Engaging with those we disagree with
By Jessica Brodie
On Twitter, I found myself responding to someone who asked whether anyone out there frequently engages with those they disagree with, and how they navigate this. “I do!” my fingers raced to type. “I run a religious newspaper that tries hard to be balanced and include many perspectives, so this is both a challenge and a blessing. Many of my readers don’t want to read all viewpoints. But I learn a lot from them.”
You might be one of those readers. I can be one of those readers, too. I often don’t think I want to read a perspective from someone who seems to disagree with everything I value. But after 11 years in this position, more than 20 years in journalism and more than four decades on this earth, here’s the biggest truth I’ve learned: I don’t know everything. (Neither do you!) And I can learn a lot from opening my heart and mind to other perspectives.
The pages of the Advocate are filled with wonderful articles and photos that show God’s brilliant, compassionate, merciful and exciting work accomplished through South Carolina United Methodists. It’s heartening and inspiring to see God’s people feeding the hungry, clothing those without and sharing the redeeming truth of salvation in the community. Special needs ministry? Prison ministry? Addiction and recovery ministry? We’ve got it. It’s beautiful to read how Methodists are being God’s hands and feet near and far.
But it’s also beautiful to see people on fire for Jesus about issues they care passionately about. Whether these are issues I agree on or not doesn’t matter, for if we look deeply, we realize those writings are ardent. Heartfelt. The writers are fully convicted by the Holy Spirit about whatever it is that they are writing, whether that’s the future of The United Methodist Church or some aspect of social justice.
I applaud these writers for having the courage to write what God has put on their heart and share it with their peers through the pages of this newspaper. Their obedience isn’t always appreciated, but I know God honors it because they are heeding what God is asking them to do. That takes tremendous strength and faith.
When God called Jonah to go prophesy to Nineveh, he ran as fast and far as he could in the other direction. Only after he spent three days in the belly of a whale did he finally capitulate and agree to follow God’s command. Some of us, when God calls us to share an unpopular or controversial opinion, can be a lot like Jonah. We might think, “I didn’t hear God right,” or “I don’t know enough to write on this topic, really,” and tuck it away hoping someone else will do it—or maybe the issue will just magically resolve. We might run away.
But the Advocate is a safe space, a place where God is invited consistently and always to move and work and transform. Maybe there’s something God is asking you to read a little more closely this month. Maybe God’s nudging you to start a new ministry, or to change your mind about an issue. Maybe it’s time to open your mind to another perspective—whatever that looks like. The opportunities are endless, and God is always on the move.