Dialogue, Maybe Over Coffee.


Some time ago, a blogger completely destroyed my entire blog. He wrote a detailed analysis of the whole thing, from my theology to posts to quotes to my childhood. He posted it all over my blog just to make sure I saw it. He actually had great points, and I imagine that if we sat down for coffee and discussed these things, we would find a lot of common ground. I had to really think about some areas that I mishandled. My only issue, really, was that he was so very distasteful and trashy and condescending that I just couldn’t take him very seriously. (He later deleted his blog and I never heard from him again.)

I’m afraid I’ve fallen into the same trap of just going off on someone online, especially when I’ve had a bad day. I usually don’t respond to hate, but when I do: it never works. Even when someone offers fair criticism, I’m not always sure they’re interested in actual dialogue. There’s about a zero percent chance it will be a healthy talk, anyway. The more you defend and explain, the more it’s misinterpreted. If you miss a single thing, it will be pounced on and torn to pieces. If you apologize, it’s never enough. Semantics always escalate. And I’ve learned: Christians love to devour their own. There’s some epidemic of Christian men who love to watch other Christian men burn. (Cue the Hans Zimmer TDK horns.)

Tone, approach, and demeanor are all crucial to being heard. I can’t hear someone who makes a million assumptions with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. It doesn’t matter that we agree or disagree. My question is: Would you listen to you if you spoke the same way to yourself?

I’ve failed at this many times, and I want to do better.

I love conversation. I love to be challenged. I think even conflict with a direction can lead to growth. The point isn’t to see eye-to-eye. The point is to lay down our presumptions and to grow from the best of each other. It’s to not make a false parody of the other viewpoint, but to truly listen, and then to offer an angle that hasn’t been considered. It’s to humanize someone so that we’re not equating disagreement with moral value. It’s to first consider that we don’t see the whole thing ourselves, and maybe the meeting of our perspectives can create an even higher ground to see more than before.

Of course, it has to start with a sensible approach on both sides, and the willingness to be teachable. If your mind is already made up, then never mind. We don’t have to like each other, but there’s a huge difference between winning points for preaching to the choir and actually caring about what you’re saying. There’s a difference between proving the point right and proving yourself right. One gets you heard; the other gets a shrug. We don’t have to agree. I just want to talk, over coffee.

J.S.

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9 thoughts on “Dialogue, Maybe Over Coffee.

  1. Great points… I was especially critical, even cynical, toward other Christians (even the church itself) during the first few years of my Christian spiritual journey (having obtained much learning through years of theological study)… I looked forward to the moments when I could stumble and devour the theology of other Christians, wiping my hands of any guilt because somehow I had “a better understanding”… It wasn’t long before I found myself isolated from others… The heart is deceitful above all things, and the tree of knowledge can easily express its’ poison through ambition (inflaming the ego)… Quoting my book, “Paul warned Christians to be weary of those who boasted in earthly knowledge, for the result would be a contest of wits, spawned by the ego of one who wishes only to boast in their intelligence, forming controversies soley for the sake of controversy.”

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  2. I love your point, but the nature of cyberspace prevents what you just say should happen. I think your idea of sitting down over coffee is great because we can easily type stuff when we can’t see someone’s expression face to face. I think that’s the curse of social media and cyberspace. Technology isn’t always a blessing. Sure, technology give us GPS to find directions better, but social media sure don’t help the “social” part.

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    1. Definitely. I thank God for social media because it’s made great strides to connecting otherwise unknown voices together. But wow, that can get bad really fast. YouTube comments are just about the worst of human depravity (and they need grace as much as we do).

      I had an interesting experience recently where a very courteous pastor asked to debate me on some of my theology. I told him I’d listen, with the caveat that I could opt out of the discussion if it looked fruitless. He sent me a long counter-point email, and after reading it several times, I decided to opt out. I never heard from him again. That was it. I’m guessing he might be upset, but it was the one time that I can recall where someone didn’t blow up and escalate.

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      1. Oh goodness. When you said destroyed I thought you meant it was gone. All your hard work! I am glad to see you are still blogging regardless of what happens. I appreciate your wisdom greatly.

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  3. Pure and simple evil. Some people put on a mask of respectability, but to attack someone like that is coming from an evil heart and definitely should not be taken seriously. A blog is a record of who someone is warts and all. God doesn’t make mistakes or junk. All people are God’s creation so everything you write is who you are and priceless no matter what any evil hearted person says. Only God has perfect theology. I recently graduated seminary and am working to become a minister with the Church of God and in training is hard work. My theology will only be sound when I meet Jesus face to face. Theology is what we know about God – who are we to claim we know perfectly. That fella is not God nor am I. Your writing lifts my heart toward heaven and is a balm to my soul. Please don’t stop writing unless you have to for your own season of life.

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