In a more gentile era, polite conversation came with a variety of restrictions. There were circumstances where certain topics were simply not allowed. As we have become an evermore free-wheeling society one of the last constraints to be lifted was the warning never to discuss religion or politics in recognition that these discussions tended to get heated.
Today, we have no problem with raised voices, waving arms and even expletives entering our living rooms via the television and our politicians publicly exchange derogatory remarks, but many of us still shy away from airing our personal political opinions or religious convictions among our friends and acquaintances in order to avoid offending anyone.
Politics and religion incite such strong feelings because they speak to our core beliefs. We all have opinions, but we don’t always have adequate vocabularies to explain why we believe the way that we do.
When our beliefs or opinions are challenged, we become defensive, even angry, especially if we can’t explain our reasons clearly and coherently.
A reasoned discussion of any subject should be an exchange of ideas and facts that enlightens the participants in the debate. If one side fails to sway the other, there is no need for acrimony.
A lively political or religious debate can be invigorating if everyone is treated with respect and allowed to explain the basis for their opinions.
I suspect that much of our rancorous public discourse about these and other controversial topics is the result of a lack of knowledge of the subject matter.
We are forming opinions based on sound bites and personalities and therefore, can’t support them when challenged. Our only recourse is to shout more loudly, call names, walk off in a huff or tiptoe delicately around the subjects.
I suggest that we should do the necessary homework to understand the basis for our beliefs and to challenge them ourselves, so that we know why we believe as we do and feel comfortable calmly defending our beliefs when challenged.
Many Christians are uncomfortable sharing their faith, even with other Christians, for fear that they will be challenged and have no response.
Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. I would add that an unexamined faith is not worth sharing.