By Tom Quiner
Conservatives have occasionally questioned me, even criticized me, for having liberal friends.
There are many reasons I maintain, and even cultivate friendships with people who disagree with my worldview, whether our differences are political, religious, or cultural.
For starters, there are a whole bunch of people in this great country who are doing really good things who, nonetheless, pull different levers on election day than I. These are people who live lives of virtue despite what I consider to be faulty political thinking. We may agree on some issues, and disagree sharply on others.
I don’t want to impose litmus tests on friendships.
Even more, I can’t have a positive influence on the world if I cloister myself in a conservative cocoon. If I stake out adversarial relationships with those who disagree with me, their unproductive liberal urges simply become even more entrenched. We won’t listen to each other. Rather, we’ll debate, and argue, and probably get mad. What little influence I may have is shot.
Friendships involve trust and giving. In this atmosphere, meaningful conversation can take place. That doesn’t mean it always will, but at least there is an opportunity for some two-way listening.
I have a dear friend who disagrees with me on most political and cultural, but not necessarily religious, issues. To her credit, she once asked me why I believe the way I do. I was taken aback. I wasn’t used to a question like that from a card-carrying liberal. I appreciated the charity of her question. It created a pathway to a two-way conversation on our respective world views.
I have been influenced by a great Abraham Lincoln quote I read as a young man. When Lincoln was asked how do you defeat your enemy, he said, “you make him your friend.”
I know, I know, life is messy. Lincoln’s advice is easier said than done. But I have found two role models in life who have shown the way to connect with those with whom we disagree. One is the great English writer, G.K. Chesterton, who died in the first half of the twentieth century. The other is Fr. Robert Barron, an internationally renown priest in the archdiocese of Chicago. Fr. Barron acknowledges the influence Chesterton had on him. Chesterton always sought the common ground with his adversaries, and built on the conversation from there.
I like the way Dr. Ben Carson puts it in the meme above. The American people aren’t our enemies. If we want to replace the people behind the curtain jerking the chains on decent people in this country, conservatives have got to be having real conversations with their neighbors, with their family, even with the people sitting across the pew from them in church who vote differently.
We will never change hearts and minds by shouting.