Well, Liz requested my thoughts on knowing when to speak up for your beliefs in a post-modern world, so here goes. (Liz, let me know if I’ve addressed your comment adequately.)
It’s true. It really is hard sometimes to know when to speak up in a post-modern world and when to just keep your mouth shut. So much of our culture today is driven by a philosophy of
non-offensiveness that squarely speaking your mind can often put you in a position of scorn and ridicule by your peers.
In addressing the post-modern culture, there are a couple of things we always have to be aware of, things that we recognize and with which we have to deal. We have to understand that, in general, there are two separate groups of post-moderns — the group that is composed of professing Christians and the group that is composed of unbelievers. Knowing to which group the individual or individuals with which you are conversing belongs greatly affects the approach you want to take in declaring and defending your beliefs. With the Christian group, you are able to cut a few more corners, take a more direct route to your personal statements of faith, and speak from a greater pool of common ground and understanding. With the unbelieving group, you will typically have to take more time to lay out the basic tenets of your beliefs before you can talk about the beliefs themselves, to clarify the assumptions and presuppositions that are
generally taken for granted in the Christian faith, to establish a level playing field where (hopefully) everyone understands the logical and philosophical starting point of everyone else. Of course, as I have entered in many more conversations recently with believer and unbeliever alike, I have come to understand that this simplistic demarcation is much more blurred than it once was. We are required to explicitly define our terms so that, even if we disagree with the other’s starting point, we at least understand where the other begins his logical and philosophical train of thought. And even so, it is not always appropriate to speak one’s mind.
Allow me to lay out my personal approach to speaking up and to speaking out about my beliefs. This has come from many experiences, both good and bad, and I am constantly checking myself to make sure I am acting in a way that is beneficial, uplifting, and constructive to all. The rule by which I live is this — I simply wait for the appropriate opportunity to speak. Sometimes I succeed at this; sometimes I do not. As I said before, sometimes it really is difficult to know when to speak up for what you believe in. There are many factors that I take into consideration when determining if the time is right for me to say my bit. A large portion of this consideration is in determining the frame of mind of my target audience. Some topics, just by the mere mention, will fire up certain individuals into a blind rage and passion of debate that makes a lot of noise but ultimately ends up going nowhere. Those are the sorts of discussions that I try to avoid because no matter what I say or how well I phrase my own arguments, ultimately it will amount
to little more than an itch that, once scratched, goes away and is immediately forgotten. The sorts of people with whom I am really most interested in conversing are those who are genuinely open to honest discussion, who have their own opinions and stances but who are
receptive to other opinions and who are willing to recognize that they, too, are human and fallible and who desire to correct any flaws in their own logic that may exist. Those are people to whom I am most willing to open my own heart and mind, to share what I believe and why, from whom I am most willing to accept constructive criticism and challenge of my beliefs and to whom I am most willing to reciprocate in kind. Those are the sorts of people who have helped me grow the most over the years. We may end up still disagreeing on what we believe and why, but in the process we have had an exchange of ideas and of relationship that leaves everyone changed, often for the better.
It’s difficult to converse with the post-modern who holds certain core values and beliefs to be in flux due to a lack of absolutes, but it is indeed possible through the clear explanation of personal values and beliefs and through humble and open dialogue between peers. When do I choose to speak my mind? When I feel my audience is open and receptive to my ideas. Sometimes I
end up in a debate that ends in a waste of time, but sometimes I don’t, and I leave the discourse feeling as though something truly great has happened.