Listening: A Case for Diversity… of Opinion

After what I remember as a good lunch and great conversation, we shuffled back into the hall to listen to our Greg Jones on our first afternoon of orientation to divinity school. The subject of his little talk? Diversity.

You know what to expect when someone gets up to talk about diversity don’t you? Well, it’s going to be this talk about race or sexuality or differences in denomination, and truthfully, it wont be about diversity. Nope, it will all boil down to tolerance of the other. Of course we already new that, and we were all already very tolerant – so tolerant we’d already played nice and made friends.

But that wasn’t what this talk was about.

It was about polarizations, and I’d never heard anything like it before. Unfortunately, even if I had taken good notes, I’m not up to the task of teaching like Greg Jones. So this… this is just a “Tribute”, I couldn’t remember the greatest song lecture in the world, so this… this is just a tribute.

What Greg Jones made clear was this: when two people disagree on small details, the temptation we are under is to believe that the other person is on the absolute opposite end of the spectrum to us. We polarize when ever we hear an opinion different than our own. The second temptation is to then summarily and completely dismiss this person and ostracize ourselves from said polar opponent.

Diversity at the divinity school meant having a diversity of opinions and learning more about the details of our own convictions by engaging in conversation.

This is a weird system: two people enter a room thinking they’re right and leave the room thinking they’re right, but in the interim they’ve learned more about how to articulate their thoughts and hearts and learned more about the other ways of approaching what ever issue they are thinking about. They didn’t have to give up their particularity, doing so would even be disingenuous unless they were convicted to do so.

Doing this requires trust, vulnerability, and a belief in your own ability to grapple with ideas that beggars belief but is the cornerstone of Christianity where we are always interpreting and seeking not to judge. More importantly, this type of vulnerable listening requires a humility that is the foundation of a community called to unity.

So join me in listening up to the particularities around us in Christian love.

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About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
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