You know the  protest chant “what do we want?” followed by the demand, then the question “when do we want it?” answered with an emphatic “now!”  And perhaps you’ve seen the humorous take off:

What do we want?

Reasonable dialogue

When do we want it?

Now would be good, but I’m interested in your opinion.

I must admit that I have been to a few protests where I’ve chanted the former, but really, my heart is more with the latter.  That tension within me was manifest when the Boy Scouts considered and then delayed deciding on whether local chapters could accept homosexual members.  What did I want?  I wanted them to take not only this step but go further and end this discrimination.  When did I want it?  I want it yesterday, but I’m not so inflexible to not appreciate progress.  Nor am I so dogmatic or idealistic that I can’t engage in a civil conversation in hopes of influencing and learning from others with whom I disagree.

The greatest takeaway for me from the recently ended (and simply amazing) DWB series was in the emphasis on civil conversation.  This was seen in the chat room, on the blogs and particularly in the responses to questions in the coffee house which came from some who clearly had issues accepting the positions of the Skype guests.

I have gone by the handle “Culture Dove” because I want to be a pacifist in the culture wars.  The model of civility among the expanding DWB audience is exactly the sort of thing I crave.  To that end, I have a few suggestions to encourage the progress toward dialogue that transforms:

  • Trust that the other’s opinion is genuinely what he or she says it is.
  • Resist assigning motives that the other doesn’t claim.  We can’t assume that we know why someone is holding a view.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions.  One position does not necessarily lead to a specific conclusion.

Social media can be a blessing opening us to different ideas, but it can also all too easily polarize.  Impatient 140 character responses too quickly become screeds and too rarely contain apologies.  If only we could always include IMHO (in my humble opinion) and truly mean it…and truly be humble.  May we humbly and patiently move toward deeper understanding and greater fellowship.  I, for one, am excited about the ways we are moving in that direction.

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