I came across a disturbing article in The Atlantic about Frank Luntz, a political consultant working with focus groups, who is going through a personal crisis and considering leaving politics altogether.
Though Luntz speaks specifically about the state of political discourse, his observations are disturbing to me as an apologist, because the trend he sees among Americans likely applies to religion and ethics as well as to politics:
It was what Luntz heard from the American people that scared him. They were contentious and argumentative. They didn’t listen to each other as they once had. They weren’t interested in hearing other points of view. They were divided one against the other, black vs. white, men vs. women, young vs. old, rich vs. poor. “They want to impose their opinions rather than express them,” is the way he describes what he saw.... Haven’t political disagreements always been contentious, I ask? “Not like this,” he says. “Not like this.”
If you’re interested in apologetics, then you’re likely engaging in discussions with atheists and others who disagree with you. Now more than ever, we need to be intentional about being good ambassadors, even when to do so seems more difficult than ever. Even when we don’t think the other side is playing fair. Even when we appear to “lose” because of it.
It’s not a bad time to review STR’s Ambassador’s Creed:
- READY: An Ambassador is alert for chances to represent Christ and will not back away from a challenge or an opportunity.
- PATIENT: An Ambassador won’t quarrel, but will listen in order to understand, then with gentleness seek to respectfully engage those who disagree.
- REASONABLE: An Ambassador has informed convictions (not just feelings), gives reasons, asks questions, seeks answers, and will not be stumped by the same challenge twice.
- TACTICAL: An Ambassador adapts to each unique person and situation, maneuvering with wisdom to challenge bad thinking, presenting the truth in an understandable and compelling way.
- CLEAR: An Ambassador is careful with language and will not rely on Christian lingo, nor gain unfair advantage by resorting to empty rhetoric.
- FAIR: An Ambassador is sympathetic and understanding towards others and will acknowledge the merits of contrary views.
- HONEST: An Ambassador is careful with the facts and will not misrepresent another’s view, overstate his own case, or understate the demands of the Gospel.
- HUMBLE: An Ambassador is provisional in his claims, knowing that his understanding of truth is fallible. He will not press a point beyond what the evidence allows.
- ATTRACTIVE: An Ambassador will act with grace, kindness, and good manners. He will not dishonor Christ in his conduct.
- DEPENDENT: An Ambassador knows that effectiveness requires joining his best efforts with God’s power.