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Tim and Rick continue to reflect on lessons they are learning on having healthy communication during moments of passionate disagreement. They consider CS Lewis’ notion of “a hallway of faith” as a helpful image for thinking through matters and manners when we disagree, the value of being curious over the desire to be victorious, and the necessity to prepare oneself prior to and outside of our contentious conversations. This is part 2 of a 2-part discussion.


Rick Langer: Welcome to the Winsome Conviction Podcast. My name is Rick Langer. I'm a professor here at Biola University, and also the director of the Office of Faith and Learning, and also one of the co-directors of the Winsome Conviction Project along with my friend, Tim.

Tim Muehlhoff: It's great to be with you again, Rick. I'm a professor of communication here at Biola University. Yes, I'm a communication expert. I mentioned that to my wife whenever we have arguments. It does not go well. No, I'm kidding. But, yeah, I'm the co-director of the Winsome Conviction Project along with Rick.

Rick Langer: Now, we've been having a conversation about kind of our halfway point reflection. So we've been part of a five-year project here and we're about two and a half years in and we're thinking, okay, what have we learned in the course of this time, having these conversations, kind of summarizing some of the lessons, things that have worked, things that haven't worked, and even some of the things that have gone on in our souls in this regard? We've already had one podcast about this, but there's a lot of things that we've done and a lot of lessons learned, so we thought we'd take a little bit more time because we've felt there's a pretty valuable summary, actually, even for us as we think about it, about saying, "Boy, what do we want to really do as we move forward and perhaps what are other things to leave behind that don't work as well?"

Tim Muehlhoff: So let me jump in with one. The fun thing is Rick and I have not been doing this in isolation. We've actually been meeting with church leaders, parachurch leaders, academics to talk about this issue. We're greatly encouraged how many people are concerned about civility and how do we have productive conversations? So one time, we were talking with a group of leaders and they came up with an idea that is just wonderful.

So here's the idea. It's based on CS Lewis' idea of the hallway of faith. Lewis rightfully believed that there are certain beliefs that make you evangelical, right? You have to believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, inherent. Jesus rose from the dead bodily. Salvation is found in Christ alone. And then he listed a bunch of these theological propositions in the hallway. Now, there's rooms off to the hallway, so you can have disagreements on egalitarianism, complementarianism, Arminianism, Calvinism, but those are rooms off the hallway.

The hallway is pretty narrow and it's established theological beliefs. Here's what some leaders said after we spent time talking to them. I think we need to expand the hallway. Not with the beliefs, but let's put the relational commandments right alongside the theological propositions. And we thought, "Wow, that's really good." So here's some that we mentioned.

Look at what Paul says in Ephesians 4:31. He says, "I want you to get rid of some things. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling, and slander along with every form of malice." Wow, I thought that's really interesting. Then listen to the one he does to the church at Colossi. He says this... I love that he does that, "Put off these things, but then here put these things on," and this is what he says, "Put on then as God's chosen one, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience bearing with one another. If one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these things, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."

So what these leaders say, and Rick and I really are on board with this, that needs to be part of the hallway. So in other words, if you are not being kind, loving, and you're letting bitterness take root, that is just as unbiblical as not believing that Jesus wasn't fully divine.

Rick Langer: Yeah. So this is an interesting thing to think about the differences. This is my philosophy moment here. The difference between a propositional belief and a command, so to speak. And proposition belief, usually you're believing something is true, false, and there's kind of like not a lot of middle ground on these things. Are you married or unmarried? It's not like, well, how about none of the above? It's like, no. Which is it? Where the obedience to a command is often a softer notion. In other words, are you being loving? Well, I think I'm being loving. The other person thinks you don't, and so you have to unpack it.

Now, two observations about this. This is actually a great thing to think a little bit about. Number one is that it's actually a perfectly legitimate thing for a person to say, "Well, let's talk about what it really means to be loving here or forgiving or whatever." And I just remember, I was just talking to a student after class not long ago, where they were asking about the issue of forgiveness. I'd talk to them about this. And they'd say, "Well, if a person is unwilling to be reconciled in their relationship, have they really been forgiving?" In other words, if I'm unwilling to reestablish and reconnect their relationship, perhaps I'm really not being forgiving.

