I had an eye opening moment several years ago. I was one of the pro-life activists who would pray outside abortion clinics. (Can I mention abortion without derailing entirely?) Every Saturday, we'd meet for Mass, then go to the clinic and pray. And every Saturday a group of women would meet on the clinic steps. They'd don their identifying orange "clinic escort" t-shirts. They'd laugh and joke most of the time, but when women came, they went into security guard mode.
Sometimes they would jeer at us. We prided ourselves on accepting the attack without anger, but among ourselves, we called them deathscorts.
One day during prayer I realized that they were the same as me. Not just in some hugely general, they-are-people-and-we-should-respect-them kind of way. We were women who had decided to volunteer our Saturday mornings to protect women from violence. They were not my enemy; they were me, but with different formation and experience.
Abortion is depressingly difficult to discuss. I want to scream at my would-be allies sometimes. If your impulse is to scream at scared pregnant women, you yield any moral high ground. You are not loving her. You are not loving her baby. You are venting your personal anger. It is not just a missed target, it is an assault. There are bright lights in the pro-life world worth mentioning, like Abby Johnson. But the rage against women is still depressingly common.
I have my thoughts and beliefs about marriage but I am not ready to argue. I mean, I guess I am prepared. I love arguing, and I have put a lot of thought and prayer and research into my beliefs. I'm armed to win! But I don't know what winning looks like here.
Some issues cut more deeply than others, and this is one of them. Because disagreeing is not a simple surface disagreement where we can just agree to disagree, it is a fundamental disagreement. When you tell someone that their family is not really a family or their love is not really love, its not a disagreement, its an attack.
When you tell someone that their faith is a trivial thing or that it does not belong in the public arena, the faithful are baffled. What does that even mean? All my beliefs are formed in prayer. (OK. That is an outright lie. But it is an aspiration. I'm working on it.) I don't want God out of my head.
This is my blog. This is my soapbox.
In an argument, you listen for flaws. What mistake will they make? Where is crack in the foundation? It is exciting and not always entirely useless. But what is the goal?
We're not very good at listening across lines.
We have to be attune not just to what we want to say, but what is likely to be heard. We can choose our choirs and preach until all the preachers are foamy mouthed generals and the choirs are armies ready to do battle. That's an option. But it's not a good one.
See that guy over there? He stands for everything which is wrong with the world. He wants to take away my rights because he fundamentally hates me and what I stand for.
Battle lines are neat. And self-fulfilling. You will hate the guy who hates you and wants to take away everything that matters to you.
We don't need another argument. We need a dialogue. We need to learn to listen generously.