Friday, August 13, 2010

A Divisive Taboo

A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, "What is this babbler trying to say?" Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods." They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? – Acts 17: 18-19

Today’s Reading: Psalms 4-6; Acts 17:16-34

I really find this interesting. Paul is in Athens, preaching about Jesus in the marketplace and some Greek Philosophers stumble across him. They start off by saying “What is this babbler trying to say” but then transition to “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?”

I love this.

I honestly think that this is the ideal way to approach life. Why can’t we share our beliefs as well as our ideas?

Growing up I always heard that there were two things that we are not supposed to talk about at work: Religion and Politics. Call me crazy but these are the things that I enjoy talking about the most. I have found that when I have these conversations with people I build stronger bonds rather than bigger barriers between us. I enjoy hearing other people’s ideas and beliefs and sharing my own.

For the longest time I wondered why those topics were off limits and then I realized why. It is hard for us to separate faith from knowledge.

Here’s what I mean.

Most of the stuff that we think we know we actually believe. It is an important distinction to make. To be clear, just because we believe something but don’t know it for sure doesn’t mean that our beliefs are wrong. Maybe they are right. But when we understand that many of the fundamental things that we all believe cannot be proven as fact then it gives these conversations a different tone.

I once had a boss that was very conservative. I am liberal. One of the things that I enjoyed most about working for him were our political conversations. Every time we discussed a hot topic we gave each other the space to speak. We listened. We challenged each others ideas, not to destroy them, but to better understand. The purpose of the conversations was to learn, share our knowledge and beliefs, but not to judge each other.

What I learned from him is something that I have learned from many such discussions about values: we all want the same things in life. We all want security and prosperity. No one wants to wonder how we will get our next meal. No one wants to worry about shelter. We all try to live by a code that will provide for that security, that safety, that comfort. We all want to spend time with those that we love. We want to do work that makes us happy. We want the freedom to pursue that happiness.

He and I differed in some of the ways we thought best to obtain that happiness, that that was ok. We were able to learn from each other, and hopefully, both of us grew from the experience.

Yes I know that talking about these issues is a very delicate proposition, one not without risk. But if we challenge ourselves to share more of what matters to us, I think we will find that we have more in common than we thought. Without this understanding we will remain stuck in our destructive factions, blind to the fact that we all share a common human experience.

Communication is the first step toward understanding, and understand leads to peace. Ultimately peace is what we are all after anyway right?


  1. Thank you Alex! Folks are really scared to keep it real. I get it, but at the same time I don't.


Creative Commons License
A Convo With God by Clarence Mitchell III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at