Here’s a new joke for you: An atheist, an agnostic, and six Baptists walk into a bar. Or, not a bar, really; it’s a living room. There’s tea and cookies. And then… well, and then, they have a civil conversation about life, God and the cosmos. They disagree, but they don’t fight. (Even amongst the disagreeing Baptists! :)). And then — big punchline — they walk out as friends.
I’ve had the privilege of being part of a group called Explore God, the sole purpose of which is conversation among people of different beliefs. We’re not there to debate or proselytize; we’re not there to show one another the error of each others’ ways; we are there to explore the concepts of God and meaning and Christianity through calm, friendly discussion. We are there, in short, to have a conversation.
Early on, there was a bit of worry among some of the Baptists. Is it enough simply to have a conversation? Shouldn’t we be actively evangelizing? But as we continue our discussions, it has become increasingly apparent that the conversation itself matters.
The conversation matters because in the conversation, we learn to see one another as people instead of stereotypes.
In the conversation, we can try on other perspectives for an evening, exploring and testing them for ourselves.
In the conversation, we learn to understand and even respect other positions on big issues.
In the conversation, we can ask questions without needing all the answers.
In the conversation, we can discover what unites rather than what divides.
In the conversation, we can join the great conversation that has been going on for millennia.
In the conversation,we can transcend political and religious labels.
In the conversation, we can start to build the framework for a productive pluralist society, in which people of different cultures and beliefs can work together for the common good.
And you, Thinking Through Christianity reader, are part of the conversation as well. I hope our time together on this little corner of the web is kind, productive, and respectful so that we can continue to explore the mysteries of life, God, and the cosmos without becoming the punchline of a joke. Here at TTC, we want to create a world in which people of differing beliefs really can go out for a drink together and walk away as friends. Thank you for joining us in the conversation.