In my previous post I invited readers to think of constructive ways to deal with provocative comments about theology. I asked people to write down helpful responses to two hypothetical situations:
1. Imagine that you are a Christian, and an atheist family member sarcastically compares God to Santa Claus. How could you respond in a constructive manner? What could you say? Write down the best reply you can think of. (It’s important to actually write it down, so you can reflect on it later.)
2. Imagine that you are an atheist, and your mother says she cries every night because you are going to hell. Again, write the best reply you can think of.
Now here’s part two – please don’t read the following instructions until you have completed part one.
Part two is simple: Just write new responses to each hot-potato comment, this time trying to say something that connects with the other person. One basic principle of communication is to join with a person before attempting to influence him or her. So write responses that join, connect, contact, empathize, and/or establish rapport. Again, feel free to post these as comments if you wish. In a few days I’ll say more about making connections.
Roger Christan Schriner
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Oh, I did part 1 without reading part 2 and now I find I have done part 2 already! That is my natural way of connecting with people. I think once you let go of your defensiveness about your beliefs and become relaxed about different points of view, it is just like discussing anything you don’t have a strong opinion on. The purpose of the conversation is to explore different points of view and have your mind changed, not to try and change the other person’s mind.