While a student at Oxford, I had the unique opportunity of living with several guys from various Christian traditions. If memory serves me well, we had two Calvary Chapel types, one Baptist, a Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and a Mennonite Brethren. It was diverse. We had the opportunity to have dinner with Bishop Kallistos Ware, and during the dinnertime conversaion we asked him how he thought the East and West would be reunited. His answer: personal friendships.
The conversation came to mind this evening as my wife and I discussed various political and social issues with Mere-O friend Naomi. A social and political liberal, Naomi and I manage to disagree on nearly every issue imaginable, yet I rarely enjoy a discussion as much as I did tonight. Both worked hard to persuade each other–both remained largely unmoved. A point here, a counter-point there–the discussion ranged far and wide, and battles were won and lost on both sides. Throughout was the presumption of charity, an openness and willingness to listen because we’re friends. Our friendship undergirds and supercedes our political differences, and it allowed real political discourse to occur.
If right and left are going to be re-united, discourse like tonight’s conversation must become the norm. It was intense, but good-natured. No one made dramatic reversals, but change is usually made incrementally, and dialogue is a long process. If the political disunity is to be overcome in the country, than it’s going to be overcome through friendships that transcend political ties. We are, after all, humans before we are politicians.
Naomi is an excellent writer and thinker, and I’m looking forward to more interaction with her in the future!