All I would like to say about this for the moment on the podcast here is that's a totally legitimate question to ask. And it's one of the softness in our thinking that is found in the area of things like behaviors as opposed to beliefs.

Now, here's the other interesting issue that I think we have discovered. Tim, you can speak to this, but I think knowing the context that you'd probably agree, what has happened in recent years in our public discourse, for sure, is that actually it isn't a question of, "Well, no, no, I'm trying to be loving, or whatever it might be, but rather to say, the time for gentleness has passed. The time for empathetic listening has passed. It is now the time for outrage." And people are in effect saying... The list you first read getting rid of anger, malice, things like that.

And it's like, "Look, we tried that didn't work." It's time to just be to rage, to quit loud, to shout in anger. In fact, to tell me that I should be loving or gentle or things like that. It's simply a further act of trying to keep my voice from being heard. So this is the issue where at some point you do have to ask the question. Wait a minute, hallway issue, not hallway issue. Is there times and circumstances that allow me to opt out of the obligation to be loving, to be forgiving, to be gentle, to be whatever it may be. Because these things really are commanded it would seem.

Tim Muehlhoff: What a way to phrase that, Rick. Are there times I can opt out? Well, let's take the theological beliefs that are part of the hallway. The answer is unequivocally no.

Rick Langer: You don't get to say, "Yeah, this whole deity of Christ thing." Maybe it could be the doctrine of hell or whatever the thing might be. Because there's times when these doctrines may feel inconvenient and just say, "So do you get to opt out? You get to not defend it? What do you do with it?"

Tim Muehlhoff: By the way you get to opt out, but you're no longer evangelical. You can self-select and say...

Rick Langer: That's correct. People do this exactly all the time. But at some point you need to say, "This is what we've identified." And oftentimes you'll find your organization and your church actually has defined doctoral statements or things like that. As you say, you can certainly opt out. But when you've done that, you realize I am opting out of my community because that's part of what defines my community.

Tim Muehlhoff: So when I'm going to be angry, and I'm not concerned with your wellbeing, I'm not being loving. We're opting out of being an evangelical Christian in our conduct. And at least to note that. So you're right. We could work through that list, both those lists, what we put on and put off. And again, we should do a whole podcast on this, on anger because it's interesting that he says, "I want you to get rid of rage," which I think we understand that. But get rid of anger, well then, what kind of... I mean, there's got to be righteous anger.

So listen to what he says. Paul says in Ephesians 4:26, "In your anger," states the apostle, Paul, "do not sin." So there's a woman that we really like. Her name is Rebecca DeYoung. She's an Aquinas scholar. And she suggests that we must be careful to distinguish anger, the passion, a part of normal human emotional up from wrath, the vice, which is anger in its sinful, excessive misdirected form.

Boy, I think that's really nice. Because again, there's righteous anger. Of course, there's righteous anger. Things that God is mad about. We should reflect that. We should be mad about. But I like the idea that she's saying, "Hey, let's be careful. There's the emotion and then there's the vice." So I love what you're saying Rick is if we're going to make our north star these relational components found certainly in Colossians and Ephesians, just to name two places, let's have a really good conversation what we think Paul meant by those things. Let's do the easy ones first. We get bitterness. I think we get rage. Slander will be interesting.

Rick Langer: Slander is very interesting.

Tim Muehlhoff: Very. But, hey, this sounds like a great podcast in the future. Let's work through the list and see if we can't use Bible scholars, communication theorists come up with. But hear what the lesson is that we've learned. We think we need to expand the hallway to include the relational components. And again, my goodness go to the book of Proverbs and you're going to get a million of them, but we need to hold to those even as we voice our dissent towards people. We can't opt out of those. So that's a huge lesson that you and I are wrestling with and no doubt would be the topic of future podcasts.

Rick Langer: So let me give another lesson. This is one that's that's hit me. We have talked about this before, but the desire to be curious rather than victorious. When you begin to have a discussion and here's the way this often works is you begin to talk to someone and you start in a relatively congenial fashion. The person says something that you think you might disagree with. You ask a followup question. Then you're sure you disagree with them. And then you make a key choice.

Let me make an analogy. I played tennis some in high school. Tim and I have actually played tennis with each other. And the thing that you do at tennis, you start off, you hit a serve or ground stroke back and forth, but the thing that you really want to do to win the point is to rush the net.

