Taken from the The Canton Chronicle 2017, Vol. #3.
I recall visiting the Senate chamber in the Illinois State Capitol and being quite amazed. I had expected when the session opened that the senators would be in their seats being quite attentive to the business-at-hand. What I witnessed was a chamber with many empty seats, senators and staff frantically moving around, and several mini conversations happening here and there while business was being conducted. I may be exaggerating to a degree but not much.
Scenes of Annual and District Conferences are also etched on my mind. By the time the business sessions of conferences get underway, delegates are usually seated and attentive. A few stragglers always arrive a bit late. Yet, even at conferences I see mini conversations taking place during business sessions. These conversations sometimes are taking place among two or three of the seated delegates. At other times, small groups of non-delegates are seen in various locations holding side conversations.
Some questions come to mind from the two scenarios above. Are those who are not attentive to the business-at-hand able to make fully informed decisions? Are the sidebar conversations relevant to the business being discussed or are such conversations for the purpose of moving forward another agenda?
I wonder if the inattentiveness alluded to above contributes to the difficulties we have in our public and theological discourse. Until good listening skills are utilized, I’m concerned that important pieces of information within the main conversation may be and/or are missed. This missed information could be the key to misunderstandings, thus public and theological discourse then leans toward violence rather than vitality.
“Until good listening skills are utilized, I’m concerned that important pieces of information within the main conversation may be and/or missed. This misinformation could be the key to misunderstandings., thus public and theological discourse then leans toward violence rather than vitality.”
I realize that practiced attentiveness will not lead to conformity, nor is that what I desire. I hope, though, that it leads to transformation. Transformation is a process whereby the diversity of thought moves us in directions beyond our strongly internalized ideas. But, the diversity will only transform us and the way forward if we attentively listen to each other.
So maybe the way forward to a more civilized and transformative public and theological discourse is to speak less and listen more.