Honest Debate

Every now and then the Church is thrust into a debate by people demanding a response. Last week was the annual March for Life, and throughout the day my social media feed was filled with challenges to those who declare themselves “Pro-Life” and against abortion. Of course this is just one of the hot button topics of our day, but nonetheless, the Church is often thrust in the midst of a debate which, quite frankly is not an honest one. I’ve written before about why I do not engage in political debate, so today’s post is not about the right to life or abortion. It is about having an honest debate.

In today’s Gospel Christ was thrust into a similar debate, (you can read the entire passage below) by those who were trying to trap Him. Saint Basil warned that we will find many who ask questions not because they seek answers, but because they desire an argument. Saint Basil suggested not engaging those who only want a fight. This is the main reason I don’t often blog about politics or hot button topics. I don’t often find people interested in an honest debate.

An honest debate requires respect on both sides of an issue, the sort of respect that goes deeper than whether we argue with raised voices. I’m talking about the level of respect that means finding common ground in a discussion before attempting to change one’s mind. It also means speaking, and accepting, truth. Truth is not relative, though there is a growing tendency today to believe in relative truth. “What is true for you doesn’t necessarily have to be true for me.” If something is true, it cannot be altered, and God is truth.

If you seek common ground and this truth first, then, and ONLY THEN, will you be able to have an honest debate anything that matters in life. My advice to you today is, when you find yourself in a debate, unpeel the layers of the issue until you have reached common ground. Then proceed. If you are both seeking truth rather, a peaceful discussion is always possible.

At that time, Jesus was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?" And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?" And he said to them, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; so the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath." Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come here." And he said to them, "Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?" But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, "Stretch it out," and his hand was restored. (Mark 2.23-3.5)