It takes at least two people to have a conversation. Conversations include giving and receiving; talking and listening.
Debates are different than conversations. The goal of a debate is to verbally beat down the opponent and be crowned the winner. Debate focuses on sound arguments, timing, intonation and careful presentation. The ebb and flow of volume and pitch are carefully orchestrated to bring about the goal of a win.
I like to debate. Some people hate debates. I like conversations. Most everyone enjoys conversation. Why the difference?
In debating I listen to my opponents’ arguments while searching for the crack which will allow me a way in to cause their foundation to crumble. But, I’m not really interested in hearing them, identifying with them or considering their words. Debate is not about understanding, it is about winning.
Conversations happen. You say what you think and feel. I hear it and respond. Conversation is connection. It is sharing and valuing. Conversations lead to discoveries and understanding.
I think faith is a conversation that too often gets bumped by debate. My fellow Christians and I get training to become better debaters. We talk about worldview and defending God. (Can the Sovereign be defended? Does the Sovereign need defending?) Don’t get me wrong … it’s good training and will come in handy when we find ourselves in the middle of debates.
I’d rather defuse debates and turn them to conversations. I’d rather hear what my Muslim neighbor believes and understand why he believes it. I’d rather talk with my gay friend and hear his heart and try to understand him instead of bringing out my “Three Ways to Convert Gays” pamphlet. I’ve learned that when I truly work to listen and understand others that they give me the same privilege of sharing what makes me who I am. Conversations lead to understanding. Debates usually just reinforce walls.
As a follower of Christ, I believe it’s the Holy Spirit who brings about the result He desires. From what I see in Christ, my job is to love God and love others. In that love I will be ready to give an answer for the Hope that lives within me and will do that with gentleness and respect.
Conversations build relational bridges.