Can We Stop Shouting?

kevin-curtis-3308.jpgI hate having conversations across the apartment. You have to shout, and the other person does too, and then the words get distorted and the volume ends up making the whole exchange aggressive, even if the conversation is about what to have for dinner. It makes all the difference when we take a few steps and stand in the same space to chat. But this isn’t really about what’s for dinner (though, I’ll have hazelnut panna cotta for dessert if you’re offering), it’s about marriage. It’s about politics.

Yeah, I’m entering into a conversation about same-sex marriage. Or, I guess, a conversation about conversations about same-sex marriage…

The conversations that are occurring right now are happening from opposite sides of the apartment. We’re yelling out and yelling louder because the other party isn’t hearing, but we’re not getting anywhere. We’re not going to, if conversations continue this way. Let’s get into the same room and talk. There are a lot of ways we need to do this, but here are a few that are on my mind.

  1. Among Christians

There’s a range of views about same-sex marriage among Christians. No one view can declare the thoughts of every single believer. What’s missing in these conversations is the ability to ask questions. There’s an assumption that all the people in one circle believe exactly the same thing, and that they all know why… but there are people who fear asking questions because they don’t want to cause debate and feel silly, or even be in the firing line of strong opinions wielded badly. Let’s create conversations among Christians where we can examine the Scriptures together, think together and pray together. That experience is one that would benefit so many believers who are wondering why they should vote one way or the other in this plebiscite, or why they should be fighting hard one way or the other… let’s work on it together. Let’s give each other the freedom to think differently and process differently. Get in the same room, open the Scriptures, and talk.

2. Over a Drink

I’m of the opinion that conversations are best had in person, not online. When you’re sitting with a friend and talking about same-sex marriage, and you believe either the same or differently, there’s a need to never create an ‘us & them’ mentality where one group is dehumanised and the other glorified. Don’t mishear me – there are people who stand for same-sex marriage who have been cruel, and there are people who stand against same-sex marriage who have been cruel – and that’s not something we should tolerate. Let’s not continue in that habit. As we speak, let’s think about our tone and our words. No society that has painted one kind of person as the ‘other’ ends well and we’re in a situation where everyone is at risk of becoming an ‘other’.

Questions should be a major part of these conversations, and they should replace accusations. We should seek to understand our friend’s point of view and work through how they’re seeing the world, and thus, how they’re seeing the situation at hand. As we ask questions we can understand more of our own view and that of our friends. We get challenged to think deeply about why we believe, and we end up with a whole lot more empathy than we began with. It’s unlikely you’ll walk away in agreement, but if you walk away having lost a friend, then everyone has lost in that conversation.

Be kind. Ask questions. Engage your empathy.

3. On Social Media

My Facebook feed is full of heated debate in comments. People are being called bigots, people are being told that the ‘gay agenda’ must be stopped, people are being asked to sign petitions, people are insisting that their opinion is the only one… and the Facebook algorithm seems to think that I want more politics than puppies, and most times, it’s quite wrong.

I’ll take a leaf out of everyone’s mum’s books right now: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. ‘Nice’ doesn’t mean you have to agree in this case, but if there’s accusation or hate in your comment, stop typing and think. If you’re thriving off the drama, walk away from the keyboard and reconsider. If you’re commenting just to get involved, think until you have something thoughtful to say and if you don’t have anything to add, don’t say anything at all. Social media could be a helpful place for conversations if we didn’t get so indignant when we can hide behind keyboards.

Think. Think some more. Think again. Type, if necessary. Think.

4. In Defense

There will be times when someone says something cruel. This is the nature of heated conversations. We must be willing to speak up for each other. We need to speak up when someone is being treated with anything less than love, even in disagreement. Even if that person isn’t present. Not all those who think same-sex marriage is a bad idea are homophobic bigots and not all those who think same-sex marriage is a good idea are pushing a secret agenda to destroy families. We need to speak up when people are broken down to the identity of their ideas and they lose their humanity in the process. When you hear words that are cruel or unfair, make sure they’re unwelcome. For the good of us all.

The discourse around the upcoming plebiscite is heated. We don’t know if we want it because there are better ways to use the money, and we’ve got two sides of the debate about same-sex marriage itself… but there’s one thing we should all be able to agree on.

We’re human. I believe we’re made by God, in His image, and it’s because we’re all made in His image that we deserve the dignity of being treated as a human – equal and loved. Even if you don’t believe that God made us, we are all human and that’s something that places us on the same level of dignity and worth as each other.

Can we treat each other with some dignity and kindness? Can we think together? Can we think before we speak? Can we think before we type? Can we stand up for the good of one another?

I’m tired of shouting across the apartment on this one. Can we all please have a chat in the same room? I’ll make a pot of tea, or grab you a bottle of beer, open some wine, make a hazelnut panna cotta or whatever you prefer… let’s just stop shouting across the apartment and have a caring conversation. Let’s talk.

 

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