The first reading in today’s liturgy could be a mission statement for online dialogue.
My two recent posts were on the topic of radical Catholic blog sites, and the harm and division that is caused when impassioned apologetics morph into hateful attacks. The disintegration of dialogue in our church and in the world cannot be blamed solely on the far-right. Liberals, too, can be just as guilty of hasty judgments and harsh words for those sitting on the other side of the ideological fence. (Mea culpa!)
The reading above is worth pondering…
faith with virtue
Be vocal in your beliefs, and you automatically open yourself up to accusations of hypocrisy. (I feel the sting myself. Hubby often gently nudges me to live the nice words I write….sigh…) No one is perfect, but our faith is best expressed not through passionate evangelizing, but through our actions.
virtue with knowledge
Knowledge IS important in a dialogue. We might feel strongly for or against a specific issue, but if we want to engage in an effective discussion we must do the necessary head-work to understand the back-ground and roots of the issue we are discussing. (See an informed conscience…please!)
knowledge with self control
Ah, self control. Knowledge is never meant to be used as a battering ram or a means to inflate our egos. Dialogue is about effective listening and effective speaking. Speaking effectively allows others to understand what we are trying to say. This doesn’t mean that we need to “dumb down” our discourse, but some of the smartest and most educated people I know are also the most humble. They have an economy of words that draws you to listen and ponder what they have said. Pope Francis is a perfect example of this.
self control with endurance
For dialogue to succeed, we need to “stay at the table” when the going gets tough. I struggle with this, especially if faced with a bully. I hate confrontation, and usually respond with silence instead of sharing my views. We all have a right to be heard, and need to exercise that right.
endurance with devotion
Being committed to dialogue requires a passion for the process itself. We enter into dialogue not to change another’s mind, but with the hope to seek common ground. Each dialogue is a small step to mutual understanding. It’s not always easy and seldom gives you the satisfaction of having “won”. We do it because we believe it is worthwhile.
devotion with mutual affection
Now here’s the crunch. Dialogue is almost impossible when the parties are divided by deep seated hatred. Think of the fragility of peace processes around the world. We need to let go of our own, personal bigotry against the “other” if we want to commit to dialogue. (I can already hear Hubby challenging me again!)
mutual affection with love
Ok…it’s one thing to ask me to “like” the person in a difficult dialogue…but, love? Yet, we all know that love is at the root of Christianity. Blog writers, columnists, and discussion board commentators that call themselves Catholic while spewing vitriol and venom are far from shining examples of Christian love.
Love. So Simple. So hard. So necessary.
One thought on “dialogue tips from scripture”
If Church is anything it must be sacred space. Years ago, along a trail of churches in iconic Chartres, I happened off the path and fell upon a not-yet restored 11th C church. Holes in walls allowed fragrant light against the soft-coloured pinkish stone and I “felt” at home. No didactic stained glass, statues or artifacts which labeled the building, just a sacredness of humbeled edification.
The Poor Clares Church just down the street from the, also iconic, church of St. Francis in Assisi was similar. It had been used as a hospice during an ancient plague. Afterwards, the antiseptic cleansing had erased the frescos, leaving a similar soft stonework that permitted and welcomed light – and seemingly the undifferentiated sacred that said “be” and be at peace before mystery.
Years later, lost in Bruges, I stumbled upon an untouristic old church and on entering the traditional exterior belied the simple water pool that occupied a large portion of the interior. Empty pews and collection plates had challenged the congregation and what emerged was a “sacred space” concept that resulted in a spiritual gathering place where art, music, dialogue and a welcome to contemplation replaced the external trappings of ideology which we misnomer for “sacrament”.
We do not seem to have sacred spaces; we have didactic outlets that may or may not integrate and exude the sacredness of “the” divine, usually not. We have lost confidence in God; we have lost the comfort, the joy and the mystery in being lost- alone and together. We seem to need a certainty that excludes question, that “dis-members” those who question and we have substituted certainty for mystery. Worse, I think, we have violated the awe of adoration by calling our unwarranted certainty “mystery”. Our inability, our unwillingness to acknowledge our perversion, our fearful comfort in that sad state is, I think, at the root of our vitriolic rejection of companionship in the seeking, which is the essential condition of dialogue.
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