Series: How to Stay in Conversation With the “Other Side”

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As a conversation space for justice in the Christian Reformed Church, the Do Justice blog seeks to encourage people to have conversations around justice. But how do we stay in dialogue with people who strongly disagree with us on an issue we are passionate about, especially when that issue affects the lives of people in very tangible ways? How do we foster conversation with people that we disagree with on an issue they are very passionate about and that also affects people’s lives in very real ways? How do we have these conversations on social media, which adds another dimension to our disagreement?

During this Do Justice series we will be hearing from people who because of the nature of their jobs, the things they are passionate about, or the people they interact with have had a lot of experience answering those questions. We hope that this series will give us some guidance and advice to begin to answer those questions. Above all, we hope that this series will help you stay in conversation in constructive ways that honor and respect the image of God in those you disagree with and in the people affected by the issues you are talking about.

Will you make a personal commitment to respectful dialogue, especially for this year's Christian Reformed Church Synod gathering? To make your commitment public, and to encourage others to follow your lead, tweet or share a Facebook post with the hashtags #CRCsynod and #CRClistens

Check out the series posts here

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Community Builder

As I read this post, Danielle, I wondered whether the Do Justice blog had turned on "commenting" to allow responses to its blog postings.  I wondered that because your first sentence referred to Do Justice as a "conversation space," implying or even just stating it is a two way communications resource.

I would respectfully suggest that the first step to "encourage people to have conversations around justice" is to turn on the conversation function.

In today's media environment, blogs are not conversation sites unless they allow commenting.  Sans commenting, they are really propoganda sites for the views of whoever controls the site (OSJ in this case I believe).  Hence, even the Banner allows commenting, which in turn generates a goodly amount of genuine, constructive conversation, even if among "people who strongly disagree."

So what is the obstacle to persuading OSJ to allow actual conversations on Do Justice?

Guide

Happy to respond to that, Doug. You are actually currently participating in one of the ways we do commenting on Do Justice--through The Network. We post Do Justice articles quite regularly on The Network, and will be posting every single article from this series. OSJ staff are very active on The Network responding to comments. We also post every single Do Justice article on the OSJ Facebook page and about one article per week on the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue's Facebook page. (By the way, Do Justice is a joint project of the OSJ and the Centre for Public Dialogue, a CRC ministry in Canada.) 

We want to steward our ministry share-funded staff time well, so we have chosen to manage comments on these two pre-existing, well-used venues for commenting rather than opening up commenting directly on Do Justice. 

Dialogue happens not just when people talk to (or yell at!) each other, but when they are actively listening and responding thoughtfully to the other's thoughts. I appreciate your respectful tone in this comment, Doug, and I hope that we can continue to have respectful conversations in the future. 

Community Builder

Thanks Danielle: I'll look more for Do Justice articles on The Network.

Doug

Thanks Danielle.  Interesting question.  “How do we stay in dialogue with people who strongly disagree with us on an issue we are passionate about, especially when that issue affects the lives of people in very tangible ways?”  I wonder, what is the purpose for such dialogue?  The question itself begs of the notion that we are right (an issue we are passionate about) and those responding are wrong.  Is the purpose of such dialog to convince those dialog that they are wrong?  Or is there a possibility that you might possibly change your position after such dialog?  I’m guessing, probably not.  

Such dialog, if not open to the possibility of changing opinions in either direction, in reality only serves to confirm those dialoguing in their own positions.  I think, quite possibly, that would be the result of such dialog for the “Do Justice” blog.  And that’s not all bad.  I enjoy such blogging for that very reason, that most often I come away confirmed in my own previous position because I’ve thought the issue through or have dug deeper into the issue.

Thanks, Doug, for your comment.  Turning on the “conversation function” is the right start.

Guide

Thanks for your comment, Roger. I think you're partially right in saying that many discussions are already very polarized, so that it is hard to find middle ground to talk about. But I believe that it's still possible to find that middle ground, and that there are many moderate positions on contentious issues. Dialogue that actually changes people's minds is still possible. I know my mind has been changed on contentious issues before by reading an article or speaking with someone with whom I knew I didn't completely agree. We especially try to highlight the voices of marginalized people on Do Justice through series like What Being Pro-Life Means to Me and the Listening to Marginalized Voices Challenge, because we believe that when real human stories are told, the conversation can be changed.  

In response to your comment about turning on the "conversation function", it's more difficult than flipping a switch. We would actually have to pay a web developer to add that functionality to our site, and we're not convinced that money and staff time is worth it, given that commenting is already available (and clearly functioning, since we're having this conversation) on The Network and our Facebook pages (Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue and Office of Social Justice).