Why Aggressive Rhetoric Hurts Real Dialogue

By Jason Soucinek 

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I debated whether or not to write this post.

I’ve sat on it for some time. However, the further I think about the ramifications of this political cycle on the dialogue we have with one another the more I feel compelled to share.

I am worried that we’ve lost the ability to have civil dialogue.

And why do I care about this as someone whose profession is to share a message of sexual integrity? Because I’ve seen this same thing happen around the topic of sex education. One person shouts their view and then the other shouts their opposing view even louder.

A barking dog only attracts more barking dogs.

I’ve learned over time and mostly from my own mistakes yelling louder doesn’t make our message more accessible. In fact, it usually misses the very people we are trying to reach.

I’ve watched both up close and from afar how those in the same field as myself, on both sides of the sex education issue, spend more time fighting one another than helping the students they want to aid. They spend more time telling others what they are against. I for one am tired of this. I’ve always believed telling people what we are for works much better.

A year ago I had the opportunity to sit down with several people around the country who opposed the work and the message I share on sexual integrity. However, I was not met with hate filled dialogue. Why? Because I was willing to listen and engage the points they shared. I sat side-by-side and built relationship.

My posture dictated the nature of the conversation.

In 2000 the Boston Globe conducted a “public conversations project” where they asked three pro-life and three pro-choice leaders to sit down and have conversations around the issue of abortion. This conversation grew out of a need to deescalate the rhetoric which had grown to a fever pitch after a shooting of an abortion doctor in the area.

The amazing reality of these meetings is that they worked! Posture changed what was said and how it was shared. Everyone who sat at the table learned to treat each other with dignity and respect. In fact, genuine friendships formed.

I find this radical compared to the world we live in at the moment.

Violence through our speech and especially through our action should never be acceptable. If we are going to contribute to a more civil dialogue we need to be willing to model it.

As a follower of Christ, I want my work to contribute to a more civil and compassionate society. This does not mean I have to compromise on my beliefs. In fact, the individuals who participated in the public conversations project grew more convinced of their own worldview, not less.

Our love for another should not be dependent on our affirmation of their worldview.

I don’t want to be another barking dog when it comes to sex education, nor politics for that matter. However, I do want to stay true to my convictions. I think both are possible and without violent rhetoric or action. But we must be willing to listen and sometimes that requires sitting side by side rather than going toe to toe.

 

Stand For Something Or You’ll Fall For Anyone: The Reality of Open Relationships

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You only have to open your Facebook feed to know we are the generation of acceptance and tolerance (as long as someone’s view matches our own), and we pride ourselves in being open-minded.

Many topics our parents and grandparents saw as black and white tend to land somewhere on a grey scale in our current culture. And if we aren’t careful the lines between what is right, and what is accepted as “normal” can get pretty blurry.

Our romantic relationships are just one of the things that have started to lose definition.

There is a hesitancy to put a label on our relationships because it forces us to be vulnerable, requiring a commitment that takes work to honor. This is demonstrated in our culture by the prevalence of open relationships, ambiguous sexual orientation, polyamory, and casual hookups. Eventually I hope to go into more detail on these various topics, but something I’ve been discovering most recently is the basic importance of knowing where you stand and knowing how God feels about it all.

I was shocked to discover the numbers of how many open, or non-monogamous relationships exist in the U.S. Studies are showing that anywhere from 5-9% of people surveyed would admit to having “openness” with their spouses or partners.

Articles on polyamory (being in committed relationships with multiple partners with the consent of each partner) even boast about how much better poly relationships handle communication and jealousy struggles.

Knowing this, I can’t help but fear that we are heading down a road towards no accountability, where we devalue ourselves and God’s word by not honoring each other with the gift of commitment.

Most of the stories I’ve heard from people who are now in some form of open relationship claim they never would have imagined they could be okay with this kind of situation; it took a lot of growing and getting used to.

In life, we don’t always take the time to form an opinion or take a stand on something until it is right there in front of us, and sometimes not until we have met that wonderful person we’re convinced we should be with and they present an unfamiliar situation. And if we look at the culture around us and see what they’re presenting is an accepted practice, and no one is judging and it seems to be working for others, then we can be even more inclined to blur our lines and jump onboard.

If you don’t stand for something, you could fall for anyone.

That’s why it’s so important to know what God had in mind when he made man and woman for each other, not for each other and then some other people at the same time.

Hebrews 13:8 states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever.” Though we live in an ever-changing culture, God remains constant, as do his desires for relationships and love life. He has also not wavered in His call that we should love one another.

There are so many benefits that come with being in a committed relationship with one person, like learning how to compromise, building trust, and finding contentment. To take a stand and be resolved in our beliefs does not have to make us judgmental or close-minded; rather, it protects us from being swept up by every new wave of thinking that hits our culture.

It diffuses the cloud of confusion that making us question everything.

