Last night Anita and I went to a small dinner party. There were four couples. It was a good night. Tasty food. Laughter. Some really good conversation.
I want to talk a bit about that really good conversation piece of the evening. Of late I’ve been lamenting the lost art of conversation. Last night I found it again. Here’s what happened. People kidded each other. Questions were asked. Tough subjects were covered (the mosque, the essence of democracy,terrorism, how to find meaning in life, children, faith, etc.). Smart and kind people were discussing some dicey issues and if truth be known not everyone agreed on everything. But there was no scurrying for cover, no fear of thinking out loud (at least I think not) and no need to convert someone else to a particular point of view. There was a nice exchange of ideas. It felt good. It was free and easy.
I've been at other gatherings where the food was tasty and people were happy. But it wasn't free and easy. No way was I going to talk about the mosque, faith, the care and feeding of children or the meaning of democracy. Why? Because it wasn’t safe. There was an unspoken party line that everyone was adhering to. Conversation was stilted, polite, but frankly boring. Everyone was on their best behavior so there were no contrary opinions or even gentle probing of issues and ideas. For sure, there was no invigorating give and take. Most people kept relatively quiet, smiled nicely, talked about the Cubs and the Bears and when it was all said and done were probably thankful that they had walked through a minefield and walked away relatively intact.
Over the past couple of years I’ve learned, that for the most part, most people don’t want good conversation and the thrill of the engagement. We have entrenched positions and are not eager to hear what others have to think. It’s a sign of the times. Additionally, I think most people have forgotten the value of a good question and the probing that’s necessary in order to discover what another really thinks and feels.
Christians stifle conversation all too often. In some faith circles there is a certain ‘group think’ everybody buys into. Whether that ‘group think’ tilts to the right or to the left doesn’t really matter. It pervades the culture of faith and anyone who does want to think ‘out loud’ and take a contrary point of view usually finds out its best to get along and go along. Too bad. We miss out on the variety within the body of Christ. And without hearing the other point of view we never get to that messy 'iron sharpening iron' the Scripture talks about.
I’ve often thought that the most interesting place to have ever been would be around a campfire with Jesus. I bet it was a rich conversation. Good questions. Some interesting give and take. Laughter. Moments of deep silence. I just have a hunch that Jesus loved the probing insight, the practical application question, and even the impetuous comment. It was part of the discipleship process.
So, last night was a good night. No world problems were solved but I felt listened to and taken seriously. I think others did too. How good is that?