Whoever is afraid of dialogue is hiding something.
~Sheikh Reda Shata, Muslim imam
I am always amazed by people afraid to have a conversation—hard conversations, in particular—with those whom they disagree.
I am always amazed by those who think these conversations necessitate an argument, raised voices, unhealthy tension, and close-mindedness.
I am always inclined to have such conversations because I feel it opens my eyes to a new perspective, it helps me navigate relationships with those unlike myself, it helps me live with healthy tension, and it calls my own beliefs into question—which I think is healthy in order to grow and mature in my beliefs.
I am always amazed, in particular, by Christians (a group to whom I profess to be a part) who seemed closed off to such conversations…especially because I think Jesus was so open to them.
And these conversations sometimes call our own faith into question…questioning our beliefs and why we believe such things. But I fail to see the harm in this…and I’m glad to know I’m not the only one, as validated by the author of the book I’m currently reading:
…it doesn’t give us answers the way we may want it to—that people sometimes try to make the bible seem like a big book full of easy answers, but it isn’t. it’s a bunch of voices from the past that ask us a lot of questions about why we do things the way we do—so it’s a collection of questions too, including questions we still haven’t answered.
~david dark in an explaination to his 8 year-old daughter, as recounted in the sacredness of questioning everything, pages28-29.
Good to know I’m not the only one who had questions. Good to know I’m also not the only one who posed questions to those who dogmatically hold to their own view, without even listening to another perspective. Good to know I preside in good company—jeremiah, isaiah, the psalmist(s), jesus…to name a few, a few of my favorites. I am always amazed by those people who seem to have it all figured out, to know the answer to every question, and to know exactly what the bible says on every issue at hand. Maybe they understand the harder parts of the bible better than myself.
Maybe they have some insight to which I do not.
Or maybe they gloss over these tough sections…
Or maybe they read what they want them to read.
Dark goes on to say
That if [an encounter] with the bible, Shakespeare, film, music, and poetry [and I would even add those of differing beliefs of our own] don’t in any way undo their worlds or lead them to change their way of thinking (what’s still occasionally called repentance), their probably wasting their time….jesus spoke of old wineskins….losing your life to find it….having died to the old self. ~page30.
Interestingly enough, I never saw it as such. Typically, I saw this questioning as frightening, a losing of faith, walking dangerously close to a proverbial ledge off which I might fall if I ventured too far.
I found comfort in Dark’s talk of Flannery O’Connor, a fellow Southerner, who
…once remarked that people talk about religious faith as if it’s an electric blanket, cozy and available for quick and easy reassurance, an ever-present resource for avoiding the truth of the matter….In this sense, O’Connor’s faith made her more, not less, realistic, more determined to see things as they are, not as we’d prefer them to be. O’Connor insisted that it was her Christian faith that kept her skeptical. She says that the cultivation of her skepticism is a sacred obligation because skepticism keeps us asking questions….skepticism “will keep you free—not free to do anything you please, but free to be formed by something larger than your own intellect of the intellects of those around you.” ~page30.
Good to know being skeptical, asking questions, having conversations is a healthy part of one’s faith, not a detriment.