…and for Christians who live in a society with people who don’t agree with them.
In The Problem of Religion in Inter-Religious Dialogue, Debra Dean Murphy writes:
Loving my conversation partners—seeking their good, willing their happiness, bearing with them, desiring their companionship—this is the hazardous business of building relationships, of forging connections across doctrinal divides.
I’ve seen the truth of this when attending presentations by the staff of the Institute for Christian-Jewish Studies, or watching interactions among the faculty at my school, or noting the relationships among longtime members of the North American Academy of Ecumenists. The genuine affection among persons who are not only colleagues, but friends, is apparent, and explicitly honored as a necessary component of fruitful dialogue.
And I’ve experienced the truth of it as well in less-formal dialogues of my own: the most rewarding, illuminating, and enjoyable conversations I have with non-Christians and non-Catholics are those that occur within the context of friendship. That friendship creates a space within which it’s okay to voice a difference of opinion, and okay to hear one, too. If you trust your conversation partners not to attack you, then you can spend more time and energy actually considering what they say than if you always have to be prepared to defend yourself. If you’re relaxed enough to be playful around differences of opinion, belief, and worldview, then you’re also relaxed enough to creatively explore your own positions, as well as those of your interlocutors.
Emmanuella wasn’t thinking about formal ecumenical dialogues with atheists and agnostics, but her “message to all Christians” makes the same point from another angle:
(H/t to Dover Beach for the video.)
I don’t know what music she has playing in that video, but the soundtrack I was hearing was 1 Corinthians 13.
Love isn’t all you need, but you do need it. If we speak with the tongues of apologists or of angels, but have not love, we are merely noisy gongs, clanging cymbals.