A Rant About Arguing (oy!….)

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There are a lot of ways that we are called to endure injustice. Some of them we are more comfortable with than others.

One of them is how we conduct ourselves in discussion/debate with those we disagree. Principled people of any sort face the challenge today of a public that is, at large, irrational, illogical, prone to faction and lots of yelling. Catholics have the additional challenge of believing and proclaiming very unpopular Truths (perennially as well as currently).

The fact remains, if our reason for discussing/debating is something beyond ourselves – Truth, justice, the souls of the people involved vs our pride or self-satisfaction – then the greater part of discussion/debate, especially today, is charity, patience, and the willingness to suffer injustice. We must be willing to suffer injustice and misunderstanding rather than resort to angry shouting or other means (or memes) that defeat our purposes (and are not justified by them).

What does this look like in practice? Sometimes it means ostensibly letting other people “win” or get the upper hand. It means letting irrational, illogical, puerile, immature, and unfair comments roll off one’s back. It sometimes means sacrificing the argument to win the soul (theirs as well as ours).

We have to continually be realistic about our situation: 1) our beliefs are unpopular and misunderstood, 2) our culture is insane, and 3) the people we are talking to have been heavily influenced by said insanity (as have we). So we have to expect that anyone we talk to comes to the table with a bevy of misunderstandings, assumptions and prejudices about us and our ideas. Their heads are buzzing with witty “gotchas” and “slogans” that only apply to straw caricatures of us.

And you know what? The reverse is almost always true as well.

With all this in mind, we have to be ready to enter a discussion “wise as serpents, simple as lambs” (Matthew 10:6). We need to be bold and prepared, but ready to content ourselves with asking and listening when “telling” isn’t serving the end goal (even if it is making us feel good). We have to be ready to be misunderstood and expect to misunderstand (and patiently attend to the latter first). When the arguments of our opponents make no logical sense, we must help them to clarify and express them better – this is often a prerequisite for them to be able to see that there is a problem! We must be courageous, yes, but nevertheless patient and charitable at all times.

So be ready to “die to self” a bit when discussing/debating with other people. Scratch that. Don’t be “ready”. Expect to die to self. In fact, if your discussion, debate, and evangelization don’t involve “picking up your cross” in some way, you are probably doing it wrong.

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