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Winter Edition
Volume 96, Number 4


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How to talk about tough topics

Are there unique dynamics at work when Christians disagree?

Winston: The expectations we have of one another as Christians are higher in some ways. We feel that because this person is a Christian, he or she should display a certain level of caring, concern, or respect.

Jeff Rioux, advisor of the Student Activities Board, discusses the opportunities and complexities that emerge as a Christian college community engages popular culture through concert series, lectures, and films.
Jeff Rioux, advisor of the Student Activities Board, discusses the opportunities and complexities that emerge as a Christian college community engages popular culture through concert series, lectures, and films.
Jeff: There’s also a sense that the stakes are higher because these aren’t just two people disagreeing; these are two people who have some sense of what “capital T” truth is. When you are tackling hard issues and it seems you are disagreeing on what that “capital T” truth is—that’s scary.

Kris: When students become uncomfortable while talking about a tough topic, I ask “What are you afraid of?” They often are afraid to say what they are really thinking or feeling because they feel they may be one step closer to losing their relationship with God or another person, rather than thinking this might be an opportunity for growth in a relationship.

Carla: I find in processing issues, particularly with off-campus constituents, that Christians at times seem very ready to throw down litmus tests to one another. Pick the topic—whether it’s film, theatre, music, or lectures that we have here on campus—it seems Christians will often post standards that certain things are “Christian” or “not as Christian.”

Ed: I have to wonder how often our human weakness comes into play. We approach a discussion with all the good intentions of a Christian, but in the heat of the argument things deteriorate. And then you have to deal with how to repair the relationship that was damaged.

How do you avoid damaging relationships during disagreements?

Brian Smith
Brian Smith
Brian: There has to be a broader level of trust within the Christian community that can help support both ends of a disagreement. We have to agree that some of these issues we’re talking about are not issues that ought to split a community apart. Hope-fully, even if it’s a very divisive issue, the community can foster a level of trust that we can rely upon, so we still have Christ in common; we still have certain things that won’t go away because of our disagreement.

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