Did you guys know that this is not the only place on the internet where atheists and Christians get to talk together respectfully? Through one of my networks, I’ve discovered an awesome podcast called Assumptions, in which a bisexual atheist (Kyle Marshall) and a homeschooled Christian (Daniel Melvill Jones) get together and talk about what how interaction with story relates to how they look at the world.
I’ve listened to two episodes now, and I can say I’ve totally bought into their mission. It’s pretty much what I’ve been trying to do here, too, although they seem to focus more tightly on story than on social issues (my blog is more of a both/and). Back in the beginning, when I was blogging on my own website, I wrote about something Maggie Gyllenhaal said to Jon Stewart (in her case, about the fractious attempt to bring peace in the Middle East) and it has remained to key to how I hope to interact here:
Especially at this moment, where it feels impossible, where it’s really scary to talk about … I think art can be one way in to think and feel about this. Not that it’s going to solve anything, but if you can shift someone a little tiny bit. If it’s too scary to have a conversation with so many people because people get so angry and stop listening, maybe, maybe something like this can make you feel about it in a way that makes you think.
Art is indeed one way in, a way in to empathy with one another, to deepened relationship and understanding. It allows us to lower our defenses and our arguments and treat each other like human beings.
Melvill Jones writes of how he has experienced this in his discussions with Marshall (and it’s how I feel about a number of you too):
For me, these conversations with Kyle have been incredibly illuminating. I grew with the assumption that it’s relativity easy to dismantle an atheist’s worldview. Just knock on a few of the key support beams to reveal how shaky they are, and then the whole structure will come tottering down. But by getting inside his worldview and testing the walls, I’ve discovered that, to him on the inside, it’s actually a pretty firm structure. I still largely disagree with it. But I certainly understand it better. Loving my neighbour begins by taking the time understand who exactly he is.
With that in mind, I’d like to use a prompt the hosts used in a recent episode to try to foster some discussion here as well. And you might want to go share with Marshall and Melvill Jones also. When getting to know someone, the hosts suggested not asking, “What do you do for a living?” but instead, “What is your favorite story?” They suggested learning this about a person can help us understand how they think about the world, what they are like as a person, and what kinds of formative experiences they’ve had in their life. It all just makes for a better conversation.
Later this week, I’m going to take up the challenge and tell you about my favorite story in film. But before I do that, help me get to know you better. What is your favorite story? Maybe yours is found in film. Or maybe it’s something you read, something that happened to you, a story someone told you. Why do you like it? Why do you return to it again and again? Does it relate to how you view the world? How so?
Correction: An earlier version of this post rendered Kyle’s name as Johnson instead of Marshall and Daniel’s last name as Jones instead of Melvill Jones. So sorry, gentlemen! Clearly my fingers were typing faster than my brain was working!