I like to dialog with people, either personally or online, as long as things don’t get ugly. I’m not good with real conflict. I will happily stake out a position and defend it. Sometimes I’m good at it, sometimes I’m not. If you’re like me, sometimes you just throw something out there and realize that you don’t have the tools or knowledge to defend it well. In that case I do a little more research to see if my case is stronger than I think, or perhaps I need to rethink my position. But one thing I always try to do now, and I’m getting better at it, is to see the other side. I no longer just want to promote my own opinion, I want to see why others have a different one, and understand it if I can. It doesn’t mean I’ll change my mind (but I might), but I find it makes for a much better dialog and a more mutual respect between me and the person I am speaking with. And there is another advantage. When I first began interacting on the internet, I would happily keep beating a dead horse well past any chance of a beneficial outcome. Topics could be Calvinism, moderationism, or whatever. Once I really started trying to see the other side, I found I could walk away. I still jump in and make my point, but I don’t have to keep re-making my point over and over again. That’s beneficial to me, and to those on the other side of whatever issue is on the table.
Nothing is perfect, however, especially me. Sometimes I can’t see the other side. I can’t put myself in their place. Sometimes I cannot see how any rational person can come to a different conclusion than the one I have arrived at. When that happens, I find I can’t let the subject go, and the dead horse just keeps getting beaten. So in case anyone is interested, I thought I’d jot down some fairly hot-button issues and where I am in regards to them.
I am a Baptist, but I can easily see why many others aren’t. I’m a firmly committed credobaptist but I see the points made by paedobaptists, even if ultimately I’m unconvinced by them. I am an old-earth creationist but I understand why people are young-earthers. I am a teetotaler in practice but a moderationist doctrinally. I can see the point of the “wisdom argument” folks regarding alcohol consumption. But I absolutely don’t buy “the bible forbids alcohol consumption” argument, and so I’m likely to dig in on that one and let the dead-horse beware. I just don’t get that argument. I can’t see it. It just seems so unequivocally wrong that I can’t let it go. I can see why people are Calvinists and why they aren’t. I’m far less interested in those conversations than I used to be although I’ll still jump in occasionally. Even when conversing with unbelievers, I try to see their side, and in my experience they generally appreciate that. I’m not in favor of same-sex marriage, but I can see the points of the folks on the other side. I can sympathize with people who are attracted to the same sex and the seeming unfairness of people telling them they shouldn’t be able to marry, even if I ultimately come down on the “one man one woman” side of the aisle. But abortion I don’t get. I cannot see the other side. I cannot see how anyone can possibly think this is an acceptable practice other than for the life of the mother.
I have owned and used guns all my life and am pro-second amendment, but I can see and sympathize with those who see guns as a scourge and seek to limit their accessibility and use, and frankly I am generally repelled by groups like the NRA and their tactics. I can see both sides of immigration issues and tax issues and entitlement issues. I lean to the right on those things but perhaps not as far right as many Christians. I am not nearly as skeptical of climate change as many of my Christian peers. I can actually see why Republicans oppose the idea of man-made climate change but I can’t see why Christians oppose it, other than that they are also Republicans. Perhaps it is an eschatological thing, but I think it more likely it is simply a confusion of politics and faith.
Which brings me finally to Donald Trump. This is one that I absolutely do not get. I can’t see the other side and it should be evident to anyone who has followed these conversations online that I can’t let it go. Actually, I do understand those who say they will hold their nose and vote for Trump if he is the nominee. I think they are naïve and tragically mistaken if they think Trump would be a better president than Clinton or Sanders, but I can at least see their side. But to actually support Trump, for him to be someone’s choice right now, out of all the available choices, is beyond my ability to comprehend. As a candidate for president, I can literally think of nothing positive that he brings to the table. Nothing. I cannot fathom the mind that thinks he would be a good president. It is beyond my ability.
So that’s my story. I’m not sure what my overall point is, other than this article has been bubbling around in my head for a while and I wanted to get it put down in writing. I think dialog is often like being introduced to someone for the first time. All too often, you don’t focus on learning their name, but on the opportunity to give yours. I think if we seek to understand the point of view of folks on the other side, then dialog becomes productive even if no minds are changed. But as I have already confessed, sometimes it’s just not possible.