Posts Tagged ‘pro-life’

Reading Material for the Dialogue Journey

I will be away from the laptop for a few weeks, so instead of an original post I thought I’d link you to some other food for dialogical thought. Read one a week, and it’ll be as though I never left!

  • The Abortion Stalemate: Can “I Don’t Know” Break It? In this post, I suggest that starting over again on abortion—from a position other than drop-dead certainty—might help us make some progress in dialogue where little has existed before. The comments are particularly interesting: many of them show a serious and genuine struggle to grapple with an extraordinarily difficult issue. Hearing the wisdom of others is one of the best things about writing.
  • Can Humility Change the World?  From what I can see, this misunderstood virtue is one of the indispensable “habits of the heart” that can reorient us toward dialogue. See what you think of my perspective on the term.
  • Beyond Stereotypes of “Conservative” and “Liberal” Christianity. Dialogue starts from a better place when we view our dialogue partners as individuals rather than through predetermined filters. In that spirit, I share what I’ve learned about the “liberals” and “conservatives” in my faith tradition. Again, the comments are most valuable.

As you may have picked up, I so appreciate those who take the time to read, reflect, and comment on what I write. That goes for you too. I learn a great deal from hearing your voice, and I am encouraged by your support. Thank you. I’ll be back on the blog before you know it.

A Good Thought Spoiled

For this week’s post, I was all set to rant against a news story coming out of Ohio. Now I can’t. What happened between then and now may hold a few lessons for us.

My little tale starts with a headline in my RSS feed. How can you not react to

Fetus Set To Testify In Favor Of Ohio Anti-Abortion Bill

First reaction: sigh. More weird antics in the abortion debate—the very antics that do as much to harden the battle lines as to clarify the issue.

Second reaction: media skepticism. Why did the reporter use the word testify? Surely he knew the connotations it would carry. I thought it inflammatory and irresponsible.  So I decided to blast it here to illustrate the need for precise language when discussing difficult issues.

Then I dug a little deeper and came to my third reaction: uh-oh. The article appeared in The Huffington Post. I’ve just started writing for The Huffington Post. Do I really want to criticize a story on a website that might prove critical to my writing venture?

Fortunately, the article’s author linked his story to a release from Faith2Action, an organization supporting the legislation. Fourth reaction: whoops. The word testify came not from the author, but from the source itself.

So. What did I learn from this exercise?

First, vested interests die hard—very hard. I write a lot about the danger they present to authentic dialogue, and the value of spirituality in clearing them away. None of that means I’m completely free of the damned things. Like our basic human instinct for self-preservation, vested interests appear to be always with us. Hence the need to strive against them in our internal preparation for dialogue.

Second, it is so easy to miss the full story. Remember death panels? I wonder how much of that drama could have been averted if more people had simply dug deeper into the facts. Surely, with the testifying fetus story, I could have stopped with the notice in my RSS feed and come to some conclusion about irresponsible journalism. And I would have been wrong.

Third—and I’ve said this ad nauseam—getting the full story and clearing away vested interests require reflection, time, and work. In today’s culture, these are hard to come by. And yet, as the death panels brouhaha illustrates, our national conversations could be more productive, and move more efficiently toward resolving our national issues, if we took the time and did the work.

True, we all have lives. We cannot possibly research every news story that comes our way. What we can do, perhaps, is suspend our judgment on those issues we cannot research.

The ingredients of dialogue—depth of thought, precision of language, the work of the soul—are difficult and elusive. Clearly, none of us gets them completely right. But our attempts to do so can make the world better. That alone is reason to pursue them.

Dialogue in Private, the Non-WikiLeaks Way

The news from WikiLeaks has me thinking about the value of privacy—and how it can make or break certain dialogues.

Here’s what I mean. Dialogue, almost by definition, requires a certain amount of mess. As we “think together,” we will toss out half-formed thoughts and imprecise language in an effort to build something together, whether that “something” is a new bond across bitter divides or a new approach to a difficult issue.

The process can be wildly circuitous. My first half-baked idea may have no value in itself yet spark something good in your mind. We might pursue a long line of thinking only to find it’s a dead end, only to find that a single glimmer of a shard of an idea from that pursuit gets us exactly where we need to go. We could pile good idea on good idea and find they build into a great idea—but not the one we would have imagined.

Clearly this process takes time and focused thought. It also takes a safe place where people feel free to toss out these embryonic idea shards without fear of judgment.

It takes privacy. It takes confidentiality.

If one of those shards gets broadcast—exposing the speaker to possible ridicule and hostility—the whole dialogue may be threatened.

One of the most eye-opening leaks from WikiLeaks concerns the backchannel conversation among Chinese and U.S. diplomats over North Korea. Judging from media portrayals of Chinese leaders—not to mention the tension in U.S.-China relations—I find it remarkable that they have spoken so openly with their American counterparts about so substantial a change in their thinking. Clearly, the two sides are making space for new ideas toward a different approach.

But with diplomatic flare-ups in that part of the world often just one careless remark away, the only way to talk about the issue was in strict confidentiality. The leak may well have damaged the effort.

Similarly, when the Public Conversations Project convened a groundbreaking dialogue between pro-choice and pro-life leaders, several of the participants expressed a need for confidentiality to avoid the potential reactions from, among others, their own constituencies. Privacy was essential if the dialogue was to flourish.

Time. Focused thought. Privacy. American culture doesn’t exactly promote any of these necessities for dialogue. So in our own attempts at dialogue, we must be intentional in carving out space for these necessities, as appropriate for the situation, to reach across divides and fulfill our goals.