Knowing God’s truth and taking a stand does not equal an absence of love for others. More important than being tolerant or accepting of every new trend is our call to remain in God’s truth, because He is not swayed, and neither is His desire for our ultimate good.

An honest and true life builds honest relationships

Our Development Coordinator and Administrative Assistant, Holly, shares her take on the benefits of vulnerable living:

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Growing up, I had a lot of anxiety and when I was overwhelmed the last thing I wanted to do was share how I was feeling.

When my sister would ask me to talk about it with her, I would close up and could feel myself bursting at the seams. But in the end, if I didn’t talk about it, I wouldn’t have to deal with it. And that for me was the easy way out at the time.

I think the reason why it is difficult to tell our stories and connect with others is because we haven’t been honest with ourselves and we hold things back that need to come out.

Maya Angelou explains it like this: “There is no greater agony than an untold story inside of you.”

 We have to remember that our story is significant and that we are created by a God who is writing the grand narrative. Our story is a part of the reconciliation of human relationship.

 As I got older, this tactic of holding things back, pretending, and bursting at the seams did not work on other people. In college, I had a friend who learned early on that I was hiding how I really felt and wouldn’t let me pretend. She forced me to be honest with myself and with her.

And opening up was completely freeing.

This was the beginning of building true relationships in my life. Yes, I had to be honest about not only the good parts of life, but also the parts that were messy and ugly. And even though this was difficult, I began to understand more of who I really am.

And as I began to be more confident in myself, it became easier to share my story with other people and ultimately started building healthy relationships with friends and my boyfriend (now husband).

Knowing our stories and being able to share them confidently will benefit both you and the people who are hearing it. But it takes time and trust to be able to do this well.

If you think about it, this is one of the reasons why relationships are messy. Two people who have parts of themselves they are ashamed of, parts of themselves they don’t even know and parts they have never shared with anyone else. In order to be in healthy relationships, we have to know our story, own it and share it with all of the good and the bad and the messy.

Relationships are lived out through our shared stories.

As you learn to share your story with people you trust, you begin to understand more of who you really are. You start to see what is important to you, if there have been any unhealthy patterns in your life, and what have been some of your darkest times.

Having confidence in who you are and accepting the messy parts of yourself makes it possible for you to accept other people for who they are. It also makes it possible for you to give other people grace because you know first hand no one is perfect.

Until we are able to know our stories, and allow other people to be a part of them, we cannot love other people well. Knowing our true identity, accepting our story and sharing it with others is the beginning of building true relationships with other people and living a true and honest life.

 Don’t be afraid to tell your story. It’s the beginning of something beautiful that plays a crucial chapter of this grand narrative.

Please…No More Answers

Always looking for answers

Always looking for answers

We seem to be living in a time where answers are plentiful but not very good. The missing Malaysian flight is proof of that fact. I turn on the news and it seems every single detail is shared, “this just in, a U.S. navy ship is now 400 miles away from a potential wreck site in the Indian Ocean. When we last reported they were 410 miles away. We will track this story as it unfolds along with every other detail.” Now this could be an exaggeration of how news works these days, but not by much. In our 24/7 news cycle we are constantly looking for new answers. However, in our constant search for answers we find that we are unable to be comfortable with the unknown.

Maybe that is why we see fewer and fewer young people who confess a faith in Jesus and even less in God. A solid majority still do – 86% – but only 58% say they are “absolutely certain” that God exists. That is lower than it has ever been according to a 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project.

This reality came to life this week like never before. For the first time ever, one of our volunteers was in a school classroom where not one student had been to church or confessed a faith of any sort. That has never happened! But I am sure it will happen more and more in the future.

Faith doesn’t play a part in our lives as much as it once did. But our search for answers only continues to grow.

Remember, faith is a belief in the unseen. That includes a belief in things we just can’t answer. And for this generation, heck, even mine, that is not a comfortable place to sit.

Levi's Ad

Levi’s Ad

That is why I was so intrigued when I saw the ad to the side. It reads, “#equipped to be true.” This is a tribute to the narcissistic world we live in. It says that what I believe is truth, while also pointing to the fact that truth is not found in God but in relationship with others and in material goods.

Recently I asked a professor I deeply respect what the different is between how he used to teach when he was younger and now. His response was powerful. He said, “When I was younger I wanted to teach everything that I knew. Now I only teach the things I think are important and equip my students to find answers to the rest on their own. Thus, allowing them to learn how to learn. I am teaching them that not everything needs an answer. Sometimes they just need to have faith and allow for time to reveal what is needed to be seen.”

Now I know that as we grow older our questions change. And if our past is prologue, these young adults may develop a stronger belief in God over the course of their lives, just as previous generations have. But we have to provide dialogue, not just give in to the temptation to always give answers.

As I speak to youth I am constantly reminded that in my own journey it was when I didn’t have all the answers and had to start living by faith that God became more real, not less. It began to influence decisions I made because He was placed above everything else.

May we not forget this truth so that a new generation can live by faith and not some made up answer to fill the void of the unknown.