The art of dialogue

September 6th, 2017

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12th involving white nationalist marchers and counter protestors have given us another tragic reminder of the racial unrest in America. Religious leaders and pastors from all faiths gathered on the front lines of the counter-protest march. Rev. Annette Flynn (UMC pastor) from Tennessee reported, “I saw fear in the faces of the Alt-Right. I tried to look them in their eyes and they would not make eye contact. I saw and felt their fear. I felt sadness for them. I wish people who are quick to judge them would remember that what lies behind anger is often deep hurt. We are called to compassion and love. Always.” In an interview for the National Council of Churches, Sahar Alsalani, an interfaith activist shared, “America is a wounded, divided nation. And yesterday, everyone was crying out loud in pain, each in their own ways. The sad thing was, no one was listening to or hearing each other . . . only reacting.”


Many religious leaders issued statements denouncing the violence and repeating the need to work for social justice and peace. While those are appropriate immediate responses, in order to listen to what the other side has to say, we also must put down social media memes and protest signs. Then, we must ask questions about their experiences, fears and hopes. Until we listen, we cannot understand. Until we understand, we cannot know how to be instruments of God’s grace, healing, truth, justice, peace or love for one another.


Merriam-Webster defines the word dialogue as “a discussion between representatives of parties to a conflict that is aimed at resolution.” Dialogue requires listening before asking questions to check understanding or gain more information. Dialogue requires a humble attitude that seeks commonality instead of difference. Dialogue builds up instead of tearing down. As Christians, we are called to be set apart in how we treat one another. Holy dialogue will help us create the kind of social change God calls us toward.

Question of the day: Have you been afraid to talk about recent events involving racial unrest?
Focal scriptures: Proverbs 18:1-24; Ephesians 4:12-16; Romans 12:9-21

For a complete lesson on this topic visit LinC.

comments powered by Disqus