And when you rush the net, the thing that you end up being able to do to be able to hit the ball back the moment it's an eighth of an inch over the net. You can smash it back in any direction you want and you'll win the point. You don't have to let that ball come all the way over. It doesn't come all the way back. You just smack it back. And that is a whole conversational style, I've discovered, the rush the net conversational style, where you see something coming, know where it's going, you rush there and then you slap it back. And that is an absolute defeater for curiosity.

It often is a defeater for respect and love. A person on the other end of that feels either disrespected or unloved. By the way, you don't begin to hear or even perhaps savor or taste at least the perspective I have shared, but all you do is you want to win. So you'd rather be victorious than in what's the alternative and say, "Well, let me just propose that curious might be interpreted."

Because that's really different than agreeing or even being interested in agreeing with their viewpoint, but rather saying, "I'm curious why you hold that." And it might be because you say, "It seems completely ridiculous to me." Okay. It seems completely ridiculous to you. Do you think that person is completely ridiculous or would like to find out why they hold it? So be curious. We talk about this sometimes as being a Chimp, not a rhino, because the chimps play with an idea. You throw someone in the cage and they don't have a fun time with it. They may or may not like it.

The rhino tends to be just ramming and same kind of an ethos. So that's the ethos that I think is almost a good mantra to have. When a person is sharing something, particularly what you don't agree with, have the first response be, "Let me be curious," rather than, "Let me seek to be victorious. Let me play the point rather than rush the net."

Tim Muehlhoff: That's really good. In a previous podcast, we talked about writing out our biases and then handing them to another person to say, "Would you add any?" Or what do you think about my observations? Rick, I think it'd be equally important to say to another person, "Hey, when it comes to our conversations, would you describe me as curious?"

Rick Langer: Oh, yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff: Or rushing the net or another way you say, "I'm a Chimp or a rhino." And what does the person have to say? They could say, "Okay, Rick, I think generally you're a chimp." But when we get to this and that, you rush it in.

Rick Langer: You go rhino.

Tim Muehlhoff: You go rhino. Now, that might be really hard to hear. And we would say, "Don't kill the messenger." Right?

Rick Langer: Right.

Tim Muehlhoff: But I think we're to the point where I'm not always the best judge of my communication style or even how I come across to another person. We call that perception checking is during the midst of a conversation to stop long enough to say, "Okay. What do you hear me saying? And how am I coming across right now?" And a person could say, "I think you're coming across pretty defensive. And I think I'm about to get a tennis ball on the forehead because you just rushed the net." So I love this idea of knowing our communication tendencies. We just might not be the best people to actually determine what those are.

Rick Langer: Do we see ourselves clearly on that? I guess this would be a good point to kind of break out the verbal yellow highlighter and say part of what... We've brought this up twice now in our little summary of these issues of saying checking with other people. I suppose if I were to be self reflective on this, one thing that's happened to me in the last two and a half years of doing this is I've realized my soul isn't quite as pure and clean on issues of wanting to have civil congenial conversations and things like that as I had wished or hoped.

This is one of those things where you get out. Well, back to the playing tennis where you can play tennis by hitting the tennis ball against the wall. And you get pretty good at that. You can hit top spin. You can hit a chop shot and you can go back and forth. It's hitting against the wall or a ball machine that they'll shoot the tennis ball at you. It's so different to play a game.

Tim Muehlhoff: It is so different.

Rick Langer: I feel like we've been playing the game more in the last couple years, and I've realized I have some weaknesses in my game. I suppose part of what we're really saying here is to say that conversation needs to be viewed a bit like a spiritual discipline, a character quality to have to be cultivated and refined. You think of this with playing tennis or any other sport. You often have a coach and you think of a guy like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal who are best tennis players in the world. And you think, how could they possibly need a coach? They're a way better player than the coach.

And it's like, they need the coach because the coach isn't them. And the coach knows and understands what they should and shouldn't be doing in that third party. If you really want to work on it, it could be really valuable. That may be a spouse. That may be a friend, but it needs to be somebody who knows you well enough to give you the honest feedback that you need.

Tim Muehlhoff: You've been doing great with the tennis analogies. But when you said chop shot, do you mean a slice?

Rick Langer: Oh.

