Is it possible for people to have an interfaith dialogue without contention or disagreement?
Talks about religion can sometimes cause drama, arguments, and even conflict. So most of the time, people’s initial reaction is to avoid any discussion with those who have differing views and ideals. But what if it’s possible to have a peaceful interfaith dialogues with others where you can discuss your beliefs without resorting to disrespect or yelling. Would you be encouraged to stand up and defend what you believe in?
Here are some tips that you can use.
Check your intention at the door.
When sharing your faith and beliefs, it is important that you are clear about your intentions. Is it to prove that you’re right and others are wrong? Or is it simply to share your beliefs and learn from the views of others in the process?
When your intention is the latter, it is highly likely that it will lead to a healthy conversation where common grounds are celebrated, and different views are respected. Often, the faith and beliefs of others all point to one goal—to live good and honorable lives, a common ground that we can all relate to.
Rather than hoping to change someone’s belief, focus on how you can gain a better understanding of their beliefs. You don’t have to agree with them but it’s important that you treat them with tolerance and respect as you would afford to anyone with the same belief as yours.
Sharing your beliefs doesn’t have to be about who’s right and wrong. The main goal should be to inspire others to come unto Christ and share the blessings and joy that come from His gospel. After all, the Lord’s gospel is full of glad tidings.
Check other people’s motives.
Even if your intentions are good, some people will engage in a conversation looking to start an argument. If this is the case, it is wise to know when to walk away especially if they try to rile you up to make it a heated conversation.
Sometimes people think that walking away means that they are not defending their beliefs enough but walking away actually means you’re choosing peace over contention. And that’s a better option. Your faith and beliefs aren’t going to be less true just because you didn’t score some points over a conversation. It’s not a competition in the first place so chill out. Know that the Lord knew that you tried. As President Nelson said, “[T]he Lord loves effort.” One day, your efforts to share the gospel will bring a plentiful reward.
Be mindful of your non-verbal cues.
The most common misconception is that verbal communication is the only important factor to have a good conversation. But guess what, non-verbal cues are also important. In fact, even more so, especially when you are conversing with people who have different points of view.
Rolling your eyes, not maintaining eye contact, looking at your phone, smirking to show disagreement, crossing your arms, and raising your brows are just some of the non-verbal cues that can convey dismissal of what the other person is saying. Although some of these could be unintentional, such as looking at your phone, try to focus your attention on the person you’re talking to. This will convey that you’re engaged and interested. This will also encourage them to continue having peaceful interfaith dialogues with you in the future.
Sharing your faith and beliefs is not a one-way street. The person you’re sharing your beliefs with deserves kindness, respect, and interest when they are sharing theirs—the same expectation you would have while sharing yours.
Tactfully correct misinformation with facts.
During an interfaith conversation, people may bring up incorrect information about your beliefs. It is wise to not consider this as an attack on you or your faith. Think of it as an opportunity to share correct information and encourage them to ask questions or clarify information that they may have read on the internet. This will help them feel safe to come to you when they want to know more about your faith.
It is also wise to stick to facts. If you’re unsure how to answer their questions, you can politely say that you don’t know the answer and that you’ll get back to them. There’s no shame in not knowing the answer. Gospel learning is life-long learning. It’s better to gather the correct information first than to provide incorrect information.
Rely on the Spirit when you’re sharing your beliefs.
In the Bible, we are taught that “we [must] speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth” (1 Corinthians 2:13). When you rely on the Spirit as you share your faith and beliefs, you will be guided and shown “all things [that] ye should do” to invite them to come unto Christ (2 Nephi 32:5). You will also be inspired to communicate with respect and tender regard for their feelings, views, and experiences.
More importantly, the Spirit will bear witness that what you’re sharing is true. It will testify of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and their abounding love for all of us. The Spirit can soften and change hearts, enlighten the understanding, and influence people to learn more about the Savior.
Sharing your faith and beliefs may sometimes feel unpopular amidst all the political and pandemic talks these days. But what better time to have peaceful interfaith dialogues to share the joy and light of the gospel of Jesus Christ than now, when there are so many who want to cling unto hope in their lives. As you share your beliefs, may you do so gladly with compassionate regard for the trials and hardships of the people around you.