Unstoppable Force vs Immoveable Object

 

I love a good argument.tweet

Mind you, I would run away from a fight as fast as I could in real life. But, while I flee in haste when any type of confrontation arises, it’s a different story on Twitter.

This hit me when I was scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day. I had chosen to argue with a well-known controversial Australian political figure. He sided with Aussie Rugby start Israel Folau and argued that we must have legal protection so people like Izzy could safely tell every LGBT person that they’ll burn in hell forever without threat of reprisal (in his case his multi-million dollar contract being torn up).

I asked him if he would afford the same freedom of speech to a Muslim person who advocated jihad against Australian ‘infidels.’

His response to me: ‘You’re an idiot.’

I looked at his feed and saw that several hundred tweets had protested his false logic and I was so tempted to strike back with some smart, well-thought-out response.

But it was then that I realised that here was an immoveable object and our collective tweet-attack was like an unstoppable force.

He wouldn’t budge an inch.

We wouldn’t let up.

Stalemate.

So what good is Twitter anyway?

I concluded that Twitter is great to let off steam and offers a chance to find like-minded haters in the fight for right. But, as far as actual change goes, it is a rather ineffective and useless tool.

*  *  *  *  *

Contrast that with the work of David Fleischer of the Los Angeles LGBT Center whose work has been to change people’s minds regarding LGBT inclusion. His work method has exploded on to the scene since his appearance on the public radio broadcast This American Life.

He comes from a place of awareness that it is a very rare thing to change someone’s mind simply by a well-crafted argument or by logical thinking.

I recently listened to an interveiw he did with HumanizeMe’s Bart Campolo. Using the Californian Prop 8 referendum as an example, he demonstrated how all manner of logic and emotion was thrown at the people of the state to convince them that marriage equality was a proposition worthy of their ‘Yes’ vote.

The proposition failed.

He and his team went back to the drawing board.

In their work of evaluating what went wrong, they studied on their method of canvssing the general population and revisited electoral districts that had overwhelmingly voted against marriage equality–this time using a different strategy: one of connection. Rather than bombard the resident with facts and appeal to their sense of justice, the canvassers tried a different approach: having a comnversation with the person and drawing out from them their story, building trust, and then sharing their own story in such a way that it relates to that person’s own emotional connections and relationships.

It worked.

Using the new technque, they were actually able to convince far more people that marriage equality was something worth considering based on the new relationship they had formed.

Essentially, Fleischer discovered that prejudice can be overcome with relationship built in a non-threatening way using conversation.

I have read accounts of the same thing working in conversatons between African-American folks and KKK members, between youth and the elderly, between Christians and Muslims, and between Israeli and Palestinian people.

What Israel Folau, Mark Latham, Lyle Shelton, Pauline Hanson and others like them must come to realise is that it’s only in the context of relationship and connection with others that trust can be built in such a way that people begin to understand you and your message. No bashing-over-the-head-with-a-Bible can build consensus in anywhere near the same way as a heartfelt, sincere comnversation that addresses underlying feelings, emotions and experience. Our stories are so different, but in them is a point of intersection where we can agree and connect and understand each other.

I’m all for dialogue. And yet I let my need to be right get in the way too many times. My first thought was to delete my Twitter account and start again. But when I had time to collect my thoughts, I realised that I don’t need to be part of that unstoppable force that expends its energy trying to shift that immovable object. I can back away from the comments section. I can refuse to scroll. I can, instead, ask sinecer questions about folks and their closely-guarded beliefes and, somehow, I may be able to make some small difference. Twitter is full of angry people. Maybe we need to become an unstoppable force of kindness that, as kindness often does, breaks down piece-by-piece seemingly-immovable objects.

The Sacrament of Beer with Friends

I belong to a pub group.

I say ‘belong’ loosely since there is no membership as such, just a few mates who get together every other week to have a beer and talk about anything and everything.

We’re all bruised and battered from bad religion and could collectively talk your ear off about how some church or church leader failed us and those close to us in the past. Overall, I think we’re pretty much on the level now and are optimistic about our individual places within our own worshiping communities. (You would correctly assume that we all are professing Christians, though I would suggest that we are all in different places on our journey and across the conservative-progressive spectrum.)

I also listen religiously to Homebrewed Christianity and love Chad’s and Trip’s take on things.

That’s where I came across Michael Camp’s great new book Confessions of a Bible Thumper. Conversational. Nostalgic. Relational. Straightforward. Michael takes us down his own path from being a somewhat-reluctant Jesus-freak to following a more progressive spiritual path. And how could I relate to his experience!

One thing that stood out to me in the podcast where Michael is interviewed [listen to it on iTunes] was the phrase he used ‘The sacrament of beer with friends.’ That use of the word ‘sacament’ bounced around in my head for a while. It often seems not quite right to put a deliberately ‘sanctified’ word alongside something that, in some of our growing-up stories, was presented as being so unholy and demon-like.

In reflection, I came to see how what we do every few weeks truly is a sacrament.

The word ‘sacrament’ has several similar definitions, some of which are outright religious in nature, and refer to observances such as Holy Communion or Baptism. But there is an underlying meaning along the lines of ‘Something regarded as possessing a sacred character or mysterious significance; a sign, token, or symbol.’

That is our pub group. It’s not, as our partners may think, some sort of male-bonding time or mutual back-slapping and high-five-giving session. No, we’re not even out to make our get-together a religious experience. Rather than a deep conversation about the nature of the trinity or the theories of atonement, you’re more likely to hear talk of interest rates, new building designs, or how bad the Crows are playing. But yet there is a sacred character to it (beyond the holy ‘spirit’ of a good brew!) It is a place that has a degree of significance in our own lives. It is a sign or a token which says that we see the need for sharing our journeys, unloading our hurts, and encouraging one another. It is sharing the sacrament of beer (preferably a Toohey’s Extra Dry) with friends.

And, while we don’t consciously remember Jesus in bread and wine, it is Communion in the truest sense of the word–a sharing of our time, our stories and our lives, even if it is only for an hour or so on a Tuesday night in a room full of pool-players and dart-throwers.

I’m really enjoying Michael Camp’s new book and I’m sure you would too. You can read an excerpt here, or check out Michael Camp’s book website here. But most of all, I’m gaining a new appreciation of the everyday joy of sharing with friends. As Bryan Berghoef writes in his (also excellent) book Pub Theology:

“. . . good things happen when we sit down at the same table together and talk honestly about things that matter–and frankly, having a beer doesn’t hurt.”

Amen!

We Hold Each Other’s Lives

I came across this today from MINEmergent, a poem-prayer that affirms the possibility of forgiveness and the resulting restoration of broken relationships. (Why is it that poetry speaks into our lives in a deeper, more meaningful way than prose ever could?)

We hold each other’s lives
in our hands
What fragility and responsibility
Earthen vessels formed
from loving hands
So easily crushed
by clumsy words and actions
and only forgiveness can reassemble the parts
according to the Maker’s instructions.

Lord of all life
grant us forgiveness
for our judgmental thoughts
and wrong attitudes
for the poverty of our actions
and the words
with which we wound.

–Liz Babbs, fromThe Celtic Heart: Reflections for Life’s Journey
(as quoted in MinEmergent: A Daily Communique)