Tim Muehlhoff: Oh. There Mr. PhD in philosophy. Hey, so you just set me up perfectly for my next one. I was debating which one to do, but you just set this up perfectly with those end comments and here it is. Spiritual preparation is key to all of this. I mean, if we're are not spiritually preparing, this thing is going to go south. So we actually came up with a five-day devotional. It's not perfect. But whenever we go to talk to a group, we ask the individuals to do the five days preparation of searching their heart. What are their motives? What negative emotions? What's their history with this person? That's important and maybe we should put that on the website this five-day devotional.

Rick Langer: Yeah. That's a good idea.

Tim Muehlhoff: But if we don't do, nothing is going to happen. I was reflecting on Psalm 127 where the psalmist says, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless the Lord guards the city, the Watchman stays awake in vain." It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late." This is without God, then we don't have a shot. But Rick here's what really concerns me. I would doubt any listener is going to disagree with this. I think every listener's say, "Well, of course we need to prepare heart spiritually."

But then if we were to do a survey of some sort and say, "Okay, and by preparing your heart, you mean what? And what means do you have?" I think that's what would break down. So Dallas Willard has an acronym. VIM, vision, intention, means. So the vision is I really do want to have a spiritual, civil conversation. I'm going to intend to do it is the I of them. But then the last one is, "Okay, what are the means?" Are you going to do a Bible study on what it means to be loving? Are you going to talk to other people? Are you going to take a class? Are you going to watch a TED talk?

If we don't have the means, and I would argue, those are probably spiritual disciplines that we need to practice regularly as we head to these conversations, that's where I think the whole thing breaks down is I may have a vision for it. And even part of me intends to lose weight. Yes, I did make that new year's resolution that now seems like an eon ago. And most of it broke down because I never had the means.

I didn't join Jenny Craig or a fitness center of some kind. And that's where it broke down. I'm afraid, Rick, people don't have the means to have the spiritual conversations Paul is calling us to, which is put off these things and put on these things.

Rick Langer: I think that's probably a good observation. And sometimes I think we don't conceive of the need for the means.

Tim Muehlhoff: Right.

Rick Langer: So for example this issue of listening to other people. I remember this experience when I was in seminary having a guy talk about the need for doing this, and he showed us this film clip of a counselor talking to someone and that someone happened to be committing adultery. So we're a bunch of seminary students here playing off going being pastors and we're listening to this person talk to this person who's in the midst of having an adulterous relationship. And the counselors are sort of nodding their head and smiling and letting them talk.

We're all freaking out. It's like, "Say something to the lady who's doing this." So we had this experience. He turns the video off and they said, "Okay. Now, let's talk about this." Well, there's this whole fountain of kind of outrage that the counselor never spoke up and all this. And then he let us go for about probably 20 minutes to 30 minutes on our spouting. And then he just says, "Okay. How long do you think that film clip was?" [inaudible 00:20:10] He said, "Well, it was 22 minutes." He says, "Do you think you could just let a person talk for 22 minutes before you shared your viewpoint?"

Talk about deflating our little bubbles. And that was the thing that my professor uses a lead into what he called a listening exercise. Here's what I want you to do. I want you to sit down with somebody. I don't want you to tell them that you're doing this, but I want you to sit down and listen to them for... I can't remember if it was a half hour. I think it might have been a full hour. He said, "Here's the only thing you get to do. You get to give them positive non-verbals and then you can offer clarifying statements."

Wow, I hear you saying this has been a really hard week. You don't get to ask a question because questions are grabbing the steering wheel. They have to kind of respond to it. So you just do things to keep them talking for an hour and I will want you to see what happens. Oh my gosh. I guess it's obvious because I'm talking about this now 35 years later where I'm like that was one of the best learning experiences I've ever had because I'm sitting down. I was sitting in a cafeteria, this guy came up who I knew didn't... Not really good friend, but know enough to... I mean, he came to join me for dinner.

So I just asked him, "Well, hey, how's it going?" And he says, "Oh, kind of hard." I'm like, "Oh, this sounded so stupid." I said, "It sounds like it's been kind of hard week." It's like, "Yeah, keen insight, Rick. You really picked right up on that. But then of course it was a little awkward, but then he said, "Yeah, well, it's just been I have so many things going on. And all of a sudden, he shares a little bit about something that's been hard. And that was just because I was silent because I couldn't figure out another dumb backboard question to ask him.

