In fact, when we don't, it can be enough to bring genuinely surprising results. For today's example, go read Joel Stein's column in today's L.A. Times. I rarely can finish one of Stein's columns. If they held a contest for silliest columnist in the world, and by "silly" I don't mean the kind that obsesses about the threat on the Mexican border or about the treasonous behavior of the Dixie Chicks - I mean every day, garden variety, empty-headed silliness. Stein's sensibilities seem to be willfully trivial, so much so that I wonder if he really exists or if he is just an amalgam of what people in fly-over states think we're like here in SoCal. Ah, but my point.
Stein writes about a day he spent with Ken Baugh, a pastor from Orange County with whom he watched and talked about The Da Vinci Code. Stein is a classic consumer, so almost every sentence contains a reference to a commercial product or a product of entertainment culture, yet Baugh's conversation was able to entice Stein out of his world which is usually bounded by movie grosses, Starbucks, personal grooming and what people are driving into something more, well, real.
After the movie, Stein writes that he and Baugh broke down the film's (obvious) deficiencies, but then says, "Our conversation was far more interesting than the movie." What is Baugh's secret? He listens. He doesn't shout. He's open to real questions. He makes his points with evidence rather than brute force. He's nice to be with.
Baugh offers to continue their conversation, and Stein says, "...and I really wanted to because it was nice to be reminded that people who believe in Jesus aren't simpletons impressed by magic tricks."
You see. It's not that hard.
I really liked how Stein found the conversation more interesting than the film. The Gospel is an amazing story. Perhaps if we were a little better at telling it with our words and our actions, silly stuff like The Da Vinci Code and Stein's usual obsessions wouldn't seem so appealing.
Please Note: Careful readers will have realized that there is interesting subtext to the article, which connects to the fact that the film makers have actually recruited Christian leaders to generate discussion about the film. I hope to discuss this later. Perhaps Sean Combs, back in his Puff Daddy days was right. It's all about the Benjamins. But for today, I was so happy to find a Christian leader not acting like an idiot in public that I wanted to focus on the conversation.
Update: For a further example of what I'm not writing about, go read Glenn Greenwald, who helpfully explains the new rules of political discourse in which it is shameful and incivil to boo and criticize John McCain but it is perfectly OK to boo and threaten a Democratic Congressman who speaks against the war.