This post is part two. Part one can be found here.
What garnered a standing ovation at this particular conference was [name redacted by request]’s testimony. If you are interested in getting audio editions of this, or any session of the LWO conference, contact Christian Audio Tapes, 888-228-2737 or www.catapes.com.
THE STORIES WE TELL: What else surprised me about the LWO conference was the presentation of intellectual material, thoughtful study and reflection coupled with the testimonies of real people who had gone through real-life situations. For those of us with a cause, we must understand that much like Pascal’s quote that “the heart has reasons which reason knows not of,” so it is that stories have a power that powerful arguments will never have. The caveat, of course, is that the stories have the power to do something far different than what well reason arguments may attempt, but fail miserably.
Christianity could learn a big lesson here in all of its causes and all of its attempts at seeking to persuade people of the truth of God. If our methodologies remain weighted with argumentation, we will have missed huge opportunities for truth, and perhaps most important, we will have missed what Jesus was calling us to do as followers of him.
You see, well thought argumentation attempts to persuade people of factual truth. Using logic and reason as the primary tools, this kind of approach often has the backlash of developing within the opponent a resentment towards the issues, especially when it comes to heart issues such as sexuality. Even using the word “opponent” garners that feeling. Why? Most often the case is that people, on both sides of the spectrum decide what data is true, based not on its logical validity, but based more upon their emotional tie to the conclusiveness of the information they choose. In other words, I feel first, decide later. I emote and deeply yearn, then gather arguments that support my a priori decision. My experiences validate my study.
Now throw in controversial subjects like sexuality.
And this is why reasoning methodologies fail. We miss the bigger picture, and we approach “subjects” (people) as objective material. Again, what surprised me at LWO is that there seemed to be an understanding that this truth (and this way of truth) must be realized, and if the issue of homosexuality was to be addressed in its fullness, it cannot be relegated to mere Biblical arguments and a refined theological anthropology. People must tell their stories, others must hear those stories, and we all must allow those stories to be the basis for upholding any reasonable position. You can’t deny a story, a testimony. You can’t falsify its logic (even though one may attempt to point out discrepancies, it’s still the individual’s experience and perspective that makes their story “true”). Stories also disarm, emote, and argue, all at the same time. And the power of the story is not necessarily in logical persuasion, but in the ability to move people towards compassion, to feel with the other person, to engage with the soul of the argument, not just the mind of the argument.
This does not negate the need for reason. This is simply an observation of how the two correlate. I once heard it said, “Speak to the heart, and the head will follow. Speak to the head, and the heart may never follow.”
Biblically speaking, this is exactly our calling, and always has been. Throughout the Scriptures, we see stories, narratives, pictures, allegories, metaphors, testimonies, and witnessing, all to the end of declaring God’s Kingdom, and in moving people’s hearts and minds. As Jesus told the man whom he exorcised,
“Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19)
And people on all sides of issues such as this one ought to take good care to listen first, and hear the soul-cries of very hurt people who are desperately seeking help, healing, and often times, validation. We all must take care to have and express compassion in the fullness of our abilities, and the fullness of the others’ receptibility. After hearing [name redacted], I am convinced that ministries like LWO and Exodus Int’l are doing great things for those who need it. The ministries would be bankrupt if that were not the case. And I would also pray that there would be a validation of the other 30% who have gone through the programs, and have emerged on the other side feeling more damaged than before. For their story is just as valid as [name redacted]’s.