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Living with Disagreement | Mapping Out the Conversation

A Preface to the Mapping

Our first post in this conversation generated quite a bit of discussion. I opened the topic by sharing my own story of disagreement within my own household over the topic of same-sex marriage. That was a risky move, but I did it to demonstrate that I am not simply talking about an abstract idea. The discussion about how to live with disagreement within a covenant relationship–like a marriage or a church–is very close to my heart and lived experience.

However, my intention for this open conversation is not to elicit free internet marriage counseling. My intention is to discuss how people who truly love each other, and are committed to each other, can navigate the difficult waters of disagreeing over socially and politically charged topics.

This can be a disagreement on any topic. The ingredients that charge a topic are relative to the relationship. I choose to continue using the topic of same-sex marriage and homosexuality in the church as the example topic because it is so widely debated and divisive in the church. Please note that I am not trying to advocate one particular view over another. I am seeking to discuss how multiple viewpoints can come into conversation. I must also acknowledge, however, that I would be naive and foolish to think that I can elevate myself above the conversation and take an objective perspective (In fact, my entire dissertation is built upon the conviction that objectivity is a myth).

So, I enter this post with the full acknowledgment that what I am about to say is biased by my own place on the map that I am about to draw. I observe from within the map, not from the all-seeing satellite view. My map is skewed and I ask you to help me to make this map a better representation of the contours of the conversation.

The Mapping

One important step to take when engaged in a difficult disagreement is to map out the larger conversation. If two people are in disagreement, then they bring only two perspectives to the discussion. It is often helpful to acknowledge that there are more than two perspectives. There are usually hundreds of perspectives that scatter across a wide field.

The following series of drawings are my preliminary attempt to map out the discussion about homosexuality within the Christian Church. It is important to note that this is an in-house, Christian map and does not represent the entirety of the human conversation. The assumption behind this map is that everyone in the conversation: (a) professes to be a follower of Jesus; (b) values scripture as normative for faith; (c) seeks to live out the Gospel in daily life. In other words, we are all on the same team and trying to accomplish the same thing. And yet, we sharply disagree. Why is this?

Here’s how I see the conversation:

I am purposefully not describing these images. I hope to let the image speak for itself and let you discern the meaning of each plot on the map. This may give food for subsequent conversations

Phase One: Determine the Continuum

There are two basics layers of disagreement in this particular discussion. The first has to do with how we understand the nature and purpose of scripture. The second has to do with how we understand the essential nature of homosexuality.

image

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Phase Two: Map the basic perspectives within each quadrant and how they relate to each other.

image

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Phase Three: Determine which viewpoints promote destruction and which promote life.

In this picture I have exposed my prejudice. My intention and calling is to bring people into the communicative zone where we can engage in generative conversation between our opposing perspectives. Read this post regarding the navigation between dualisms.

image

click to enlarge

Epilogue: My Position

I promised that I would reveal my own position. Here you can see that I am in motion. My temperament is one that cannot sit still. I am not one who cries out with Luther “Here I stand and I cannot be moved.” Rather, I cry out with Moses, “The cloud is moving in that direction, let’s go!” We’ll talk about the impact of temperaments on disagreement in future posts.

mapping the homosexuality conversation

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I will end this post with two simple questions:

  1. Where can this map be improved?
  2. Where do you fall on the map, and why?

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Comments
  • snvarbor June 3, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Thank you for that thing in the center, those little clouds between the 2 positions on the bottom & left side, I love the chart and the “how to” do the chart explanation. This could work for any topic that needs a visual graphic to better clarify. And seeing it I actually better understand what your 3rd way essay meant too. Good job.

  • snvarbor June 3, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Oops Q #2
    I am the little clouds, but my position is not on the chart. I think some people get pushed into a box to classify them because every body has to be labeled by society. Are our souls labeled by sex, gender, etc, etc? Or does God just see us as his beloved little beings he wants to get back with Him so much He had His Son die for us?

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