Dialogue and Peacemaking

One of my Facebook friends posted the following as his Facebook status the other day:

The Catholic Right thinks there’s a war on religious freedom.
The Catholic Left sees a war on nuns.
Republicans accuse the Democrats of class warfare.
Democrats accuse the GOP of a war on women and the poor.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Any takers?

I reposted that status line, prompting from another of my Facebook friends the response: “No, because the rethuglicans are slimy, greedy, hypocritical, and immoral. How does one make peace with that?”

Sigh. I have just been engaged in a back and forth on Mirror of Justice about how we talk to each other. And it is not the first time I’ve raised it here.

But a couple of things emerged from the recent Mirror of Justice thread that are worth saying again.

First, it is almost impossible to avoid using labels: Catholic Left, Catholic Right, conservative or traditional Catholic, liberal Catholic, and, of course, liberal or conservative in the political sense.. The problem is that labels can be misleading. Many of us are quite liberal on some things and quite traditional or conservative on others. And vice versa. That is true both about both politics and religion.

I think it is too easy for those who tend toward the left/liberal side to lump everyone else in a big category labeled conservative and assume they know their positions on every thing. And equally easy for those who tend toward the right/conservative/traditional side to do the same lumping together of those they view as liberal. The label masks where there might be some areas of agreement and gives the sense that everything is about “us” vs. “them.”

The second point that emerged in that thread is the issue of how we listen and how we speak to each other. I know from my own failings that it is very easy when dealing with others whose views are different from our own to speak in ways that are less than charitable. I think ALL of us (whatever our leanings and our positions) have to try to do a better job of (a) listening more charitably to each other and (b) thinking about how we are speaking to each other.

Part of the second is about remembering that we are talking to our sisters and brothers and therefore want to at least try to speak in love. But the other part is that if we really seek peace, if we really seek to create God’s kingdom, we have to speak in ways others can hear us. And standing on one side lobbing labels like “slimy rethuglicans” and the like makes it impossible for those to whom we give those labels to listen to us.

I understand the frustration, especially when one feels one has been misjudged or maligned in that past. But this is not a playground and we are not 8-year olds, so “he did is first” (which isn’t even a particularly good excuse on the playground) is not a reason to hit back.

We all have to do better.


3 thoughts on “Dialogue and Peacemaking

  1. Thank you… AMEN!!!

    Your March 16th post applies here as well – being drawn into respectfull dialogue (and conversations) is much more productive than talking over one another…

  2. A very good reminder that labels are dangerous and demeaning. I fall into that trap many times…the current vibe reinforces it. Listen and speak charitably. What a great thing to pray about.

  3. I was shown an interesting take on dicussion/disagreement in a piece in the NY Times about a researcher (who works with children): the author explained that she (the researcher) didn’t mind at all when her students/assistants expressed a different opinion, because “It’s not about being right, it’s about getting it right.”

    If only we were better at listening and speaking and understanding that it’s not about being right — it is about getting it right… or rather it not about me or you, but about truth.

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