It’s very important that we do engage in discussion with people who have opposing views. I believe it’s best to do so in a way that is as non-threatening as possible, but it needs to be done.
Fortunately, I have been able to have a great many discussions, chats, e-mail exchanges, and such with people who have very different political, ethical, moral, and/or religious views from those I hold. The exchanges I have gotten the most out of are those I’ve had with people I know genuinely care and have compassion for others. With that basis, I have an easier time answering questions or responding to objections than I would with someone I’m not sure at their center really cares about other people and what’s best for them.
I think it is a pretty natural tendency for us to want to avoid conflict. We’d rather not have our thoughts and beliefs tested, especially in a way that seems mostly confrontational or adversarial. For me, it’s been a good lesson to remember when I engage others in discussion about controversial topics.
Am I more likely to read or listen to what someone has to say if I know that they are considering my position and addressing my concerns?Yes, especially if they are doing so in a way that educates me about various aspects of an issue I might not have considered or know as much about as they do either on an academic or a personal level. Am I more likely to react or respond when someone begins to contradict or attack what I believe? I generally have found that if I’m inclined to react, then it will be more emotional than if I wait until I’ve cooled down and come up with a well-thought out response.
What Would Jesus Do? He’d dine with the sinners, eat with tax collectors, talk with the woman at the well, and reach out to the paralytic. There is a very deep spiritual poverty in our country, as Blessed Mother Teresa observed. If we don’t interact with people who have different beliefs, it will be a bit harder for the Lord to use us as vessels of change if, when, where, and with whom He wishes. Wouldn’t you agree?