How Do We Disagree?

In the early hours of the morning on Sunday, a gunman entered the Pulse bar in Orlando and began shooting. By the time that the dust had settled from the attack, 49 people were killed in addition to the gunman himself. He was eventually killed as well by the police.

As details of the attack begin to emerge, some things are becoming clear. The gunman identified himself with ISIS, the terrorist group. The gunman had been interviewed by the FBI because of sympathies he had expressed in the past. The gunman exhibited unstable behavior in the past and his motives and anti-LGBT attitude seems to have been driven by his association with ISIS and their views.

Any shooting, in my opinion, is a horrific tragedy. This shooting is no exception. We’ve seen this happen too often over the past years, people going about their lives in their schools, in clubs, in theaters, and other places before their lives are upended by someone choosing to use violence to express their views and allow that violence to speak for them.

Why is violence the way that some choose to express their disagreement? That seems to be the $1,000,000 question. Is there no other way that we can express disagreement over issues than using violence? As I think through this tragedy and the 49 killed as well as all of the wounded, I can’t help but wonder about how we disagree with one another?

Granted, it seems that this shooter had a lot more underlying issues than seeming disagreements, but I think that the question of how we disagree still remains. Are we allowing for places in our culture and our society in which people can disagree and actually dialogue about those disagreements? Are there forums in which people with differing opinions can engage with one another in healthy and productive means?

Social media has been both a help and a hindrance for people to express their opinions. When we voice our opinions simply to make them known, we don’t invite conversation. At the same time, I think that we’ve gotten a little lax in engaging each other over differences, choosing instead to simply state that it’s fine for you to believe what you believe and me to believe what I believe, as long as we don’t end up working out our disagreements with violence.

But as I consider my own children, I have to think that how they are taught to disagree will be heavily dependent on what I teach them, both in word and action. That’s not to say that they won’t learn from what’s around them, but nurture and nature are both instrumental in our formation. How are my children learning to disagree?

Diversity can be a good thing, but if we all don’t understand the differences or seek to try to understand the differences, diversity is just another word that we throw around. To simply hold to beliefs because it’s “what we know” or “it’s the societal norm” is not a sufficient reason. If we believe something, hold firm to it as a belief and ideology, we should understand why we believe it. Can we become an apologist for our viewpoints and beliefs?

Not only should we be able to defend and affirm our beliefs, but if we have done the hard work of thinking for ourselves, we shouldn’t feel threatened when we encounter someone who disagrees with our beliefs. The one exception is when the someone that we meet who disagrees with our beliefs takes it upon themselves to use violence to do their convincing, as was the case with this man in Orlando.

I have many friends who hold differing opinions than I hold, but I’d like to think that we can agree to disagree and still engage in meaningful conversations without violence or hate. I don’t know that I will ever convince them of my beliefs and vice versa, but I don’t think that should prevent us from continuing our friendships.

How do you disagree? How well can you defend what you believe? Is social media simply a platform for you to trumpet your beliefs? Or do you seek to grow in your understanding of your beliefs as well as the beliefs of others?

There is an irony in a blog post like this. I fully understand that this has the potential of being the very thing that I don’t want it to be, but I’m also trying to ask more questions to point all of us towards the process of working out the answers for ourselves.

I pray for the people of Orlando. I pray that all of those impacted by this tragedy, especially those in the LGBT community, might realize that there are those out there whose differing views don’t prevent them from still sharing in friendship and love with them. I pray that the peace and comfort of Jesus Christ might be made known in a real and palpable way to those who are suffering and I pray that we can continue to seek ways to peaceably disagree with one another. May those who are mourning and hurting know that they are not alone in their mourning and hurting.

One thought on “How Do We Disagree?

  1. Jon,

    This is very thoughtful. And true. And Christian. Thank you very much.

    It was wonderful for me to have you here last week! Thank you for your kind note.



    Lowell Beach Sykes 4401 Montgomery Road Lynchburg, VA 24503 USA Telephone: 434 384 8957

    Please note: message attached

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