Wednesday, January 13, 2016

GPS: CORE Values of Dialogue

James 1:19 tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. And St. Francis, in his famous prayer, asks for the disposition of heart that seeks not so much to be understood, as to understand. As campaign season ratchets up, this advice seems all-too-timely.

I co-teach a course about dialogue called “Live & Let Think,” which gives a nod to John Wesley’s line, “Where is our religion, if we cannot think and let think?” Over each six-week course, I have the delight of facilitating rich dialogue among diverse people over the most divisive topics of the Christian faith, including:

–What do we do with the violence in scripture, and what’s at stake for how we understand the Bible’s authority?
–If God is all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing, why do the innocent suffer?
–What do people think about faith as it relates to (science… assisted suicide… homosexuality… nationalism… politics—fill in the blank)?

You can imagine these conversations could go downhill, very quickly! Instead, when people are taught the skills necessary to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger”–and they’re held accountable to the values that beget healthy dialogue–they build bridges. Bridges over expansive, troubled waters. These healthy dialogue skills are something we might all work on improving, rooted in Live & Let Think’s four C.O.R.E. values:

First, get curious. Curiosity isn’t a threat to our beliefs; rather, it’s a pathway to deeper Truth. Embrace it.
Second, stay open. Open to new ideas and frontiers. Open in posture to one another.
Third, practice respect. Because the quickest way to kill rapport and dialogue is to diminish others.
Fourth, engage. Be willing to disagree. Not in an obnoxious way. Not with an ax to grind. But air your questions, your doubts, your disagreements, with integrity.

I challenge you to live out these values, and then, to break bread and let think. We have so much to learn from one another!