He ended up talking for a full hour and I really did just give these kind of invitations to keep talking responses. It really taught me something about, you can learn to be a listener. Now, I have not always applied that, but I think the big eyeopener for me was both the fact that I was not prone to really listen, number one. And number two, relatively simple strategies yielded pretty immediate success if I only really wanted to listen. And I realized one of my problems was I didn't really want to listen. Listening sounded better than it felt.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. So this is kind of beating a dead horse, but a very famous study was done with office managers, rate your listening skills. On a scale of zero to 10, Rick, they are clocking in at eight, nine. Eight, nine, 10. Right? They're just like, I'm an awesome listener. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Then they went to the subordinates and they said rate the listening skills of your manager, and they were all clocking in below five.

Rick Langer: Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff: The managers were utterly blown away that they got rated that low because they had really thought I'm a great listener. So I guess we're back to this idea of you're not always the best judge of how you're coming across and it's really good to get input from other people. Now maybe I'm a good listener until you get to my hot button topics. Then I throw it out because why do I need to listen to you? You are wrong. You're factually wrong. And I'm going to set you straight. We go into rhino mode. So I thought of that proverb. To speak before listening is folly and shame. I think it's fascinating that he puts both, the ancient writer, folly. Because sometimes you have no idea what the other person is talking about, but the topic gets you geared into be a rhino.

And then second, the shame part, I think is fascinating that you are shaming a person by not listening to them. You don't think highly enough of them to listen and get the backstory. So listening is awesome. But remember the main point was I think listening is going to be a spiritual process. I need to deal with my heart, my soul that makes me a good listener especially when we hit the controversial potentially volatile topics.

Rick Langer: Yeah. Another thing that hit me, this is something that we read and you and I had talked about, but then I've seen it in action a few times. It is really reinforced to me. And that is the amount of our polarization that is best explained by sociological phenomenon as opposed to philosophical. Let me say this a little bit better. I hear people really upset about conspiracy theories and people who believe conspiracy theories, whatever it may be, QAnon things or whatever it is. And sometimes you'll see a similar thing about people upset about those who believe a certain thing about global warming, either positive or negative, or about vaccines, positive or negative.

There's kind of this sense of bristling outrage. I have discovered, there has been discovered this phenomenon of when you get a group together, a group doesn't become just as polarized as its most polarized member, it becomes even more polarized than it's most polarized member. And I'm going, "How can that be? How can an entire group move beyond the biggest extreme?"

Well, here's the explanation is that when you come into a group like this and you have, let's say, you're six people who are all anti-vaxx or pro-vaxx, or anti-Trump or pro-Trump or whatever the issue might be, they all know that any counter pushback, anything that says, "Hey wait, I just realized vaccines really work. Or I realize that Trump is actually a good guy, or is actually a bad guy." They realize immediately that a data point that would lean that way is not a welcome data point.

So you simply don't share it. You might say, "Hey, that was a good point." And of course, you may start and say, "Look anybody, Biden can't be that bad anyhow. Of course, he does something right. He helped a little old lady cross the street, whatever. That was good." Whoever your animosity target is, but you don't ever speak to it in your group. And there's a tacit rule within the group that we, in effect always and only share the things that reinforce our viewpoint.

So all counter information is lost and only the things that reinforce your polarized viewpoint are shared. And so that becomes the way discourse is taken. And that's your most favored and treasured relationships. Okay. So that's the setup. That's how you get super polarized. Then we have these weird conversations back to the vaccine issue where it's like, "Oh, look at all the data on vaccines. 90%, less hospitalization or things like that."

And it seems like the person on the other side of this going, "Nope, they won't listen to it." And you think it's an intellectual or a philosophical problem. And it's really hard for me to give examples like this because everyone's kind of on one side or another. But let me just make the... I'll run with the vaccine one where you begin to say, "Oh man, maybe this really is an issue." And you're thinking what the other person needs is more data.

Well, what's really going on in the back of this other person's mind and said, "Look, Langer might be right about his data, but they're mentally playing back this experience. Let me go to my key support group and pass along this piece of data that Langer shared, which is really the knockdown, drag-out, final point that really proves that we've been wrong all along." And they picture what will happen if I do that?

And there's two possibilities obviously. One is that the group might say, "Wow, thanks for coming and sharing that. We never knew." That's possible.

