How Can We Disagree?

Do you despair at the disagreements in church life? Well, the food world is no different. I came across a story told by Graham Kerr (formerly the Galloping Gourmet, now Christian convert and apostle of healthy eating) in his book Charting a Course to Wellness, pp. 36-37). He began low-fat eating and cooking for the sake of his wife’s health. At a food professional conference in 1993, Julia Child was speaking, and said, “I don’t believe that anyone can eat a diet with only 10% of calories from fat..In fact, If anyone here is doing that I’d like to see him STAND UP!” Kerr stood up, alone among the hundreds of people. Julia Child didn’t even look up from her notes. After the lunch the reporters swarmed around Kerr, wondering if he was leading a rebellion. He assured them he was not, but it was out of his own practice of support for his wife.

Kerr had dinner with Julia that night, and they discussed their differences. He says, “It wasn’t until Julia that I learned that you could fully respect the position of others without relinquishing your own place.” Many in the food world — and the church — do not understand this truth.

Is there someone whose position you need to respect more fully?

7 Responses to How Can We Disagree?

  1. Pingback: Will or willfulness? | G.R.A.C.E. Writes

  2. Good question, Dwight! Yes, having a will is an essential part of having a self. I think we get willful when our efforts to convince others of our point of view cross the boundary of the self of others. Emotionally if not physically we are pointing our fingers into their faces trying to pressure them into agreeing with us. And rather than getting them to agree, our efforts stir up their natural defenses, and we can get the opposite result we want.

  3. Dwight Robarts says:

    Hi Margaret- Please define willful for me. What is the difference in having a will and being willful? Isn’t having a will part of having a self?

  4. Thanks, Rebecca. This question of respecting those who don’t respect the position of others is a challenging one. Willfulness goes both ways, and it can be hard to deal with those who are trying to will us into their point of view.

  5. I think this is one of the most challenging issues that I face as a pastor. In the lectionary a couple of weeks ago was the parable about the wheat and the tares, and I believe that this parable gets close to the question about the struggle to remain in community when we disagree. As a pastor, I wonder often what it means to remain in a church community when we have totally opposite opinions on the issues that we feel most strongly about: war, homosexuality, divorce, homelessness, the meaning of justice, economic issues.
    You ask a good question Margaret. It would behoove me to respect more fully the position of many people. I admit that I have not figured out a way to respect those who deny the position of others, especially those who want to deny the right and ability of people in the congregation to speak out as a group of congregants who protest against the war in Iraq, or support organizations in some of the poorest countries of the world.
    I think that Israel is correct about the willfullness. I work to ask myself often how much I want to ‘will’ the other to think the way I am thinking, and try to find another way than the ‘willfull’ way. I think willfullness is especially ineffective in preaching.

  6. Good thoughts, Israel. Paying attention to willfulness and the tendency to take it personally (starting, of course, with ourselves) will contribute mightily to making conversations about difficult issues more productive.

  7. A topic question of perennial interest, Margaret, thanks. One factor I always look for during discussions of disagreements is willfulness. I’ve found that to the extent willfulness is absent, dialogue can happen and people are able to disagree without feeling threatened of being invasive.

    Another danger is when in the course of dialogue, honest conversations, or discussion persons “take it personally.” The tendency then, I notice, is to “make it personal.” That tends to be a very reactive posture that seems to stem from issues of self. Don’t ask me to explain what that’s all about, my rule is, “Never question motives; observe function.”

    And I must add that I so appreciate a small group of friends who can say up front, “I disagree” and so do responsibly with no fear that anyone is going to get their feelings hurt. I can count them on the fingers of one hand, though.

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