Conversation Guidelines

It is by no means easy to hold beliefs for which you would be willing to die, and yet to remain open to new insights; but it is precisely such a combination of commitment and inquiry that constitutes religious maturity (Ian Barbour)

Expectations for Conversation Partners

Contributors to an eCircle will be expected to provide a welcoming space for respectful conversation by aspiring to the following ideals.

  • I will try to listen well, providing each person with a welcoming space to express her beliefs about the questions thar are posed.
  • I will seek to empathetically understand the reasons another person has for her beliefs about the questions that are posed.
  • I will express my beliefs about the questions that are posed and my reasons for holding those beliefs with clarity and conviction, but with a non-coercive style that invites conversation with a person who disagrees with me.
  • In my conversation with a person who disagrees with me in response to the questions that are posed, I will explore whether we can find some common ground by critically examining my own beliefs in light of her contrary beliefs and the reasons she has for her beliefs.
  • Guided by the underlying values of humility, courage, patience, and love, when we cannot find common ground, I will always engage the person who disagrees with me in a way that demonstrates respect and concern for her well-being and does not foreclose the possibility of future conversations.

Guidelines for Posting Comments

Comments from readers are encouraged throughout the course of an eCircle. All comments will be read, and a comment will be posted if it satisfies the following guidelines. Comment fields are present on the bottom of every one of the submissions by our Conversation Partners on the 1st and 15th of the month

On the positive side, a good comment has the following qualities:

  • specifically relevant to the issue or questions raised by the original post
  • reasonably short and concise
  • respectful in tone and language (even if you are commenting on something with which you disagree strongly)
  • contributes something positive and new to the topic

On the flip side, there are some things you will definitely want to avoid in your comments:

  • contributes little that is positive or new to the topic
  • overly long or otherwise difficult to read (if your comment is longer than the original post, consider shortening it for readability)
  • disrespectful in tone or language (e.g., resorting to name-calling, demonizing a person with whom you disagree, impugning motives, or calling into question the integrity of the person with whom you disagree)
  • dominating the conversation (although some give-and-take is called for in a good conversation, avoid repeated postings that add little to what you have already said)

As a general guideline, the narrative for a submitted comment should conclude with your name, the city and state of your residence, and your affiliation (if any). However, given the controversial and sensitive nature of the topics being discussed, if revealing your identity will create difficulties for you, you may submit your comment anonymously.