Q & R: On liberal and conservative

Here’s the Q:

Hey Brian, I just wanted to share with you some of my thoughts about your latest blog (beyond liberal and conservative…). I would have to agree with what the person that wrote you said. It is very difficult for me to think the way I do because I am surrounded by many people who do not share my views, which is fine, but the difficulty comes when I am laughed at for thinking the way I do instead of having an open view towards all ways of thinking. When your views are shunned in a sense, it becomes very easy to become an silent minority instead of a welcomed collective.
So on top of my thoughts about that I also have some questions: How do you (maybe not you specifically, but in general) move past the debate of I’m right and you’re wrong when the people involved in that debate are not willing to be open? Why have we become so focused on this person is obviously wrong just because they do not share my views? In my Sociology classes I was taught to look at the entire situation, from every side, and then make a personal decision on the topic, but not force another person to believe what I believe. This becomes hard to do when it is a one-way discussion instead of an open forum.
Now that I’m done with my soap box, I just wanted to say that I appreciate your open dialogue with everyone from different views.

Reply after the jump …

R: Thanks for your note. I’m not always as open to people with different views as I should be … like you, I find it a struggle at times. As you said, getting ridiculed, mocked, shunned, and insulted isn’t any fun. But these experiences can be instructive, and if we transform the pain (as my friend Fr. Richard Rohr says) we don’t have to transmit it. For example, we can become all the more determined not to do to others what has been done to us.
I have two thoughts which may seem contradictory, but perhaps one or both will be of help to you somehow.
First, a while back, I was reading the Sermon on the Mount and was reflecting again on Jesus’ words about turning the other cheek. What does it mean for me, a writer and speaker, to follow Jesus’ teaching in regard to my critics, some of whom can be surprisingly vicious, factually irresponsible, and admirably persistent?
I prayed and thought on that for a while, and this answer seemed to arise in my soul: if they slap you for speaking up, don’t run away and hide. Don’t fall on the ground and beg for mercy. Don’t lash out against them either. Instead, with dignity and courage, stand up and seek to speak the truth again, as best you can, humbly but boldly. Doing so might not “work” in the sense of changing their hearts and bringing them around to some degree. But it will be a witness to a different way of living and responding … and that can be a very good thing.
Second, I do think there’s a time to “shake the dust off your feet,” recalling Luke 10 (worth reading and “dwelling” in). In other words, a time comes when it makes more sense to stop telling people something they’re not ready to hear, and instead move on to “people of peace” who are more open and ready.
How do you know when that time has come? For me, it’s a matter of prayer and discernment, and I don’t have an easy answer beyond that. One thing’s for sure: the unkind treatment of some “cruel friends” makes you appreciate your real friends all the more! I also think you’ll find this prayer will help you … as it has helped me so much over the last several years.