We are constantly encouraging our students to ask good questions, to explore the answers, and be informed and shaped in the process.
But then I catch myself sitting comfortably with my established opinions–about faith, politics, why certain things are how they are, and probably worst of all, about people.
This week has been about questioning, and it’s mainly happened cooincidentally.
For one, our students returned from their short-term service trips, and are now all topsy-turvy about what they experienced and what their lives should be like in light of that week.
For another, I’ve come across several articles that question things that are currently either wildly popular or controversial. As I’ve read, I have enjoyed that tangible, my-mind-is-actually-working-on-this feeling. It’s like school. (I love school.)
First, from the wildly popular: there was a piece from the Atlantic questioning the way TED Talks takes ideas and may be narrowing them by packaging them up with the speaker who presents them. I have not fully formed my opinion of the larger TED forum. I enjoy many of the individual lectures; I generally enjoy listening to someone who has some degree of command over a subject.
From the wildly popular and controversial: I read “Taking Kony 2012 Down A Notch” from the writers of Justice in Conflict. I have not fully formed my opinion of the Kony 2012 Campaign. But when people who are way more engaged and educated about this conflict say the film “does not address the real problems on the ground and it does not offer the right solutions,” and then they offer new information to me, I want to listen. (Here is another list of resources with various articles on the issue.)
Finally, from the controversial: the Christian university I work for is working very hard to explore how they support students who are in the LGBTQ community. In my opinion, there is a mutual commitment from those who disagree to civility, dialogue, empathy, and respect.
To that end, they may be inviting some guests to host a conversation for the campus. Friends Justin and Ron each take opposite sides of the debate about whether Christians who are gay should be celibate or can have a marriage blessed by God. So they travel together and speak, not only delivering the content of their positions, but also modeling the style of conversations that are possible between people who see a difficult issue from totally opposite perspectives.
So this week, I read each of their essays, which summarize their perspectives and their understanding of the relevant biblical passages. I found them to be engaging and challenging.
This was a week of questioning, about testing what I say I’m committed to.
Because I say it’s important to listen to people with whom we are not sure we agree, especially if those people are courteous*, thoughtful, and ultimately share our goals. But when I disagree with someone about how we get there, I want to write them off.
*I leave this caveat because, if you know me, you’ll know there there are some public figures I refuse to engage with. You may accuse me of being inconsistent. But I won’t give too much energy to these folks in large part because I believe they are mean.
I say I need to be able to listen to them and be informed by their perspectives. But honestly, I usually care about answers, not questions. And I’m the one who misses out because I won’t engage.