'Agree to Disagree'

Terry Walton


I Was Thinking…

Have you ever won an argument?  According to Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, the answer is no“You can’t win an argument”, Carnegie writes.  “You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.  Why?  Well, suppose you triumph over the other person and shoot their argument full of holes and prove that they are non-compos mentis (not sane or in one’s right mind).  Then what?  You will feel fine.  But what about them?  You have made them feel inferior.  You have hurt their pride.  They will resent your triumph.” (Carnegie, Pp.110-11)

Arthur C. Brooks, in his book “Love Your Enemies” writes, “The point of disagreement—if disagreement is to make us better and draw us together—is never winning.  It certainly isn’t to attack someone else.  It is to enrich discussion, test out your point of view in a respectful way, and persuade someone you care about.” (P.188)

The phrase “agree to disagree” first appeared in print in 1770 when , at the death of Evangelist, George Whitfield, John Wesley wrote a memorial sermon which acknowledged, but downplayed, the two men’s doctrinal differences: “…in these we may think and let think; we may agree to disagree.”

Have we lost the art of ‘disagreement’?  Have we lost the art of ‘conversation’?  Have we replaced these gifts with vilification?  Have we become less relational to those who think differently than us on an issue or two for fear of being labeled and thus dismissed as a human being?  I’m afraid that at the very least we are leaning in this direction.  What has happened to us?  We have lost our way in being true Methodist Christians in the posture of “agree to disagree”.

The prophet Isaiah wrote it long ago, “Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.  If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land:  But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured with the sword: the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.” (1:18-20)

Our country; our world; our church needs a trip behind the spiritual woodshed so that we can remember some of the basics of good rearing:  we don’t have to agree, but we can be civil.  When we disagree, we can do so respectfully realizing that no one has all the answers.  If you know someone who claims to have ‘all the answers’, run as fast as you can in the other direction.

We can do better, my friends.  We can do better.  The world needs our witness.  Let’s get to it.

Always Thinking…

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