Uh, what’s the point?
While it may afford some entertainment for the participants and/or spectator-lurkers, of what real value is it?
It’s kind of like idling an engine for a few hours just to generate heat. No actual work gets done; no real result accrues from it.
How do you recognize when closed-minded debate is taking place? (Especially if you happen to be involved, and of the open-minded variety?)
- The closed-minded debater will not concede any point. After all, he is right; why should he?
- The closed-minded debater will insist on framing the issue/wording the question. This is to her advantage.
- The closed-minded debater will frame the issue / word the question in personal terms if possible. This is to his advantage, as it opens to the door to personal attack as a diversion.
- The closed-minded debater will make use of diversions frequently when unable to respond logically and accurately to a point made by her opponent.
- The closed-minded debater will divert to side issues (relevant or not) in order to lengthen the discussion. (Some dogs bark because they like to hear the sound of their own voices. My neighbor has one.)
- The closed-minded debater will show no interest in learning; learning is not the point. The closed-minded debater will show no interest in consensus; consensus is not the point. Winning is paramount. After all, he is right; why should he show such interest in collaboration with someone who is wrong?
- The closed-minded debater will only recognize authorities and commentators who agree with her, and will discredit (substantively or not, usually not) those referenced by her opponent.
- The closed-minded debater will only be able to see facts and citations of authorities one way, the way presently seen, and no other possibilities.
- The closed-minded debater will accuse his opponent: of evading, of illogic, of intellectual dishonesty. After all, she is right; why shouldn’t she?
- The closed-minded debater will frequently take offense at comments made with no intention of offending. This establishes power and calls into question his opponent’s character and therefore (ostensibly) generates sympathy for himself among the spectator-lurkers. No comment is too small to be magnified into a personal insult. This is also, often, a diversion.
- The closed-minded debater will show little regard for conversational or personal ethic in the process. As stated before, winning is paramount; and when one is right, the end justifies the means.
- The closed-minded debater will not be persuaded. Will. Not. Be. Persuaded.
These are fairly widespread tactics; you’ll see them all over the Web and on every so-called news network. What is truly disappointing to this believer is the size of the culture of closed-minded debate within Christendom. Believers –who of all people should be the first to understand the difference between faith and fact; the necessity of being open-minded and selfless with others; the victory that comes through saying “I was wrong” — seem to be among the very worst in many instances.
Their language may not (or may!) be as offensive, but their utter contempt for those who disagree with them on dearly-held beliefs — whether well-founded or not — is absolutely unmistakable … whether by another believer, or someone who does not believer, does not know the Story, has never really even heard of Jesus of Nazareth (other than as part of a curse or epithet).
Christian discourse should be light-years above simply civil discourse. It should be persuasive in its humility, its love and its deep concern for others above self. It should be unyielding in matters of faith, and understanding in matters of opinion, and sufficiently mature in spirit to discern them.
I have gone past being weary of the level of discourse among believers that I’ve seen (and, sadly, been a part of) and my tolerance for it has reached an all-time low.
So I’ve set some goals for myself when I feel drawn (or sucked) into closed-minded debate:
- I will not be the closed-minded party.
- I will love and pray for the one(s) who disagree(s) with me.
- I will not argue matters of opinion anymore. You’re entitled to my opinion any time you like it; just read it here. I’ll be glad to read yours. I’ll probably be secretly delighted that we’re alike or different in certain ways because I believe that such commonality and diversity will both enrich and strengthen the body of believers. But I’m not going to go into hours and paragraphs and billions of pixels over something we don’t have to agree upon.
- I will argue matters of faith. When I encounter something that challenges faith, has the potential to enlighten or strengthen or deepen it, I will argue it and argue it passionately.
- I will admit when I am wrong. And I am frequently wrong.
- I will continue to tell you when something is my opinion, my conclusion … and when something is simply the fact as virtually everyone else in the known universe agrees upon it, citing reference when possible.
- I will do my best to discern the difference between those two.
- I will concede my opponent’s points when they are correct. Hey, it happens.
- I will always try to be a brother to a sibling in Christ, a fellow believer, and share fellowship with her.
- I will always try to be a brother to someone who does not believe, and share fellowship with him as well.
- I will continue to believe that Jesus loves without precondition, which is my example to follow.
- If I cannot foresee a worthwhile outcome, I reserve the right to not participate in a challenged debate at all. I may well ask the challenger: “Is there really a possibility that either of us is going to change the other’s mind on this matter? If not, is there really any point in proceding?”
Well, that’s my short list. It’s a start.
But I think it’s a good one.