Tim Muehlhoff: It's possible.

Rick Langer: Exceptionally unlikely. What is far more likely is you would suddenly be on the alps relative to that group, that that group would feel like you had betrayed them. So here's the deal. We think this is a philosophical problem. They need more data because what needs to happen? They need to, let me just put it this way, increase their percentage of true over false propositions believed in their mind. If they can get this adjusted right, I will now have 10% more accurate beliefs in my mind. And they go, "Oh, well that sounds like a desirable thing." But the price tag of that is losing all your best friends.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. Yep.

Rick Langer: And they're suddenly like, "That's a place I cannot go." Now, they never lay it out like this. They never put that sheet in front of them and say, "Yep, I've decided I'm going to take my friends, not the fact," so to speak. The bottom line is that's what's going on at your most visceral kind of the animal level of how do I remain my membership in my pack? And you go, "Man, I can't violate that." And so these other things become suppressed, ignored or whatever, and the pack never moves in its orientation.

So that's the long story for this idea that our sociology, believe it or not, is more important than our philosophy, even when it comes to facts, because we unfortunately live in a world where we value... I think I need to clarify this. I'm not saying this as an indictment of, "Oh, those nasty people who operate this way." I'm saying, no, this is an interesting fact about human beings is how important their social attachments are. I would argue for most human beings and I would argue for healthy human beings, they actually do care most fundamentally about their deepest and closest relationships.

Now, what you really want to do then is make sure your community is one that is robust enough to accommodate other viewpoints that you do some tweaking here and there to soften the edges of that community. But I think we are absolutely built so as to care about those relational things more than just the philosophical facts.

Tim Muehlhoff: Ah, I see. I hope listeners are latching on to that, that my friendships are more important than politics.

Rick Langer: At a felt level.

Tim Muehlhoff: A [feltly 00:30:53] need. I don't go Friday night to go have dinner with a political issue, I'd go with my friends. And I do not want to be excluded from that. I work at a university I love. I do want to advance within this university and this could cancel my ticket. Can I tell you a really funny story about this?

Rick Langer: Yeah. So I have half an MA in biblical studies from reform theological seminary and had a great time there, Rick. Some of my professors, impacted me very deeply. I'm not reformed, but it was a very positive experience. But they brought it in adjunct, and Rick, I swear to you, this happened. Can you imagine making this mistake? It's a reform theology, right? We're getting reform theology. Well, he gives us a book to read by a man named Hughes called the Image of God.

I'm reading this thing kind of realizing I'm not reformed. Okay? I'm reading this book going, "Wait, what? I totally agree with this guy." What? Yeah, this is what I believe. I think he's doing a great job arguing against reform theology. Well, we're all reading it over the weekend. It's an accelerated course. A five-day course. So you're reading like a book a day. The next day, we come back and everybody is like, "Hey, what the heck? What is this book?" And he goes, "Guys, I am so embarrassed. I literally cut and pasted the wrong title. And yeah, you're reading a book by a guy named Hughes and I totally disagree with him. So just forget about that book. We're not going to use that book."

I raise my hand. I go, "Wait a minute. Isn't Hughes really respected?" He goes, Well, yes. In fairness, yeah, he's really respected. But yeah, I never would've given you this book." I go, "Why not?" I go, "I really agree with what this guy said, so aren't we going to talk about it?" He goes, "No. We're here to talk about reform theology." I'm like, "Yeah, but..." So after the class, Rick, I had people confront me, angrily confront me. "Hey, you know that's bunch of garbage and stuff." And I was like, "Hey, hey, hey. Guys, I'm just saying, I found his arguments to be really compelling."

Now think about it. If I really cared about getting my education, finishing my degree at reformed, I would've been like, "Okay, note to self, I'm about to become ostracized." Rick, can you imagine? We've all done it. I got to recommend books for this class. I got 50... And they need it 10 months before the class. And he literally cut and pasted the wrong book. Rick, that book was brilliant. And I thought to myself, why can't we talk about it? And he just didn't want to go there.

Please hear me. There's Arminian Seminaries. I'm forgetting the name of it real quick. But listen, I have no doubt that they do the same thing. So I'm not picking on reformed theologians. You can find Arminian theologians who like, it'll be a dark day before we read Calvin at this seminary. So I want to say it goes both ways, but I think that kind of rep presents what you're saying is we are locked in this closet and I like the people in the closet with me. I like my friends. I don't want to lose my friends over this issue.

