friend had some very definite views about this issue related to gender and power inequities and the need for justice. Because even when it’s good for me I can’t always keep my mouth shut, I responded with a question about the constitutionality of the matter. And suddenly we seem to be unable to speak about this issue. Our entry points on the conversation and our assumptions about what’s going on here are so very different that we end up talking past each other no matter what we say. Guess we’ll have to sort it out over a beer at that upcoming picnic. Or maybe we’ll just agree to disagree. Hopefully we don’t end up at the point of “un-friending” one another.

Does is seem that an awful lot of what passes for theological and ecclesial conversation in the church these days falls into this same pit? The inability to speak clearly, civilly and rationally with fellow Christians of differing persuasions is about the worst thing we’ve borrowed from the larger culture since Constantine and the empire.

Really…I don’t expect to agree with everyone or to have everyone agree with me. I don’t even agree with everything the folks I agree with have to say about things we agree on. (Sorry. You may have to read that sentence twice.) Life and faith are much too nuanced to fit into a single-issue argument about which we all have to take sides. There is something greater at stake here: the on-going mission of the church to be Christ to a world that needs Christ more desperately than it knows. But if we insist on (and persist in) lobbing rocks at each other rather than the devil, Christ doesn’t get heard, at least not by us…and the world turns away…and we shrink into the irrelevance that we have made for ourselves.

So if I ask you a question that seems challenging, please don’t assume that I’m simply being a difficult, sarcastic wiseass. Maybe I just want an answer…from you, from your perspective…in order to better understand. I promise to return the favor. And perhaps, if we really work at this, we can get back to the business to which we are called.


6 Comments leave one →
  1. 13February2012 11:14

    I think you hit the nail on the head. We have lost the ability to talk to each other. We cannot discuss an issue without hearing criticism and condemnation. Our culture of “tolerance” and “acceptance does not help things either. Good post!

  2. 13February2012 11:39

    Thank you for writing this post. You’ve captured my thoughts well. This specific topic, and many others in the government political arena, as well as the church political arena, are incredibly difficult to sort out because we can’t talk with each other and end up talking past each other when we do talk. We may need to agree to disagree, but how can we know that if we can’t even have a conversation where we listen to the perspective of the other without judgment and articulate our own views without fear of being judged before being heard?

  3. Ron Orovitz permalink
    13February2012 17:40

    The problem is with the big “I”. There is no authority anymore because what “I” think is all that matters. It is the post-modern climate gone wild. And.. “all the people did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25b) When everyone is doing that there can be no conversation. Lord Have Mercy.

    • 13February2012 18:07

      Too many authorities means no authority at all? Perhaps so. Yes, we are given the ability to choose…but a set of common values about how we will discuss the decisions we reach seems absent from most public discourse…including that of the church.

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