I’m really not interested in debate (well, it depends on what you mean by that)

In our society, I think the term “debate” ends up being seen as something in which there are only winners and losers. It’s about throwing facts and figures and stats at an argument and opponent. It’s often about finding holes in opposition arguments. It’s about getting in one-liners that score some kind of imaginary points against your opponents.

Just watch a political debate – it’s about who wins the debate. And the criteria? It’s extremely subjective. And more often than not, it has no lasting impact. This seems to be the case in many religious debates too. The object becomes about winning a debate.

There’s a few problems with that. First, that idea of debate doesn’t even match the definition of debate.

American Heritage Dictionary defines “debate” this way:

  1. To consider something; deliberate. 
  2. To engage in argument by discussing opposing points. 
  3. To engage in a formal discussion or argument. synonymdiscuss.

That actually sounds pretty good. And no where in the definition is there a concern for winning and losing, as if discussion is a contest.

Secondly, the way we often debate ends up dehumanizing your opponent. It’s no longer about seeing the humanity in someone else and considering that because of their life circumstances they might just come to a different conclusion than yourself. Nope, too often, they are just wrong – end of discussion. I’m not sure how that helps anyone. It certainly doesn’t help to see other possibilities, or begin to help one understand or learn how someone comes to their conclusions.

I really not interested in that kind of debate. I don’t see a whole lot of point in it frankly. I want to learn and understand and explore. It helps me to see my own arguments and beliefs in a different light too. Winning blinds oneself from seeing the image of God in another. Why would I want to do that? The other person becomes an opponent – an obstacle to be overcome and defeated. Learning, on the other hand, means we are working towards something together, but often at different angles that we might not even have known existed. Our job is to see each other – to see each other’s humanity. To see what we share in common. To see that we are on the same team in some way.

Those are the types of debates I embrace.

If you want to have the debates where you are only concerned with winning, here’s what you’ll probably end up getting from me – “You’re absolutely right. Are we done?” I’m going to agree with you, not because I actually accept your position. But because there doesn’t seem to be much point in the conversation. I have better things to do with my time than sit and “debate” and determine who is a winner and who is a loser. Go ahead and win. Congratulations. What impact have you actually made? I’d rather learn and grow. I’d rather talk about ideas and beliefs in an environment that wants to explore and ask questions that might not have easy answers. I may even learn that I’m wrong about something, but here’s the thing, in this type of environment, being wrong isn’t dehumanizing. It’s a part of the learning process. And it invites us to open ourselves to possibilities. And we can celebrate that. Debate in which the focus is on winning and losing isn’t often about possibilities. It’s more often about confirming existing beliefs. Where is the growth in that?

No I’m not interested in debating. I am interested in talking and learning and exploring.

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