Twice a week, I co-host a political podcast with a Republican. I’m a Democrat. This means that twice a week I sit down and engage in political debate with someone who feels very differently than I do on a great many issues.
We start each show the same.
“No shouting. No insults. Plenty of nuance.”
Willingly volunteering for political confrontation is most people’s worst nightmares. It’s certainly my mother’s worst nightmare but I do it willingly because I believe we desperately need more civil discourse in the world. I believe that if we can’t discuss – even debate – the things we feel most passionately about then we are destined to fall for the siren song of rightness ringing in our own ears.
It is a not so subtle act of faith to sit down across from someone who feels differently than you and say, “Tell me why you feel that way.”
As with almost any act of faith, this one has made me a better person.
To engage with someone who disagrees with you is to accept that maybe – just maybe – you could be wrong. To engage with someone who disagrees with you is to take the scraps of thought in your own mind and attempt to quilt them into something that someone else could possibly recognize. To engage with someone who disagrees with you is to recognize that you can’t see it all, understand it all, or solve it all alone. To engage with someone who disagrees with you is to open yourself up to rejection, misunderstanding, and hurt… sometimes at your own hands.
To engage on any level is to be vulnerable. To engage about politics is to be vulnerable far beyond the personal–it is vulnerability on an almost global level. What if what I think about violence is wrong? What if I what I think about the other party, the other president, another country is wrong?
You don’t realize how deeply your ideas about the world and politics touch your very identity until someone causes you to question them.
But that is the power of faith. The power of stripping away and seeing what’s left. The power of handing over control and seeing what you can pick up instead. The power of seeing that the perfect future where everyone agrees with you, where you can wave a magic wand to create the world you’ve envisioned, isn’t as beautiful as the present moment where you can take the flawed person next to you and just clean up the mess you’ve got right here and now.
That’s the beauty of exiting the echo chamber where we all sit around agreeing happily while shutting out any dissenting opinions.
We think we’re hearing the truth in that place– but we’re only hearing the echo.
In our polarized era, faith is stepping outside, walking up to a member of the “other” side, and saying, “Tell me more.”