OK, Kathy Escobar, I get your point, but I’m a theologian and we like this question… but you are right, it’s often a veiled question designed to size up someone’s status in your own ranking …

truth be told, i have a lot of pet peeves. i can’t stand when people slurp when they drink out of a cup (worse than nails on a chalkboard for me), snow (that’s not in the mountains when i’m skiing) bugs the $*#^!&! out of me, and when i hear someone say “we let women lead” i go a little nuts inside. but my new #1 pet peeve at the moment is when people ask the question:  what’s your position on _________?  (homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, gun control, hell, you name it). it’s the question of the moment not only for many church or ministry leaders but on facebook, blogs, and in certain christian circles.

we all know what that really means.

how can i determine whether i am aligned with you or not aligned with you?

how can i know if you’re on our team or the other one?

how can i sniff out whether i can trust you or not?

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  • Randy Gabrielse

    My deepest related pet peeve question is “What do you do?” AKA What is your job/profeession?

    I used to belong to a non-residential community where we we tried to work with each other across lines of race, politics, social class and gender orientation, We were not supposed to ask questions about things like jobs because that was a label, whether one of privilege (I was a campus ministry director) or of marginalization (migrant worker, etc.).

    There we learned how to engage in conversation without asking these kinds of conversation-killing questions of that highlight differences. For some of us (myself included) it took some time to come to peace with these rules. But we eventually learned that we could garner the answers to these questions in much more civil ways through fully engaged conversation, This of course made life much easier for those whose labels would have been uncomfortable to bring up.

    OTOH it was tough getting to know some of my fundamentalist colleagues, who greeted me immediately (no prior greeting) “Do you believe in 7 days creation?”

    On the third hand my best friend is a Methodist Deacon who used to tell about attending Annual Conferences where he went through all kinds of gymnastics deciding whether to sit with “these people” or “those people” who divided according to the questions above and kept close tabs on who sat with each group.. .

    Randy Gabrielse

  • Rick

    “what’s your position on _________?”

    The wording on that is telling. It indicates the person already has made up their mind, and is seeking to see where the other person stands.
    It appears to be slightly different than: “what are your thoughts on_______?” In that case, the person may actually trying to get some helpful thoughts from someone they respect.

  • Yes, Scot, some are ruining this question for the folks who enjoy talking about ideas with civility and even love.

    Perhaps a good reply is a return question: “What’s your position on the importance of civility in discussing theology/politics/?”

  • Gracious, I love Kathy Escobar.

  • Rick B

    Actually, it’s a question I’m often asking myself.

  • pastordt

    Just that simple change in wording makes all the difference, in my book. Thank you for that.

  • Steve

    Indeed. Answering those questions can say a lot about a person.

  • Susan_G1

    I hate that question. At any gathering, I never ask it, and I deflect as much as possible the answer with what I am doing at the present time which interests me.

  • Westcoastlife

    When I first meet people, especially if I am with my kids, people ask me about my husband’s job!!! I get a little annoyed that they don’t ask me about mine – they never consider asking if I have one.

    It also happens when talking about theology. Sometimes when we are talking about theology, they act as if they are teaching or informing me. They never ask what my view is or if I know about a certain view.

    Sometimes not asking someone about their job or point of view can show a weird bias also.

  • Marshall

    If ALL you’re doing is asking questions (or you’re leading with questions), then you are hiding in the bushes while asking The Other Person to take the risk of self-exposure. You’re also not leaving them a context for a relevant answer. Naturally this doesn’t apply to getting at a particular point during a back-and-forth, but applies to an inquisitorial attitude that can be mistaken for “being a good listener”.

    If one really wants a dialog, better thing is to start with some self revelation. He who lives in truth comes into the light. Not “I don’t believe we’ve met …. ?” but “Hi, I’m Marshall.” Not “What’s your angle??” but “Saw the story on whatever, good word eh?”

  • gingoro

    I disagree with the whole tone of this post. At times I ask folks ” what’s your position on _________?” as I want to understand how they see a particular issue and to understand their reasons for taking that position. Then I can compare their thinking to my own and see if I could be wrong in that area. I have been wrong in the past and expect that I will be wrong in the future.

  • BradK

    “Sometimes when we are talking about theology, they act as if they are
    teaching or informing me. They never ask what my view is or if I know
    about a certain view.”

    If it makes you feel any better, many people are this way no matter who they are talking to. 😉

  • gingoro

    I’m quite willing and usually do provide at least an indication of what my position is and am quite willing to elaborate and defend that position.

  • DRT

    As someone who regularly falls for this trap I can relate. The truth is that most who ask are not as genuine.

  • Susan_G1

    I understand this as well, as I am always asking my adult children what they think about things. But I do ask, “What do you think about…”. I think there is a difference. A position implies that they’ve thought it out to the point of a firm belief. Thoughts allow first impressions and malleability.

  • Westcoastlife

    Your wife must have a very interesting job 🙂