Let’s be real. Human beings love to argue. There’s just something invigorating about smearing an argument in someone’s face, and proving once and for all that that stupid dress was blue and white. (Don’t argue with me here. I will fight you.)
What’s more nuts is what we choose to fight about. If you’re ever unsure of this, take a day and peruse the YouTube comment sections. I once spent hours scrolling through the comment section of a video of a lion and tiger fighting each other.
- “Tigers r so much better than lions- tiger clearly won the fight.”
- “Lion is king of the jungle lion is superior predator.”
- “Tiger got rocked”
- “Lion quick paw to the face.”
- “Is your mother a lion, is that y u mad bro?”
- “You fockin wot m8?”
- “There is evidence that in roman times lion kills tiger every time in colosseum, sorry fag lion fans.”
- “3000 butt hurt tiger fans.”
- “This is why you don’t vote for Hillary.”
- “How could anyone believe in god look at evolution.”
When we disrespectfully insist that we’re right, we fail to help the other person enter into our point of view. To quote The Dude, “You’re not wrong, you’re just an assole.” If there’s no relationship, no love, no respect for the other, after the argument we’re left sitting cold and alone clinging to our precious convictions.
Do we get any satisfaction out of winning an argument like this? Or are we fodder for onlookers, the butt of jokes when we’re not around?
Does the result of the argument even matter?
We all have a point to make, and we all disagree with each other on something. Having a truth that seems conclusively valid to you does not make you special. What makes you special are the methods you use to convey your message. Do you rant and rail at people who don’t believe what you do? Or do you enter into the tension of the argument by being able to say, “I’m not sure about that one”?
Let me explain this from the groups of belief I associate with: Christians. Most Christians don’t enjoy entering into the tension of an argument. Being wrong forces us to either work to clarify our point or admit that we didn’t have the answer. Most of our church culture is riddled with uncompromising convictions, and often, churchgoers can only explain their dogma by saying, “My pastor told me so.”
Take the “Age of the Earth” argument for example. Some Christians will boldly proclaim that the earth is only a few thousand years old. They take the words in Genesis literally, and hold that God created the cosmos in 7 days. The opposing camp takes Genesis’ wording into account, and declares that the Hebrew word for “day” instead means “era” to deduce that the earth is as old as scientists claim it is (4.5 billion years). The debate is fierce, and this election year, Presidential candidates were asked where they stand. It’s very rare that you’ll hear, “You know what? I’m not sure on this one. The Bible seems to indicate one thing, and science differs on the subject. I’m looking forward to working together to find a solution.”
Another example is how different churches communicate their beliefs to the people they encounter. Often times, they advertise similar convictions, but they differ in how they communicate their message to the world.
When I lived in Austin I attended Gateway Church. Gateway is the place you go when you don’t like church, where you just want to take your time and explore God before diving into deeper issues. I met Ben and Nate there, and quickly entered into a loving community that allowed me room to openly question and disagree.
If you went to Gatewaychurch.com, you’d see their “about us” section at the top right. Their beliefs are pretty typical for a church. What’s interesting is that if you go to Godhatesfags.com (I’m not joking; that is literally Westboro Baptist Church’s website), you’ll see their “Confessions of Faith” on the left side…if you read carefully…it’s mostly the same as Gateway’s.
I took the time to read through WBC’s Confession of Faith, and from a purely theological standpoint, their ideals, as they appear, are sound! But, because Gateway and the WBC communicate the same message differently, their relationships with outside people differ dramatically. Gateway welcomes those with different beliefs and practices while WBC shotguns the gay community with hate. Because they choose to approach conflict with openness and respect instead of blind dogma, places like Gateway will earn the privilege of building relationships and understanding instead of instigating conflict and division.
How we debate is drastically more important than what we’re trying to convince each other of. When you’re able to sit across from another person and respectfully disagree, that’s when arguments turn away from volatility and towards productivity.[clickToTweet tweet=”How we debate is drastically more important than what we’re trying to convince each other of.” quote=”How we debate is drastically more important than what we’re trying to convince each other of.”]
It’s good to be convicted in our hearts about what we believe as long our convictions can coexist with our respect for the other human we’re conversing with. Otherwise, you might not even be wrong, but you’ll disqualify yourself as a voice in their life by being an asshole.
I won’t guarantee that debating someone with respect will win them over to your point of view. What I guarantee is that the quickest way to make sure no one believes your point of view is to force it on them.
Disagree? Let’s argue about it.