On Monday, November 13, Southern Nazarene University (SNU) hosted a forum focusing on the wifi issues students have complained about. At the beginning of this fall semester, SNU has acknowledged the need to facilitate more forums to hear the students’ voices. By creating committees, hosting forums and listening to the students, SNU is participating in one of the most important practices of society and in the Christian community: civil discourse.
“We need every voice at the table, especially the ones we disagree with,” Caleb Bechtold, a junior theology and ministry major at SNU, stated. In order to achieve greatness, we must be willing to listen to opinions different than our own. When we surround ourselves with opinions only like our own, we reduce our ability to grow and educate ourselves. This is why it is incredibly important to facilitate civil discourse at a college full of diverse opinions.
Aaron Bolerjack, professor of history at SNU, said, “as citizens, I think that civil discourse gives us a way to recognize that no one has the entirety of everything figured out, and so we can learn more about truth together in ways that are conversational and collaborative rather than combative.”
Conversation and communication are vital on a college campus; when the students and administration disagree or misunderstand one another, it is important to discuss and communicate the struggles civilly in order to learn from one another and build a better university. Empathy is built through attempting to understand and listen to people unlike yourself. As Prof. Bolerjack stated:
“I believe that nowhere is civil discourse more important than… on Christian college campuses… Where else can we teach and learn about a diverse variety of worldviews, if not here? Where else can we train and be trained for a wide variety of vocations, if not here? Where else can we learn to lovingly engage our friends, families, neighbors, and coworkers with grace and truth, if not here? Christian college campuses thrive on civil discourse; it is how we most effectively learn, teach, live and love.”
According to Prof. Bolerjack, it is through civil discourse that we learn to “learn, teach, live and love.” As Christians, it is incredibly important to not only learn to understand those different from us, but to also respond in ways that embody empathy and hospitality. We learn to do this through practice. Events as simple as the wifi forum are ways in which we can learn to embody civil discourse, as well as larger events such as the 2 Windows Project.
As Bechtold put it, “Civil discourse elevates both sides’ understandings and causes each side to better understand their own beliefs… you only know other people’s beliefs if you listen to others. If you don’t listen to others, you never grow.” Practicing civil discourse is a healthy activity to participate in and is much needed in our society as well as in our Church; go and be vehicles of hospitality today through the simple practice of civil discourse.