Office of Government Relations

Lenten Series: Week 3 Values-Based Conversations

March 12, 2018
Office of Government Relations

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Romans 2:1 

Too often, we can find ourselves jumping into partisan debates over solutions without first acknowledging the values we hold individually, and the values we share with others. This division is fueled by national and public conversations, by the nature of social media, and by our own personal flaws to “be right” in debates. Our disagreements on solutions do not mean we are enemies in pursuit of different goals.

We should always begin from a place of values. This means starting conversations on political issues by recognizing our values before jumping into solutions or partisan ideas. Values-driven conversation helps us see that we share more in common than the surface of differing political opinion may reveal. By recognizing shared values, we can often diffuse initial tensions in relationships knowing that we are pursuing the same goals-we just may disagree on how to get there.

In addition, values-based conversations help us to hold sacred the creative space for disagreement-which we will explore more in the final segment of this series. Values based conversations can help us find shared hopes for our country and produce outcomes in policy and legislation that have the most informed impact. As we seek solutions to the challenges of our time, we should aim to do so in a way that is always loving, liberating, and lifegiving, even through disagreement.

The Values Around Us

The patriotic elements of our society are steeped in the values set before our country at its founding. Historically, we as a nation have fallen far short of fulfilling those values, yet that makes them no less worthy of pursuing.

Take, for example, the Preamble of our Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” This defines the democratic nature of our country, the pursuit of improvement, justice as a central element of our society, peace at home, protection from external threats, caring for our fellow citizens and environment, and caring for future generations.

Like those in the Preamble, the values Jesus challenges us to uphold include love and caring for our fellow citizens (as each is made in the image of God), the pursuit of peace and avoidance of violence, care and protection of the environment, and honesty and fairness in seeking justice.We are connected to one another through these values-we’re connected as Christians, we’re connected as Americans, and we’re connected as citizens of the world. 

Civil discourse is about enhanced understanding-it is not about giving credibility or merit, or accepting differing viewpoints as our own, or suppressing conviction or passion. Though some may disagree on this point, it is important to understand what alternative values may guide others’ views of the world, where those values come from, and how they guide someone’s opinions and actions.

Just like when we have shared values, enhancing our understanding through civil discourse with those who have values different than our own leads to an improved ability to describe the world around us with greater accuracy, deeper truth, and more potential. Differences in values are often deeper and harder to overcome than disagreements in opinions or perspectives that are rooted in the same values.

As a final point for reflection, civil discourse across disagreement but with shared values is typically easier than civil discourse with someone who has different values. The vast majority of conversations around policy and legislation involve disagreement in the how of fulfilling values not in what the values are.

“Lord Jesus, who traveled with the disciples on the road to Emmaus: Be with us on the way, that we may know you in the scriptures, in the breaking of bread, and in the hearts of all whom we meet. Amen.” (St. Augustine’s Prayer Book, Forward Movement)

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