Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.

So much harm is caused by our society when people talk across each other instead of to each other. By refusing to entertain the perspective of the person disagreeing with them, people (and the media) perpetuate conflict instead of taking steps toward resolution in Christian love. This hasn’t been better illustrated than in the conflict over gay marriage.

Side one: “How can you not feel compassion and understand the injustice of the current situation? Are you truly that hateful toward people who aren’t like you?”

Side two: “My faith is the core of my life and being, so I just don’t have a choice here, it’s what I believe the bible says. How can you ask me to forsake my beliefs?”

If you put yourself in the other’s shoes, you’ll quickly realize that (excepting a small margin of Christian-hate and gay-hate on either side) it actually has nothing to do with hate, and everything to do with misunderstanding and talking at each other, not to each other. Let’s rephrase these statements, adding some respect towards each side:

Side one: “I know that you’re not a hateful person, and I’d like to understand where you’re coming from. Jesus fought against injustice his entire life, so this hurtful prescription against homosexuality seems out of character. Let’s learn more about it together.”

Side two: “I know that you’re not asking me to forsake my faith, and I’d like to better understand what you’re advocating for. I am concerned with social justice, but am at a loss when injustice seems to contradict what I understand if the bible. Let’s talk about this further as I work to sort out this dilemma.”

Acknowledging the humanity in each other is a cornerstone of Christian love, and we are all guilty far too frequently of failing to do so. Emotion rarely solves conflict, and is even worse in this case because the emotions are not directly reflective. Nearly every single time, reliance on emotion only leads to greater misunderstandings, the creation of an “enemy”, and the erroneous attribution of negative traits to the other party. That negativity spirals on both sides, until suddenly everyone has forgotten the actual issue and is simply angry because one side has called the other hateful, ignorant racists, and in return they were called stupid, evil elitists out of touch with reality. It doesn’t take long for each side to actually believe those things about each other… at which point everyone becomes out of touch with reality, and we can guarantee that no compromise or agreement will ever occur, since who would deign to compromise with someone who they have so demonized?

If we’re really interested in resolution to this, or any issue, above and beyond the temporal satisfaction gained from calling each other names: truth, gracious understanding, and merciful love and forgiveness are the only paths to achieve it.

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