Changing Your Views About Those Who Disagree With You

OOPS! I apologize for a mistake in the title for my February 15 posting. It should have been “A Soft Answer Turns Away Wrath,” not “A Soft Answer Turns Away Truth.”

Harold Heie


This Musing draws on sections of chapter 7 in my book “Let’s Talk,” titled “Planting Tiny Seeds of Redemption” and a second addendum in my book titled “America After Donald Trump.”

Since I often have more nerve than brains, I decided to orchestrate a small-group local conversation on the topic “President Trump and Visions for America.” Sparing you an account of the difficulties I had in recruiting conversation partners (CPs), which you can read about on pp. 76-77 of my Let’s Talk book, I eventually managed to recruit a balanced cohort of 8 CPs, 4 of whom self-designated as “General Supporters of Donald Trump” and 4 of whom were “General Non-Supporters of Donald Trump.”

To say that this conversation was interesting is gross understatement (for all the details, I refer you to the “Trump Conversation” item under the “Previous Conversation” icon at the top of the Home Page on my website


To summarize, I believe that it is fair to say that those who generally supported Trump did not agree with his “means” for accomplishing his goals, characterized by hateful vilification of those who disagree with him; considering these “means” as antithetical to Christian values. But they were willing to “overlook” this problem because they applauded the “ends” he accomplished; ends that they believed comported with Christian values, such as calling into question “abortion on demand – In brief, abortion on demand is an evil that must be overcome. And overcoming this evil must take priority even if the means for doing requires another form of evil; the vilifying of political opponents

In sharp contrast, some of those who did not support Donald Trump called into question the assumption that a good “end” justifies an evil “means,” citing Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I believe it is fair to say that not many minds were changed as a result of this conversation as to whether Donald Trump’s behavior comported with Christian values.

But two noteworthy changes took place. One supporter of Donald Trump said that “I have become less disagreeable,” adding that “I have increased my capacity to listen, desire to understand, and ability to love those who disagree with me.”

The most significant change, however, was a view expressed by a number of the CPs that “my perception of the other CPs changed,” dispelling any initial impressions there may have been that those who disagree with me about political issues are inferior Christians. One quote from conversation partner Steve Mahr, a non-supporter of Donald Trump, captures this most eloquently:

One thing that I feel has emerged from this [conversation] … is that I think we all see

each other as part of the same ‘Christian family.’ … I think some of us feel like really distantly related cousins, but I think we see in one another a genuine love of Christ and an authentic desire to follow Jesus. And really, I’m not sure I could want more than that from a conversation. To be able to see one another as co-citizens of the kingdom of God is a great conclusion to any conversation if you ask me.

I highlight this beautiful quote because this change in perception about those who had (and still have) some strong disagreements is no small accomplishment. Since the conclusion of this Trump conversation, I now believe that it is the most important accomplishment of our time together. This reflection also fits extremely well with the overarching purpose of my Let’sTalk book since it points to the priority of first building personal relationships of mutual understanding and trust as a foundation for then seeking to identify some common ground.

But, all of the above sounds like unrealizable wishful thing when we consider in greater depth the extreme brokenness of political discourse in our tribalistic American culture. I will address this seemingly insurmountable problem in my next two Musings.

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