Can We Agree to Treat Each Other with Respect?
In the course of about eight hours of comment on my abortion article, I was called un-Christian, a murderer, and accused of championing a shrieking horde of animals—the Texas women (and some men) who shouted down SB 5 in the first special session. Other pro-choice writers who supported my position on rare but legal abortion were likened to Nazis—or accused of practicing eugenics. And, for their part, on this question and others, liberals are often guilty of calling conservatives with whom they disagree some pretty disagreeable things—"uneducated moron" is a good representative sample, regardless of the degree of education on either side of the conversation.
This isn't a good rhetorical ploy to change someone's mind. And it isn't very nice, for anyone. As my friend Tricia Mitchell observed, the effects of this approach are all negative: "I have been reduced, I have been judged, I have been served and schooled." When I call you names or treat you as though you're not very smart, all you are going to feel is negative—about yourself, about me, and about my position and all those who hold it.
Trying to see my opponent as God sees him or her leads me to a shattering revelation: the person with whom I disagree is beloved by God. The person who attacks me is beloved by God. Even the person who cannot see the obvious logic of my argument and RESPONDS IN ALL CAPS is beloved by God.
In any case, I am commanded by my faith to love all persons and to treat them with respect. So are you; compassion is the core spiritual practice in every wisdom tradition. I'd honestly rather not remember this. It is easy to love those who are most like us. But to love those who differ from us—that is the acid test of our faith and practice, and it is where we have to do the right thing.
There's also this: I've come to realize in my years of walking between the evangelical Christian, progressive Christian, emergent Christian, and secular worlds that people believe what they believe for reasons that seem sufficient to them. They don't hold their opinions because they are evil or subhuman; they hold them because they are the best options they have arrived at yet. They have usually thought about and even prayed about their decisions. To dismiss someone through name-calling or stereotyping dishonors their process, and dishonors our common humanity.
Can We Agree that We Might Learn Something from Each Other?
Why do we talk to each other if nobody is listening? Too many of our postings—and in-person conversations—seem to say only I AM RIGHT AND YOU ARE STUPID.
We shout into the void, and wait for someone to post a response so we can shout it again.
There is no such thing as conversation if people are not listening—or even talking—to each other.
And we may not recognize the need for conversation if we don't recognize that God might still have something to teach us, even in the persons of those we imagine to be our enemies.
Wouldn't that be just like God?
My own position on abortion has evolved over the years. I admit, shamefacedly, that as a young man afraid of getting somebody pregnant, I wanted abortion to be as widely available as possible. As I've become more deeply involved in the life of faith and in developing a Christian ethic of life, I've come to believe abortion should be rarely employed, and moreover, that we as a culture should work toward the monumental task of making abortion unnecessary.
The passion that pro-lifers have for the unborn caused me to reflect about some things. Conversations with men and women who agreed and disagreed with me were a part of my journey. Reading scripture and theology and even the news shaped my thinking—and changed it.
Christian doctrine holds, in fact, that every member of the Body is a part of our journey together, that we need each other to become the people we are called to be.
So talk to me—as a person who is a beloved Child of God, as a person who loves his family and truly wants to do what is right, as a person who has thought and prayed his way to the conclusion he currently holds.
I will talk to you in the same way, and try to treat you with the respect you deserve.
We may still end up disagreeing, but I will not condemn you for that, or think you any less human.
And maybe—just maybe—we will discover that in the still space where there is no shouting or name-calling, where there is only love and generosity, we can find some answers.