The other day my running partner and I had a long discussion (yes, while running) about a religious issue. She and I aren't from the same "brand" of faith nor did we agree on the topic. But we had a lively debate, laughed a little, learned a lot about each other, and in the end were still friends. Still. Friends. Seriously.
Over the past few months I've engaged in a couple of on-line debates/discussions about religious issues with Facebook acquaintances. They made their points. I made mine and even backed some up with scripture. No one convinced anyone of anything, but we made our points, I learned a great deal about their point of view (which was an enlightenment to me) and no one unfriended anybody. Seriously.
In this day of "don't discuss religion or politics" I think we've done ourselves a disservice. We've made ourselves MORE divisive, not less, because we're not practicing our discussion and communication skills. Instead, when the topics come up, many people ARGUE the topic rather than rationally and reasonably present their side with evidence to back up their opinion. We've lost the skill of debating. We've lost how to communicate with each other. We must be right and the other person must be wrong and there is no other way to see the issue. Final answer.
When did having a religious or political conversation become a competative blood sport? Why is it manditory that if you start the discussion on religion or politics you must win or the discussion is for naught? That's stupid. I would love for everyone to agree with me, but I realize that not everyone is going to see my point of view. That's life. I don't get my panties in a wad about it. It's okay if you don't think I'm right. Even worse, Heaven forbid, what if you CHANGE MY MIND and I realize I'm WRONG and have to admit that you're RIGHT? What do I do then? Why is that such a cultural taboo?
It shouldn't be. We should be open minded enough to listen to what other people have to say, judge it against evidence, and make our decision based on the evidence we have not make a concrete decision before the discussion begins. That's what makes us firm in our faith about our beliefs. If we can discuss it rationally, defend it rationally, and in the end feel strong about our position, then we have succeeded. It isn't about changing the other person's mind. It's about solidifying our own personal beliefs.
Or...if by listening to the evidence of "the other side" you find you're convicted to change your faith, then you need to change. This is the tough one, but the one we all need to revise our lives around. Being open minded doesn't mean I will automatically agree with everything everyone else says. But it should mean that if I hear something that makes me realize I'm wrong, I need to change. Change is hard. But that's how we grow.
Grow, baby. Grow.