and sometimes the fruit of dialogue is modesty. I’d like to think that a recent dialogue with a fellow blogger produced the latter (more on this below).
Let me start by saying that authentic dialogue is a necessary part of the new evangelization envisioned by John Paul II; it’s part of bearing the weight of our neighbor’s glory, to borrow a line from C.S. Lewis. What exactly is authentic dialogue? I’ll save that for another post. I might have more success defining it by what it is not. For now I’ll just say that it involves at least three things: 1) a certain kind of asceticism; 2) a focused attention on what the other person is saying, and also on the good that the other person embodies (it is good simply that they exist); and 3) a firm intention to make a proper value-response to that person, despite anything that might counter-indicate that the other deserves it.
This leads me to my recent dialogue with John Heard, an Australian blogger I discovered through a link on Amy Welborn’s site. John operates a blog called Dreadnought and describes himself this way: “sometime banker, former Newmaniac, probable lawyer, perpetual writer, gay, Catholic and conservative.” The guy (who calls himself “Dread”) clearly loves the Pope and the Church, and at the same time posts pictures of nude and semi-nude men that seem quite incongruous with his convictions. Anyway, I decided to invite a dialogue with him about the pictures, particularly in light of what John Paul II has to say about the matter in his Theology of the Body. The conversation covered a range of topics from the human body and pornography to iconoclasm and John Paul II. At times it got heated… accusations and personal attacks began to fly… but after things calmed down, I think it’s safe to say that the conversation was worth the effort. Apparently Dread felt the same way, because he created a new post in which he references the dialogue that took place.
In conclusion, I’ll just say that the more I make efforts like this to engage people with whom I disagree, the more I am reminded of the wise words of Cardinal Newman: “It is not the way to learn to swim in troubled waters, never to have entered them.” Be not afraid.