Whatever Happened to Dialogue?

One of the casualties of our twenty-first century culture is our ability to engage in dialogue. Dialogue defined is simply the process of “engaging in an informal exchange of views.”

Whereas once we could respectfully “reason together” (to borrow a phrase from Isaiah 1:18), now there is  hardly even the pretence of such. Dialoguing has been assaulted by party politics, by screaming TV and radio pundits, and by post-modern subjective values. Instead of truly listening to each other and actually giving one another the opportunity to exchange views, we loudly advance our perspectives, push our agendas and tolerate no dissenting voice.

Dialogue is dead. In its place is the diatribe.

But like all things- this is nothing new. Recall the episode which followed Christ’s healing of the man born blind recorded in John 9:1-34. The reaction of the Pharisees in this story is the classic assault on dialogue. They went into the discussion with a pre-set agenda; they asked questions, but did not like nor listen to the answers; they threatened and bullied; they accused and attempted to discredit and smear the people involved; and finally they claimed moral and intellectual superiority.

This exact scenario plays itself everyday in halls of our government, on national television and radio and unfortunately in our homes and churches.

Contrast this to how Jesus engaged in constructive dialogue with the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-42. Here Jesus gave this woman an opportunity to express her ideas and ask questions. He listened to her and provided appropriate answers. He shared with her his own different viewpoint. She listened. They engaged in a mutually respectful conversation  and actually exchanged views. Numerous blessings flowed from this dialogue.

It is true that most of our dialogue opportunities will probably not realize that kind of result, but until we stop shouting and start listening- we may never know.

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5 Responses to Whatever Happened to Dialogue?

  1. bigfry2003 says:

    Good points all, Danny. I have many friends with many different viewpoints. I agree with some of them, I disagree with others. Gladly, we can still relatively get along. It’s unfortunate that this isn’t true for many. Though not limited to that realm, politics is the greatest example of this. ‘Compromise’ has now become the vilest of four letter words in government. ‘Bipartisanship’ is now the process by which we cut the ship in two between us so that we all sink.

    Don’t know if I’d link post-modernism in with all that myself, though. Separating by classifying and categorizing seems more a function of modern thought, not post-modern. I don’t completely buy ALL that it’s selling, that’s for sure; but it’s not the ‘great satan’ many make it out to be. I’m sure many thought long ago that modern thought would spell the end of civilization as we know it.

  2. mkjergaard says:

    Good thoughts here Danny. We would do well to heed your advice.

    Blessings Bro!

  3. lesjr says:

    Dialogue? Dialogue? You are just flat wrong, so how can I have any dialogue? LOL! You better know I am kidding! Good stuff, old friend!

  4. Edward says:

    I must respectfully disagree with you Danny.

    Effective, engaging dialog is not a casualty, nor is it dead. It’s still all around, and taking place all throughout our culture. I witness it all the time.

    Maybe you’re just looking in the wrong places or watching too much television (something I try to stay away from more and more).

    In my recent experiences (particularly the last 2-3 years), and with those in whom I choose to spend my time with, there is plenty of good dialog. We run the gamut of topics from politics and religion, to deep philosophical discussions, music, culture, etc. Sometimes we agree and sometimes sharply disagree.

    There’s as much listening as there is talking, however, and we create an atmosphere in which people can speak their mind without fear of judgement or division. When the discussion is done we grab a bite and a brew and hang out without taking any of it too seriously.

    I have found that good dialogging is derived from healthy relationships – it’s relational. In healthy relationships we try to listen to people and learn from them together, rather than trying to bend them to our will or change who they are, or shove our opinion down their throat.

    Venues such as talk shows, Facebook, blogs, Fox News, and even some churches, do not lend themselves very well to good dialogging, because they do not provide an atmosphere that is conducive to building relationships or give people space to think and talk transparently. They do more harm than good.

    Jesus spent time with people and an atmosphere of dialogging. Jesus wasn’t always nice, and he didn’t always say things that people wanted to hear, but he developed a relationship with those around him, thus building trust and effectiveness.

  5. dannydodd says:

    Ed, you are free to disagree here. I believe that is what blogging (and dialouging)should be all about.

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