Yeah. And if we do introduce somebody from the other end, other spectrum, we usually like to do it in the words of someone who's easily defeated.

Tim Muehlhoff: Easily defeated.

Rick Langer: Now naturally hatable. And someone who's supremely reasonable and gives the very best arguments is often not really welcomed into the conversation when we do have our moments at looking the other way.

Tim Muehlhoff: Can I end with a really fun one?

Rick Langer: Sure.

Tim Muehlhoff: A really quick fun one. So I'm at Eastern Michigan University secular school. I'm on the speech team and there's a guy named, Michael who is phenomenal. He's one of the most talented people. We actually roomed together. And Rick, you could not pick two people more different than each other. He was an ardent atheist, I'm a student leader with Campus Crusade for Christ now called Cru. He is leaning one way in politics, I'm the other. I mean, it was insane how different we were and the friendship worked.

He was a standup comic, professional standup comic after he graduated. He flew back to coach me my senior year in a particular event where you use humor to persuade people. He said, "Muehlhoff, I'm willing to on my own dime, come back and coach you."

Rick Langer: Wow.

Tim Muehlhoff: How did that friendship make it? Two things, one, we laughed a lot. Even sarcastic humor that some people would listen to and go, "I can't believe you guys talk to each other like that." But it let the pressure off. And then here's one thing that happened every year. He's from Ohio, I'm from Michigan. Well, Eastern Michigan, excuse me, is in Michigan. So we both got that the Michigan-Ohio state game is the most important thing and the universe should literally stop.

Now, he's rooting for Ohio and I'm rooting for Michigan. But the day before the game, Rick, he goes, we would eat dinner together. We'd go to the dining commons. He's wearing a hat that says blankety-blank Michigan. I go, "Dude, you cannot wear that hat. We're going to get beat up." He goes, "Dude, you my Christian friend are not." I'm like, "Oh my goodness." Rick, we would be eating. People are coming by flipping us off, both of us. And we laughed. We did this four years in a row.

It was like, "Okay, this is the Michigan week." But it reminded me of what CS Lewis said, a quote by Lewis, "There would be nothing for the friendship to be about. And the friendship must be about something, even if we're only in enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing. Those who are going nowhere can have no fellow travelers." So we really disagreed. But what brought us together was the love of standup comedy. And second, this crazy Michigan-Ohio state thing that we both laughed about.

So all I'm saying is we've learned, you can't keep going at the issue and not release the steam somehow. So find out how to release it. Maybe you love the opera. Maybe you love a Netflix show together. And you just say, "We're not talking about this today. We're going to go watch our favorite Netflix show." There's God to be a way of releasing that pressure or it's going to eventually explode.

Rick Langer: Yeah. That's a great thought, Tim. I agree. To find those places that kind of change the ethos of the conversation, let the pressure go. I think that's invaluable. And it's hard to do because sometimes if you just are willing to laugh with a person, you get this weird feeling like, "Will someone think I actually agree with them?" And that's when you realize you've let that bone of contention perhaps become too important when you can't even think of having a kind of congenial shared moment.

Tim Muehlhoff: I have a friend that we disagree with each other and you know what I did, Rick that's worked really well? I bought him and sent him a far side comic daily calendar. So now, each day we say, "Dude, did you read the one about the alien?" We laugh. To me, those are the things we got to fight to find something that's not related and we can actually laugh or re-appreciate each other.

Rick Langer: Great. Tim, it's been fun to stop and think a little bit about lessons we've learned and reports from the front, lessons we've learned, things that we say, "Man, this is really worth taking away." Here's our encouragement to you to just say, "Hey, what's one thing I might do?" We're really committed to the notion that if everyone swept in front of their own house, the whole world would be clean. We can't change everybody's discourse, but we can change ours. And we can't have an influence on the discourse of those around us.

So that would be our plea is to say, "Hey, pick up a couple of these ideas. Try them out. See what might work for you and see if you can't make us just a little bit of a community, a place, your place that you occupy just a little bit better in terms of how you talk to one another." Thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate every time you listen and we encourage you to subscribe to the Winsome Conviction Podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcast. Come by and check us out on the web at the And thank you so much for joining us.